SF-based alt-rock trio Dirty Ghosts have their second San Francisco show in as many weeks, playing at the Make-Out Room on Saturday, July 18 after performing at the Chapel on July 9.
Two of the funky indie rock band members are Allyson Baker and Erin McDermott, who are originally from Canada. The third member, Tony the drummer, is from Southern California. Allyson has been the constant member of Dirty Ghosts after the departures of a few other band-mates. Now with a stable trio of musicians intact and new music set for release this year, Dirty Ghosts are ready to take their band to the next level with a series of live shows.
Their new EP comes out later this month and the LP will be released later this year. We asked Allyson about the band’s formation, her favorite spots in San Francisco, and what listeners can expect from their new material.
How did the Dirty Ghosts originally form?
It’s a long story. It goes back to about 2006. I used to play in a band called Parchman Farm in San Francisco. It was a four-piece and everyone broke off and joined different bands. The bass player and I, we basically started the early version of Dirty Ghosts. We didn’t know what it was. He and I were just sort of jamming to drum loops that my ex-husband or husband at the time was helping with. He was a rapper and producer. We didn’t have a drummer, so he would loop up drums and then Carson the bass player and I would sit around and jam to these drum loops. That’s how things started to take shape.
We didn’t do it in any serious way. It was just something we were doing everyday, but we weren’t going for anything specific. We weren’t trying to start a band, make a record. I don’t know what we were doing. We were just sort of jamming to see what was going to happen and see where it would go. It took a few years. Basically Carson and I decided we were going to turn this into a band.
We found a drummer and I decided I was going to be the singer because we had tried to find a singer for years and we couldn’t find anyone. So, I just decided to do it. Right around when we were booking shows, Carson joined a different band called the Saviours. I was left with a drummer who had just joined. My friend Erin at the time, who is still in the band now, said she’d fill in for Carson until we found someone else. She was planning on moving to Nashville and she did. She filled in for Carson, moved to Nashville, and wound up moving back a month later. So she just rejoined the band cause things were starting to happen with the band.
Now with the three of us again, right at this time is when our first record came out. Basically, what I had at the time was a live band. Learning the songs that Carson and I had written and going on tour, that was the focus at the time. And then it was time to make another record. We went through maybe two or three drummers. And then we found Tony Sevener, who is our drummer right now. Once Tony joined the band, for the first time we had a real solid lineup. For the second record, we approached it as a band, which is totally new territory for us.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
That’s a good question. I’m definitely influenced by people, not any artist specifically, but artists who produce themselves. They kind of run the gamut a little bit. If I had to say a band, I would probably say The Stranglers. To me, they’re a band that started out one way and they ended very differently and they took a very long musical path. All of it was very good. You could see the evolution of the band. Trying tout different things. Being experimental. Totally abandoning punk rock. I’ve always been very fascinated by that band and I’m a huge fan.
What would your say is your biggest accomplishment so far in 2015?
Things are just starting to happen. The singles are being released and we’re starting to play shows again. It feels to me that the biggest accomplishment is that this band is continuing and we’re restarting all over again now. The early days of this project were like nine years ago. The fact that we’re about to put out our second record and go for it again. Now, I feel like the group of musicians I play with are amazing and I’m really lucky that I get to play with them. Sometimes I look at where and whom I’m with and I feel really fortunate and I’m amazed at the situation.
Are you from California?
I’m actually from Toronto and I moved here in 2000. Erin McDermott is from Ottawa. I met her in Toronto. She’s also a fellow comedian. Tony is from Southern California. The three of us have only know each other for a few years. We moved independently of one another. I didn’t know she was moving here. She didn’t know I was moving here. They were two separate things.
I was playing in a band in Toronto, a punk band called Teen Crud Combo. I really wanted to tour. That band had been going for two years and we had just put out a seven inch. It felt like things were really about to ramp up and no one in the band really wanted to tour and do that whole thing. I wanted to move on. Once that situation fell apart, I felt like I wanted to go to a new city. I had a vision of San Francisco being a music town. I had no idea. I had been here with my folks when I was nine years old. I didn’t know anything about it. I just thought it seems like there’s a lot of music in San Francisco and a lot of musicians live here. Toronto felt limited to me because I had been playing events for what felt like a really long time. The scene was really small there. I just felt I did everything I could in Toronto and was ready to move on.
What neighborhood do you currently live in?
I live in the Mission. I love it. It just seems like it’s not remote. There’s a lot of things to do. There’s a lot of places to go. I know people are all up and arms about everything that’s going on, but I don’t know. It doesn’t affect me in that way. I don’t know if it rolls down my back or what. I don’t pay attention when I’m walking down the street. Or I’m not that easily distracted. It doesn’t bother me, so I still find it a nice place to live. Can’t do anything about what’s happening, so you might as well just let it happen. Not try to fight it.
Coming from Toronto is probably part of it because Toronto has never really had that type of feel that say the Mission district has. A lot of artists trying to survive. Toronto has always been conservative, big money, and things get knocked down in two seconds. Condos have been going on in Toronto for as long as I can remember. I feel that the gentrification thing, that was happening in Toronto, so when I came here and it wasn’t going on, I thought what is this weird time capsule city that’s existing and feels untouched? Now that it’s happening, it just happens everywhere and it’s only a matter of time. Maybe because I feel like I went through it once before.
What can listeners expect from your new Cataract EP later this month?
Well, it definitely sounds more like a band than a studio project. The first album did. I guess the second record and the EP, I feel like there’s just a sense of focus that we have now because we’re writing. I’m not the only writer. We’re writing as a band. We wrote the whole thing together. It wasn’t written in pieces by this person or that person. I feel like we set out to write a record and an EP and we did that. We wrote something from beginning to the end. It’s more cohesive to me I think.
There’s overlaps for sure. The EP has two songs that will be on the upcoming record coming out in the Fall. The two new tracks that are only on the EP – one is like a new song that we wrote after we turned the record in. So we put that on the EP. Tobacco did a remix of Cataract, which is going to be on the EP as well. We have one more remix that came out on the last record, but it didn’t really come out on anything physical, so we put on EP. It’s a remix from Mikey Young of the band Total Control.
Where are we most likely to find you on the weekends?
I love the Casanova. That’s my place. My favorite bars are probably Casanova and the Right Spot. I really love Bernal Hill, hanging out there, walking up the hill. I guess I’m a little bit stuck in my neighborhood. I don’t get out of it too much, more specifically, very close to where I live. I like going to The Chapel. Anytime there are shows going on at any of the venues in the Mission, The Chapel, Brick & Mortar, the Knockout, Bottom of the Hill. I love going to all those places. I haven’t seen any in a long time and I feel like the bands that I’ve seen that have become the most successful have played at Bottom of the Hill. That’s the last place they played before they blew up.