Interview with Tiny Ghosts
The frontman of the German melodic rock outfit fills us in on silkscreening, the benefits of vinyl and the band’s latest effort, this summer’s three-song “Alien in a Box” 7”.
Thanks for joining us! Can you quickly introduce who you guys are and what you do?
Bibi: Tiny Ghosts has four members—I sing, play guitar and write most of the songs and lyrics. Joerg is our second guitar player and he does the backup vocals. He’s been in the band for seven years and has been doing most of the recordings for the past year. Ronny, the bassist, has been with us for six years while Rico, the oldest in the band, is the “youngest“ member: he joined us in early-2010 and plays drums while also doing most of the booking stuff.
You’ve gone through several name changes before settling on Tiny Ghosts…
Bibi: After several lineup changes, we decided to look for a new name: Tiny Ghosts was the name on which everyone could agree. The idea was that “tiny ghosts” arrive from nothing—dark and nowhere.
How important are your influences to you? Are you trying to remain faithful to a sound or do you feel like the constant comparisons are holding you back?
Bibi: We want to have our own sound and for us, it’s important to create something unique. Otherwise, we know that it’s kinda impossible not to get a label. We always hear names like REM, Guided by Voices and Hüsker Dü getting thrown around—and the Wipers too—in association with our music. There is some truth to that, but we don’t want it to be limiting.
Of course it’s important for everyone, including us, to get orientated in daily musical diversity. In that sense, we also want to let people know that bands like Suicide, Jesus & Mary Chain, Swervedriver, Polvo, Big Black, Moving Targets, Wedding Present, Pegboy, the Saints, Sonic Youth and Sebadoh all influenced and inspired us.
You grew up in East Germany and became involved in punk music before the fall of the Berlin Wall. We’re curious as to what the music scene and life in general was like in GDR times.
Bibi: My main connection to the punk scene in the GDR was organizing records throughout Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia that weren’t available in that communist system. I had first meetings with the local punk scene, joined illegal shows, hung out in fucked-up clubs and listened to rare radio programs that played punk and punk-related music. I never had problems with police and the system like older punks in our area. Me and my friends were too young that time to understand the so-called “subculture.”
Despite being around for awhile, you didn’t start putting out releases until 2006—you even joke about missing out on the big business for guitar-driven EMOtional punk rock in the early-2000s. What changed and why did it take you so long to break out into the scene?
Bibi: Frequent member changes was one of the reasons that we played less shows after 2000. We also didn’t have enough good songs to play live. And then there was the lack of money and connection to labels—less chances to play and the lack of confidence was the main reason why we couldn’t release more new material.
After Rico joined the band, we had a lot more possibilities. He was well-connected with clubs and organizers and it gave us new energy to restart.
You’ve released three albums and a demo. Your previous full-length, Another Poison Wine, was well-received in Germany. Why follow it all up with a 7”?
Bibi: The idea to release a vinyl single was always on our mind. We all think that the 7“ format has a high coolness factor. We also wanted to try to release more new songs in shorter intervals.
The possibilities with our own small recording studio kind of screamed for us to release singles from time to time. But of course, we also think about a following full-length record.
The “Alien in a Box” 7” is a co-release by four labels, three in Germany and us here in China. We’re so happy to have you guys! How did the China connection come about?
Rico: I play in [hardcore outfit] SS20—we had lots of experience in putting out co-releases and the feedback was always amazing. It’s an easy way to spread the sound in many areas of the world. So for Tiny Ghosts, I asked the other guys what they thought—they also saw it as a chance to bring our music to another part of the world. I know that China has a huge potential for post-punk and indie-music because I saw a lot of those great bands there on my trips to China and also listened to much more music regularly at home. That being said, I hope that it’s a good way for the band to gain a great audience in China.
For the labels who are involved, it’s a good way to share costs and work together with promotion. I know from SS20 releases that the splits were used by some labels as an opening to get more audiences from other countries because people who bought the records checked out the releases from the other labels.
You pay meticulous attention to texture and tone in the recordings while also capturing the essence of a live recording. How important is gear to you guys and to crafting your sound?
Bibi: The sound, the structure and a touch of an oppressive and melancholic atmosphere are our main characteristics. But we don’t want to overload the music with effects and extras because our aim is always to be able to accurately play the songs live: the rhythms and guitar sound should be authentic and not come across with that digital hi-fi feeling.
Watch Tiny Ghosts’ “Alien in a Box” MV on YouTube
The “Alien in a Box” 7” comes in a beautiful silkscreen cover. Was it important to you to have a handmade aesthetic for this album?
Bibi: Our records are about more than just the music—we pay attention to everything because the entire package says something about the band, it gives the listener a more complete picture. This time, our singer’s daughter painted the cover and after we saw it, we silkscreened it. Silkscreening gave us the chance to make every cover to some degree of uniqueness. You will see that almost every cover has some difference in color. We did it by ourselves with a friend and it was a really fun time to discover how much effects we can have with putting some extra colors into the screen. To make things by ourselves also means to have some more control of the final product: the people who buy it can feel the sound and the paper in their hands is all made by the band. So we are close to each other and they can touch us
You’ve got a growing base of Chinese fans. Can we expect you to tour here anytime soon?
Bibi: There is no concrete plan yet to tour in China. If someone would be interested to bring us over, though, we’d think about it [laughs]. We’ve heard a lot about touring in China—our drummer was touring there a couple of times with his bands SS20 and the 4 Sivits.
The biggest problem is time, to get a longer free time-frame that’s possible for all of us, our families and our work.