I first saw Ghost Tribe Fires a couple years ago at SXSW, and back then, the band was a duo, Jon Veitch on guitar and vocals, Liz Downs on drums. They were good, but I always had the sense that they were still finding themselves, still trying to figure out what their sound was.
These days, Jon has ditched the guitar and they’ve added a keyboard player in Tyler Hewett, and this has given them dimensions they just didn’t have before. With few exceptions (I’m thinking of you Jesus Rehab), I’ve been inclined to prefer duos to involve either a bass or a keyboard. I just have a hard time not thinking guitar-drum duos have a gaping hole in the sound, a bass-shaped hole if you will, and while I’m not sure GTF would agree, they’ve opted for the keyboard route, and it’s paid off.
I recently ran into John and Liz at the Furniture Girls CD release show and learned of the lineup and instrument changes and the fact that Jon was excited about the possibilities. He’d been feeling constrained with the guitar in a way that he is not with the keyboard. It’s opened up his songwriting. There was an energy about him that I hadn’t noticed two years ago so I agreed to check out their new music, to do my standard one song listen before catching them live. At their request thus, I listened to “Reaction.”
It’s a good tune, one that could be from the outtakes of the sessions for Moby’s Hotel, an album I love. Ghost Tribe Fires has found their vibe. Jon’s voice is at times a little like Michael Stipe when singing, “My mixed reaction, my mixed reaction,” in the chorus and then back to the Moby vibe of the verse where the bass and drums are locked in a solid groove—yes, bass, they’re choosing their instruments well. And it works. There’s a build at the end, but it never gets heavy. It doesn’t rock in the sense of a distorted guitar but rather in the sense of the broadness of the sound, the fullness of it. It has texture, and so I must say I’m excited to hear it live.
And as for live, that will be this Friday, April 24, at the High Dive in Fremont. Details below. See you there.