Amazing Ghost: Can You Tell Me Where The Party’s At?

by | Aug 22, 2009 | MUSIC

My first experience encountering Amazing Ghost was at Cous Cous. My friend and co-worker Eddie Prendergast mentioned that he was playing a show. He thought I might dig it and that I should stop by. He played me a song that took the rhythm and beat of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and flipped it on its head with his rendition entitled “Bone in the USA”. If it was possible, the music I was hearing seemed to capture the personality and charisma of Prendergast. I was eager to see how it played out in a live setting.


My first experience encountering Amazing Ghost was at Cous Cous. My friend and co-worker Eddie Prendergast mentioned that he was playing a show. He thought I might dig it and that I should stop by. He played me a song that took the rhythm and beat of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and flipped it on its head with his rendition entitled “Bone in the USA”. If it was possible, the music I was hearing seemed to capture the personality and charisma of Prendergast. I was eager to see how it played out in a live setting.

As I ventured into Cous Cous, the room was packed. The room was feeding off the vibe of the music provided earlier by the No BS Brass Band, Snow Panda and Scott Burton. Then Amazing Ghost took the stage and I was blown away. The songs were full of insurmountable fun times. I could only imagine how much of a joy it would be to be a part of a band like this. It didn’t hurt that the entire horn section of the No BS Brass Band accompanied their live rendition of “Bone in the USA”. Thus making the song rise up to epic-like standards.

Their lineup includes members of Bio Ritmo, Fight the Big Bull and The Great White Jenkins which is a strong testament to their impressive musical backgrounds. The only downside would be that with all of these obligations to other projects, when would there be time for Amazing Ghost?

Thankfully, Prendergast continued to create new material and the band continued to strive. Each live performance was better than the last and they started to make a dent on Richmond’s music scene. To put it lightly, there really isn’t another band in the city limits that is doing what Amazing Ghost is doing.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Prendergast and fellow musical cohort Bob Miller to discuss the history of Amazing Ghost and how the project is still an ever-evolving process.

Shannon Cleary: At the start, there was Pencilgrass. What year did you start working on that project?

Eddie Prendergast: 2001, 2002, I started making these songs and I got some dudes together from the University of Miami. I was like lets try and make this into a band.

Bob Miller: I don’t think I still have it, but I know that you sent me this CD of the stuff that you had recorded on your own. I was thinking “man, that’s pretty wild.” It never occurred to me that you were going to put a band together to record this stuff. It was pretty cool. The next thing I heard was a better idea of what these songs sounded like with a band behind them. It was pretty wild.

Eddie: It was cool. When I was playing music in Richmond, I was playing with Bio Ritmo. I was like if I ever start another band there aren’t going to be more than three people in the band. And then I got down there and I was like “I need horns, I need keys and so on” and then there ended up being seven people in the band.

Bob: Other than Bio Ritmo, it was like here’s this jazz guy. That was the other weird thing about it. You have this jazz guy, who played a little salsa with us. But once he got down there, he was like a lead singer and it was totally different.

Eddie: It was pretty cool. We did pretty well in Miami. We were playing some good shows. We managed to do a couple tours from Miami, which isn’t easy. Driving up the coast, I mean you got to drive like four hundred miles just to get out of Florida. That’s when we started doing that stuff.

How long did that last? When did you eventually return to Richmond?

Eddie: In 2002, I had graduated. The other guys weren’t graduating from University of Miami until 2003. They all lived by the school in Miami, which was kind of a shitty place to live. You gotta get out of there. There was all of this phoniness. Two of the guys were from Hartford and they suggested we move up to New Haven. It’s close to New York and there’s a little music scene, a little rock scene going on. So I was like alright, might as well check it out. So we moved there in 2003 and stayed there together for like three and a half years. It was one of those things where we broke up and I was up there for another six months not doing anything. Then Bob called me and asked me to play bass again in Bio Ritmo. So then I came back down to Richmond at the end of 2007.

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From there, at what point did you set your musical focus on what would eventually become Amazing Ghost?

Eddie: When I first came down, I made a couple songs. As much as I could, because Bio Ritmo was so busy when I returned. It was a lot busier then. Making some money and things like that. I didn’t really have that much time. Then we started to slow down. You go through periods of being really productive and periods where you’re not really doing shit. For the most part, if I can get a couple weeks of really good productivity, I’m not so mad at myself if I take a little time off. It always feels good to do work.

Bob: One thing again was that he was just here making these tunes. I mean that was going on for months.

Eddie: What happened was that Matt White was doing that Eight Track Contest. It was for RVA News. He asked me to put a track up for that. I think Matt kind of stuffed the ballot boxes. He was the lead judge. I had asked him if he wanted to play guitar on something I was working on. So we ended up winning the Eight Track Contest and then we had to play the gig. So we had to form a band. It was cool in the sense that it kind of kicks you in the ass and makes you do it. It was cool (laughs). I’d really like to do a record with the whole band.

Bob: That’s one of the next steps to try and record. His versions, the recorded versions are in a small part collaborative but for the most part it’s all Eddie. He’ll spend a week on a tune and then the tune is done. We learn it or we come up with a way to play it as a band. There are a few things that we come up with altogether. That tune that was on the RVA comp actually came from a rehearsal. Not that we have that many rehearsals, but we were rehearsing for a gig coming up. We were having a pretty rotten rehearsal. Nothing was getting done and so we started jamming out on this thing. That ended up being “Cantavit.” That’s the only tune that we’ve done that way.

Eddie: We just got to play more and do more rehearsals. We try to get it together but everyone is really busy. Bob is in five bands. Matt is in a bunch of bands. Matt leads all of these bands.

Bob: The tunes in the way that they are recorded and the way that they sound in how Eddie does it are really cool. While trying to stick to that is really tough. We don’t have thousands of dollars of equipment to synch stuff up and do things like that electronically. That’s another really hard part.

Eddie: That’s not really what you want to do live anyway.

Bob: No, but it’s hard. It’s hard to get the right synthesizer sounds. The way that we do the drums is pretty crazy. It makes it difficult because our drums are a sampler.

What’s the current set-up for the live performance?

Eddie: Bob and Toby Whitaker each have two keyboards. Bob plays trumpet and Toby plays trombone.

Bob: Like five percent of the time, we both are mostly playing keyboards.

Eddie: And then Guistino Riccio was playing a sampler and triggering different loops. Matt White plays guitar. Matt, Bob and Guistino kinda sing too. I play bass and sing. The last two shows we have been a part of have been really good. It’s hard to get that rhythm of playing out when we rarely play out, but the last couple times have been pretty easy to get it to sound good. Even with the equipment issues or my shit is catching on fire.

Bob: That shit caught on fire like every night in a row. It’s hard to believe.

Eddie: It was cool. The one thing that we haven’t gotten here yet is that there was this one show up in New York and everyone was up and dancing. But besides that, for the most part people just tend to stand there and look at us. Which is like the opposite reaction that we are going for. It’s kind of a cool reaction, they are standing there looking at you, but I would prefer it if people were like break dancing or something.

Bob: We’ll just have to get a little more wasted or play later shows.

Eddie: It’s something. I think the drums need to be louder.

Bob: Here’s the thing, everything always needs to be louder. When we’re playing in tiny little places, it’s hard to do. It’s hard to find that balance. That’s what I’m talking about equipment-wise.

Eddie: It would be nice to have more gear.

Would you ever consider incorporating more organic sounds into the live shows?

Eddie: Oh yeah. I think so. I think it would be good to add a drum set into the loop. Its just not knowing what’s up next for us.

Bob: Yeah, I think the tunes are going to go through a couple more changes. They will have to. It’s just a different thing especially when you consider how the tunes sound when he records them. Most of the time, they sound completely different when we play them live. Different forms, different sounds.

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Eddie: One thing is that I’ve been doing a lot of samples in my stuff too.

I was going to ask you about that, like what have been some of your favorite samples to work with? I know you’ve done MC Hammer and Bruce Springsteen….

Eddie: That Prince intro, which is such a sweet intro. But then I kinda decided to stop using those samples because there isn’t much you can do with those songs. I’m not sure what I would do with them anyway. You can’t really go and sell that song to anyone you know what I mean? You can’t use it in a commercial or anything.

I wonder how Girl Talk gets around it, because the basis of the act to a large degree is sampling.

Eddie: Doesn’t he release most of that stuff underground?

I think Girl Talk has had official albums released. I was over at WRIR last night and on the inside of the booklet was just a list of artists that had been sampled. It was almost like their thank you list.

Eddie: The whole thing is stupid to me. Sampling has become an instrument in itself. Somebody creates a song and you’re just using a little part. Using it in a completely different context. The way a lot of people use samples is by taking a sound that already exists but throwing it out of context so that it can lead to creating a completely different thing. It has little to do with the original song. I guess it’d be cool if they changed those laws (laughs). I mean with the ways of technology and the ways people have been using technology, even back in the day with tape loops and it’s progression, people are pushing it forward. People need to change their idea as to what constitutes copyright infringement.

Bob: The people that get paid for that kind of stuff are really stoked.

Eddie: Yeah, like you take one part of a drum track, like a snare hit. Then the guy who wrote the song gets the check. Not even the guy who played the drums, the guy who wrote the song. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I love using samples, especially from movies. That’s my favorite shit.

Bob: Another thing about it becoming a little more organic is allowing us to have the ability to open things up a little more. We could take these ideas and jam out.

Do you feel like with the musical backgrounds you both share, it’s easy in some respects to take the songs Eddie creates and turn them into something playable live?

Bob: Speaking for myself, I’m doing a completely different job with this band than I do for any other band. I play trumpet all the time. I think Toby and I really enjoy playing keyboards for Amazing Ghost, but the thing that gets me is that I don’t think in that way. It’s like taking the musical lines of a trumpet and transforming them to this other instrument.

Eddie: It’s all pretty simple parts in the songs. There isn’t a lot of trickiness. It’s just knowing and remembering what they are.

Bob: Maybe that’s it. Our memories are shot. We should have done this when we were younger (laughs). It takes a little while to get a comfort zone with these tunes. We are working with stuff that isn’t normally what we work with. Matt and Eddie have it easy, they are working with the tools they are accustomed.

Eddie: Like with Pencilgrass, I didn’t play bass. I just sang. That was awesome. You get to dance around and have a blast. Now that I’m playing bass, you can kind of dance around a little bit, but I got to concentrate more.

Bob: The first couple gigs, he was playing bass, singing and doing the drum machine. That was too much.

Eddie: The sound was weird; it just wasn’t the right drum machine.

What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?

Eddie: We are playing at Millie’s on the 23rd with Fuzzy Baby. We are talking to the Cubscout (and the Rhinoceros) about doing a tour later on. I haven’t talked to them in a while about it though.

Bob: We were talking about combining forces and making a super group. There would be a lot of synthesizers involved that way.

Any last words?

Eddie: I want the people to know that read this, if they take anything away from it. I want the people that come out to the shows to dance. If they can’t dance, tell me why you can’t dance. Bring a note from the doctor. Otherwise, you’re out of there. I think that’s the way to go, if it’ll make people dance.

For more information about Amazing Ghost, please visit www.myspace.com/amazingghost. And check them out this Sunday at Millie’s at 7pm with Fuzzy Baby. The price is $10 and a Buffet is included.

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RVA Staff

RVA Staff

RVA culture rag since 2005. #RVA




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