[SYNTH POP] The rock-star dream has changed. Reality has set in. "Making it" will likely never happen, and—as we've been shown by VH1—once you get there, it may not be all that great. Nevertheless, kids are still starting bands, and Portland has become one of the best cities in the country to do it in. At least that's what they say in the South, according to Jesse, Casey and Emily Laney of World's Greatest Ghosts, a Devo-influenced electro-pop band who relocated from Nashville almost a year ago.
"I mean, I love Nashville," says Jesse, 26. "But where we're from, people don't recycle." The oldest Laney, Jesse plays synthesizers—somewhat unexpected from a thin, bearded Southern guy who looks like a member of the Shaky Hands. He and his wife, Emily, 24, met at photography school in Atlanta and eventually ended up in Portland after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
"[Portland] is like the mecca for young rock 'n' roll musicians," says Jesse. Emily, who plays bass, agrees: "It's amazing compared to other places. I didn't go to one house show in New Orleans." WGG, on the other hand, has been making the rounds of Portland's house-show circuit, often sharing bills with much harder-sounding punk bands. And its synth pop—which is peppered with guitar solos and sing-alongs—is still developing. The first minute of "Butterscotch Sunday," from the band's demo, flies easily from Tron-like electro-beeps to a flurry of drums and angular, post-punk guitar.
Jesse describes working with his guitar-slinging brother, Casey, as a love-hate relationship. "We bang heads a lot," he admits. Casey finishes: "But you always forgive one another at the end of the day." "We shared a room for 16 years," Jesse adds. "There's not a whole lot we can do that really surprises us." Sibling spats aside, the Ghosts agree that they love playing music—and living in Portland.
In fact, the entire band (minus new drummer John Damiani) lives together in the same house, working service jobs—Emily at a coffee shop and the brothers at pizza places. "It's really fun," says Emily, "but it can be a bit much." For the most part, the Laneys seem satisfied with their version of the rock-star dream. "Family and being happy," says Jesse. "That's really what we want." In Portland, that's a perfectly reasonable goal.
World's Greatest Ghosts play Friday, Dec. 14, with Ross McLeron and Yoyodyne at the Modern Age. 8 pm. $3-$5. All ages.