Caught a Ghost
The Memphis Dawls
224 S. Blount
Raleigh, NC, 27601
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 18 and over
Watch & Listen
Caught a Ghost
Jesse Nolan describes the name of his band ‘Caught A Ghost’ as referring to the sensation of being filled with the spirit of the past. “It’s an old expression,” he says, “musicians used to say you caught a ghost if you gave a good performance. Like you were possessed.”
As the songwriter, producer and lead singer of the band, Nolan is a devotee of music from bygone eras. But he eagerly expounds upon his affection for vintage soul, delta blues, and 90s rap alike. As Nolan explains, “It’s definitely like being possessed. It’s an obsession. What’s not to be obsessed about? I don’t think it makes me unique, it makes me human.”
What does make Nolan unique is his musical dexterity (he plays all of the instruments on his recordings except horns and some of the drums) combined with the effortlessness with which he seems to pull from many different genres. His music recalls influences from the soul and rock n’ roll traditions (Stax, Motown, Sam Cooke, the Rolling Stones) yet still feel distinctly modern with references to hip-hop and electronic recordings from the 90s to contemporary tracks. The diversity of influences in Caught a Ghost that spawned from Jesse Nolan’s mad scientist approach to composition has sparked several comparisons to another Los Angeles native, Beck.
“I had a very rich musical upbringing.” Nolan says. “My dad, who is a musician himself, exposed me to a lot of great music. He’s a stax/Motown fanatic, and obsessed with seeing live concerts. I also grew up in the 90’s watching MTV and listening to rap, so I’m into tracks that hit hard.”
The result: Caught a Ghost produces a sound and aesthetic that separates them from the rest of their neo-soul contemporaries. Of course there are threads of classic influence that are apparent, but, for example, the hypnotic synth line on “Time Go” as well as the use of dubstep wobble bass with a full Motown horn section on “Sleeping at Night,” quickly sets the band apart from others that have tried to directly revive the Motown sound.
Every song feels on some level like a great remix. “I love the aesthetic of taking something old and repurposing it.” Nolan says. “But another difference with my music is that I don’t tend to use samples- I’m just sampling my musical memory. It’s a very imprecise process really, like a Jackson Pollock painting. I’m just splashing sounds around. I’m an imperfectionist.”
“Caught a Ghost is ultimately about a collective experience.” Nolan says. “It may have genesis in my weird brain, but it’s ultimately about creating community.” That spirit is reflected in the makeup of the band, which includes Stephen Edelstein on drums, who was Jesse’s kindergarten classmate.
Anyone who has seen Caught a Ghost play live can also testify to that notion. In addition to playing high energy shows with as many as nine musicians and various dancers onstage, the group often makes use of projections and performance art as a means of shaking people out of their comfort zones.
Part of that approach comes from Nolan’s desire to stay active. He describes his last label experience as a disaster. Early on in his career, Nolan found himself in another band that was signed to a relatively big record contract that ultimately fell apart just before the release of the first record, ending in the dissolution of that band. The experience left him with the desire to completely re-imagine his approach to music. “I was crushed,” He says. “But like anything else, often the best work comes from the darkest turmoil. For me, Caught a Ghost was truly a self-reinvention, on a musical, personal and spiritual level.
Caught a Ghost has signed to +1 Records (The Heavy, The Morning Benders, The Postelles), and their debut EP “Nightworks” will be released on February 12th, 2013. When asked about the title, Nolan says wryly, “I stay up late. It’s what Franz Kafka said about writing- that it was nightwork. The night offers peacefulness and the opportunity to go deep into your own head.”
The Memphis Dawls
The Memphis Dawls are known as the crowning jewel of the Memphis folk scene. The core group is made up of three veteran musicians who have played with several successful local bands. Brought together by their similar tastes in melody and style, and maybe a slight nod from fate, Holly Cole (guitars, vocals) Jana Misener (cello, vocals), and Krista Wroten (viola, mandolin, accordion, vocals) deliver hauntingly romantic and lyrical folk music with a modern flare.
The themes of the band's music tend to lean toward the power of love and heartache, just like their musical mentors: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Their harmonies and music push folk, country and rock through the filter of southern hymns. Religious only in the context of their dedication to their respective crafts, they deliver a unique and hypnotizing sound that jumps from genre to genre. The Dawls are not afraid to be inventive, exploring soundscapes ranging from complex vocal harmonies similar to bands like Fleet Foxes to the more complex string arrangements of The Decemberists.
The threesome originally began playing together in high school, but The Dawls didn't make their debut professionally until 2010. After high school, Wroten, Cole, and Misener all sought musical careers — but they went in three different directions. Cole travelled west to Los Angeles, Wroten went to Boston, and Misener left for Chicago. As time would pass, each would work their way back to Memphis.
Upon returning to Memphis, Cole began playing the solo circuit, and was asked to join local collective Makeshift Music. The established alternative label, known for releasing music from popular Memphis bands like Lucero, Snowglobe, The Coach and Four and Two Way Radio, released her first solo effort Fearless and Free back in 2006. Cole put together a full band before releasing her next effort, called Holly and the Heathens. The group featured some of Memphis' finest talent, including Greg Faison (Jump Jack Jake, Tiger High), Brandon Robertson (Snowglobe) and Jake Vest (Third Man, Tiger High, Bullet Proof Vests).
The act would also bring her in back to working with Wroten, who would play countrified violin with the Heathens project. The result would be a less folksy, more boozy, honky tonk sounding album that was well received by critics.
During this time, Misener was playing cello for road warriors Giant Bear as well as playing with The Sultana. When Cole began toying with more romantic arrangements of some of her songs, she called upon Wroten and Misener to add strings to her music and the Memphis Dawls were born.
Although all three ladies have busied themselves with various artistic endeavors, Wroten touring with Amy Lavere, Misener continuing to play with The Sultana, and Cole finishing up a BA in Sculpture at The University of Memphis, The Dawls would be the main focus for the trio much of 2011. In that year, a fated call from engineer Matt Brown would get them in the studio to record their first release. Their debut was a 4 song EP with spacious arrangements and passionate lyricism. Noted for its scope in atmosphere, emotion, and sense of texture, the Dawls' initial release is an involving experience worth diving into. Over the past year, the Dawls have focused and sharpened their sound, poised for national exposure.