Raising the dead

Holy Ghost Tent Revival Does Canal Street

By Nick Schwab

Holy Ghost Tent revival is a band that started as a sweet and gentle folk band, but has since gotten louder while still retaining their heart and soul. It is the type of music that one can listen to while laying back looking at a sunset, or can even drink to.

Lyrically, Holy Ghost Tent Revival is an interesting band. On their song “The End To,” one can see they often go from tender heartbreak into retribution:

“I know it’s hard to forget/What an unfaithful wreck/I have been/To say that I’m yours/With my clothes on the floor/And my head full of gin/Your back’s been turned/And I’ve been starting to learn/That the only way back in/Is to let you let me love you again.”

Dayton City Paper recently caught up with Holy Ghost Tent Revival‘s guitarist/banjo player Stephen Murray to talk about this transition and where their lyrics come from.

Although Murray is often very polite, he is very much succinctly spoken. It’s OK though, as when the Holy Ghost Tent Revival need to say something, they make sure they say it loud and clear … and just like in this interview they are on-point.

Your albums have progressed from folk-rock into a louder, rock-driven sound. What were the reasons for this progression?

Our original bassist left a year ago, our keyboardist Kevin moved to bass and I started playing electric guitar more. While the earlier stuff was coming out of a Dixieland ragtime point of our lives, we just transitioned naturally with the resources that we had and the influences that we had. – Stephen Murray

Do you feel that your music is the type one can drink to?

I think we put on a good show and people have a good time watching us. -SM

What emotions do you want to expose in your lyrics?  What are the albums themes?

A lot of the lyrical content has to do with current situations; what we are going through, where we are as a band.  Other songs are based on other things, such as in the “John Addams Family” song, Matt (Martin) took a historical approach to a song. He had been reading about Adams for a while. -SM

Is there a general theme to any of your albums?

There is not so much a general theme, we just record the best songs we can. -SM

Your albums seem to have a sense of flow. How are the songs pieced together?

We have to listen to the album relentlessly in different orders to decide the best flow. Such as on Sweat Just Like the Old Days we put the more popular songs on side A, while the in-depth, longer songs on side B. -SM

Could any of your lyrics also be read as a way to better one’s life? Do you think music can be used as a sort of medicine to lead a better life?

It is a great skill to a have as a writer to get a connection to a listener that will better their lives or make them feel like someone out there feels like them so they can relate to it. That is what we try to do, maybe not all the time, though. -SM

Some lyrics like on “Hammer Fall” seem to be rebellious? Do you have some rebellion in your sound?

I think we are an aggressive sounding band. We are a pretty heavy, raucous kinda group. I don’t know if we are trying to make rebellion, but we are on a cusp on a genre and making something different than the rest. -SM

Would you rather make music that is always successful but does not take the form anywhere, or one that makes experimental music but is not always successful?

I want to make music successful for myself so that I can have this as a full-time job and as a band get some recognition for writing good tunes. -SM

What do you want a listener to get out of your music when the album stops spinning?

I want them to play it again. -SM

What is your favorite thing about music and self-expression?

I love it as an art form and there is not much else I can do with my life. As an artist, I feel very excited and relived about the future. -SM

Holy Ghost Tent Revival will play on Friday, Sept. 28 at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. Also on the bill are Wheels. Doors at 8 pm. Admission is $8 for 18 & up. For more information visit holyghosttentrevival.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at NickSchwab@daytoncitypaper.com

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