Interview with vocalist Ethan Harrison | By Gabi Chepurny
Great American Ghost is the epitome of Boston hardcore, and that’s a very good thing. Lead vocalist Ethan Harrison elaborates, “I always have said, there is no way to live six months of every year in the miserable, blistering, oppressive New England winter without it coming out in our music. It does in our [music], among all the other factors [of the region]. Boston itself is a famously abrasive, aggressive, standoffish city and we reflect that. I don’t know any other way to be.”
The band formed in 2012, and since then, has gone through a “good amount” of lineup changes, especially for being only three years old. Harrison confirms that the current mix—which also features guitarist Matt Mailloux, vocalist and guitarist Josh Lacroix, bassist Joe Perron, and drummer Bryan Nowell—is the best one yet.
Everyone Leaves — the band’s first full-length, out now via Good Fight Entertainment — is 10 tracks of New England brutality, even though the lyrical content is about the ending of all types of relationships. The five piece recorded the record right in the middle of a long string of show dates. They took about a month to put everything together and recorded it in four days with Defeater guitarist and friend Jay Maas at Getaway Recording.
Harrison thinks Great American Ghost’s reflection of their harsh physical location is inevitable. “Environment effects everything and everyone and especially art. The people in this band would not be the people we are if we grew up in a different area, so this band would be inherently different. I don’t know the first thing about living in [Los Angeles], but I do know that West Coast bands are different from East Coast bands are different from Midwest bands and on and on, because we are all going through different shit in different ways. We’re all still outcasts and that’s why we are all part of this, but we were all cast out in different ways.”
Considering that viewpoint, it’s not surprising that the album’s artwork has very dark undertones. Friend and Old Wounds drummer Brandon Gallagher designed the cover, a stark juxtaposition of the band’s name and album title in white text on a black background, above a grainy black and white close-up of a young boy squinting into the sunlight, standing next to a dog. Harrison says the photo was taken in 1978, the morning of the Jonestown Massacre. Jim Jones—cult leader of the People’s Temple—had moved his followers to the South American nation of Guyana and promised them a utopia. Once U.S. officials were notified of the abuse members were being subjected to, U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, plus a few reporters, made the trip south to intervene, where Jones had them killed. He then doled out a drink containing cyanide, sedatives, and powdered fruit juice to more than 900 of his followers, before suffering an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A third of the dead were children.
From the outside, Great American Ghost may appear to be 100 percent aggression and darkness, but there’s more to them than that. “I think social media, Twitter especially, has done something truly amazing for our genre of music. It humanizes a band if you use it right,” Harrison elaborates. “Any asshole can post their shows and official stuff or whatever and that’s cool, but I feel like those bands are missing an opportunity. To use social networks in a real, honest way, it gives people who like your band—or don’t—a way to know you on a personal level. The things we say on social networks are really what we [and] I actually think. That’s more than what I knew about my favorite bands’ thoughts back in the day.”