This Year’s Ghost released their debut EP, Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today, back in November. A sagacious slice of grunge-inflected rock n’ roll, it seemed rare in that it was a first salvo that felt fleshed-out and fully formed. In conversation with frontman Paul Mckenzie, it soon becomes clear why, as he reveals the extent of the hard work that he and the band put in prior to recording the material.
A substantial and auspicious start then, and one aided and abetted by the likes of The Defiled’s Stitch D, and production and engineering from Matt Hyde (Slipknot/Machine Head/Funeral For A Friend/Gallows) and Meyrick de la Fuente (Exist Immortal).
“There’s a lot riding on the first couple months,” says McKenzie whilst answering Skin Back Alley’s questions. Too true, but to these eyes and ears, so far, so good…
SBA: Congratulations on the new EP, it’s a killer set of songs. I feel compelled to ask, as I am sure many others will, where did the mind-bending title of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today come from?
TYG: It was simply meant to imply the letting go of the past today as our time here isn’t always certain but it has somehow turned into a brain twister for sure!
It’s only been out for a comparatively short while, but from your perspective, what has the reception to YBTT been like so far?
We have had a great response so far. There’s been a few pretty humbling comparisons drawn between us and some epic bands in these reviews. One even went as far as to draw one between Chris Cornell and myself which is extremely flattering (but entirely untrue in my opinion!!!)
Given your disparate geographical roots (Paul hails from Edinburgh, Jake originally from Michigan), how did you come together as a band? Given the lack of US accent, I’m guessing Jake has been on these shores for some time?
Yeah he’s been in England for years (American father/English mother). We met in Bromley actually through the tattoo shop (Valhalla) that I work in. Joe and I had met in London and been through a plethora of drummers which had slowed the development of our sound down but soon as Jake and I met it amped up immediately. I think we did the drums with Matt Hyde something like three weeks after meeting each other.
What was the impetus behind leaving Edinburgh for London?
I used to come to London a lot for years anyway and knew the city well already. It’s always been the place kids in bands in Scotland are told they have to play to get any recognition and it’s absolutely true. These days there’s a couple of companies doing great things back home but the scenes are still a lot smaller. It just made sense to be here permanently.
And how did Stitch D come to guest on the EP? At first I wondered whether it might be a familial connection between you and Stitch? (Well you don’t look a million miles apart from each other!)
Ha!! He’ll love that one! Na we worked together years ago in a tattoo studio in north London and just hit it off. He’s been a real big help in pointing me in the right direction with this band in London as he’s been slugging it out for a long time with The Defiled. I learnt a lot about how the bigger shows, PR etc works from being his mate and going to shit loads of Defiled shows with them. Being side of stage with them on the main stage at Sonisphere was inspiration to keep going with this.
Sonically YBTT seems to draw on elements from across alt-rock, grunge, and metal and there are a couple of more technical/progressive passages too. Does it feel to you like that’s the sort of canon you’re working within? Are they fair observations, do you think?
I’ve always strongly been influenced by grunge music yeah for sure. Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden etc… But you’re right, this album was definitely written to have a broader appeal. It’s simultaneously much heavier whilst being much poppier in the choruses which is a direction I’m really enjoying. The slight techy feel to a couple of riffs there has definitely been explored further in a couple of the demos for the 2016 record.
Did you have a particular sonic palette in mind when you began the EP? How did you develop and find your sound?
We wanted the really crisp, full bodied guitar tones and full heavy drums we had heard Matt Hyde produce before so that was a no brainer. The development of the sound we have found is definitely down to meeting and working closely with Meyrick De La Fuente at Floodgate audio.
You’ve said that the record in part draws on your experiences of a group of friends who all passed away around the same time. On the face of it, that could make for some dour listening, but the EP doesn’t seem like that? It feels like more of a release, or a catharsis?
It was exactly that for me personally. Not only was it a relief to release these thoughts surrounding those events but it was made extra special being able to immortalise those people further in the forms of these songs.
What were the specific inspirations behind the track “Silver Tongue” and its recent video?
The song “Silver Tongue” was written about the stress that came with loss and not one person specifically. There’s a couple of small direct references in there about the breakdown of relations between friends and family. It depicts that stress as its own entity that can be addressed personally. Bit weird eh?
Who did you work with on the video itself? It has a very simple but very striking aesthetic.
The guys at Limetree Productions did our video for “Silver Tongue.” Cracking group of guys. They actually turned it round super-fast for us to fit our PR campaign which really impressed us. Looks like we are doing another one with them next month too.
Matt Hyde and Meyrick de la Fuente, who provided production and engineering for the EP, have worked for some seriously influential bands in their time. How did you make the connection with them and how did they come to work with you on YBTT?
A few years back the boys in The Defiled played the Metal Hammer Golden Gods boat party and Meyrick and I first met there. He was just finalising his studio set up so we made a record together. It was still in the infancy of This Year’s Ghost but was part of the process of reaching this point and sound now. Since then Meyrick and I work together on every single track TYG do. Matt Hyde was a lot less elaborate. We just really liked his work and I emailed him to set up a meeting. The meeting then turned into a shit load of pints in a bar in Victoria and the rest is history.
Paul, you said recently that your show in Islington was going to be your last as a 3-piece and you hinted at adding to the band’s line-up. Can you share anything yet, or is it all still under wraps?
Ah ha! We have a photo shoot in a couple weeks with the amazing Scott Chalmers and that will be when we have the big reveal. From everything I’ve said in interviews recently you don’t need to be Columbo to work out who is our new guitarist but hey…… Wait till January!
What does 2016 have in store for TYG? Can you share any plans?
Well 2016 is set to be a lot of fun. There’s a lot riding on the first couple months as we start the ball rolling with the live shows but if everything goes to plan there will be a lot of great announcements come February/March regarding our summer plans. We really want to get up and play some shows in Scotland too as it’s been way too long.
Read Skin Back Alley’s review of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today here.