“Living in San Francisco, it’s like 4/20 there every day, every minute, but I think it’s nice for everyone else to get to celebrate,” says Allyson Baker, mainwoman of SF’s Dirty Ghosts, who will find themselves in Philthy this Friday, 4/20, performing at PhilaMOCA (alongside locals Levee Drivers, Ghost Lights, and Peace Creeps) on their first headlining tour. I chatted with her from the band’s recent stop in Salt Lake City.
Like a lot of current indie faves (see: Soso, Ducky, Poliça), the sound of Dirty Ghosts blend a lot of genres that would seem to be at odds with each other. While they started out melding drum loops and synthetic psychedelica, by the time they began writing and recording their debut record, (Metal Moon, which dropped 2/21) in 2011, Baker (the group’s only remaining founding member.) decided she wanted to delve further into the world of popular accessibility, penning a number of funky electro ass-wigglers… yet still containing subversive hints of Baker’s formerly postmodern self.
Upon asking Baker how she would characterize the band’s sound she says “It’s hard to do,” saying it feels akin to “A lot of music from the late 70s/early 80s… A lot of bands borrowed from different styles. The Police were a punk band, but then went in a more pop direction.” Of Dirty Ghosts’ music, Baker says “It’s kind of like my record collection… if that makes sense. I don’t think anyone listens to just one genre… at least not these days.”
Although Dirty Ghosts are regularly mentioned alongside the aesthetic of the 1990s, Baker told me “The 90s is the only decade of music that I don’t really listen to.” Although she does admit “Those were my formative teenage years… Nirvana was a big deal,” and confesses that she imagines a certain part of that aesthetic surely has inadvertently seeped into the sounds of Dirty Ghosts. We go on to discuss how the whole notion of actually experiencing a sound, genre, or movement makes it, somehow less mythically appealing (My 19-year-old students refuse to believe that Nirvana and Biggie Smalls weren’t everything that their respective Behind the Music’s claimed them to be.)
Although Baker has long been lending her various talents to various bands (such as SF blues-rock outfit Parchman Farm and Teen Crud Combo, a hardcore group of her native Toronto, which she graced as a teen), Dirty Ghosts is the first time that she has ever put her mouth to the mic. The origins of Dirty Ghosts began with Baker and fellow Parchman Farm alumni Carson Binks. The two spent their first year as a duo searching for a singer and, after 12 months of no luck, Baker felt as though the only way she could keep Binks onboard after all that time was to step up and do the vocals herself: “It started out as something I was very reluctant to do. For most of it, it’s been pretty difficult for me.” However, at this point she seems to be beyond her initial jitters and is happy to put the guitar down and take the role of the indie diva… okay, indie anti-diva: “ I’ve gotten used to it… I’ve gotten comfortable with it.”
Although 2012 is still relatively new, a lot of big things have happened for Dirty Ghosts. In addition to their first headlining tour and their debut LP, they also played some of their most significant shows: “We played the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco… the first headlining show we’ve ever played not in a tiny club… It’s nice to have it be a hometown show.” In terms of goals, she says “I hope people hear our music, and come out and see it and like it.” However, Dirty Ghosts’ favorite thing about 2012 seems to be just getting to hang out and road trip with each other: “Everyone in the band really gets along. We all like to spend time with each other… We’re really excited to play. We’re not jaded.” I asked if the year has seen any “low-lights” of sorts,” to which Baker replied “Even the things that don’t go smoothly don’t bum us out… We don’t take anything really seriously.”