Despite the small turnout at the Black Cat Sunday night, post-rock group Ghost Light’s performance was as heartfelt as if the group was playing for a crowd of thousands.
Ghost Light is not a conventional band by any means. The group’s repertoire consists largely of experimentation with “natural noises,” and there is no drummer. Most of their music has no lyrics, but any void is filled with hauntingly beautiful chords and powerful instrumentation. Even the name is rather ethereal; guitarist and vocalist Steve Scarlata, a GW alum, said that “ghost light” is an old theater term.
“I was looking on the Web, brainstorming, when I came across ‘ghost light,’ which… is the singular light they left on so that the ghosts of the theater [could] perform.”
The band played in near darkness, the only light source being a series of mismatched images projected onto a white sheet behind the group. The pictures, which appeared to be hand-tinted film negatives, were eerily reminiscent of old silent movies. They were the perfect visual accompaniment for the band’s sound.
Scarlata said he and fellow band member Joshua Padgett are heavily influenced by the film world. They said they try to write as if they were composing a movie score, and often find inspiration in the actor Vincent Gallo and artist Andy Warhol.
Neither Scarlata nor Padgett have taken a music class, but they both come from distinctly musical backgrounds. Scarlata began playing guitar when he was 16, and often listened to classic bands like the Doors and the Beach Boys with his father. Padgett began playing the violin at age five. He got into noise, punk and metal rock as he grew older, but said that classical music is still a defining genre for Ghost Light.
“Because of my classical background, our music is more classically structured,” Padgett said.
Ghost Light released its self-titled debut EP in February, but Scarlata and Padgett never set out to record; they just wanted to write music “organically” and perform live. Still, most of the songs were completed in just one take, and both band members felt that the album offered a “fresh and new” side of the band’s sound. They’re currently working on their second full-length album.