When Ghost Feet’s upcoming single “November 2″ got accepted to PDX Pop Now!’s 20th anniversary compilation (out this August), it felt like fate. It was a song with a lot of significance, the lyrics for which vocalist and keys player Jessie Branch says came quicker than any other she’d ever written.
“I mean, in like two minutes,” she says, explaining that it was one of those songs that “fell together super quick” with guitarists and recording engineers Rachel Dubuc and Nuri Erdal.
The story of “November 2″ begins in the fall of 2021, with Dubuc and Erdal tinkering away in a studio they rented. This was before bassist Ryan Scott and drummer Benjamin Tyler joined the band, when it was what Branch calls “the core trio.” The trio was sitting in a dark studio room, and Branch’s ears perked up.
“I heard the guitars and drums and bass, and I was like, oh, my God! I could write to this so fast. And I wrote it in like two minutes,” she says.
Songwriting speed aside, Branch explains that, lyrically, it was one of her favorite songs: “For me, it really tells a story of being in bad relationships. You know the classic tale of just feeling like I was dealing with this situation where I felt like I couldn’t escape a person and it was starting to affect my inner thoughts.”
The chorus chants, “I don’t want to be inside my mind,” capturing a feeling that “sometimes you are just like so stuck in your own head, and you cannot get out of it, as hard as you try,” Branch says. But the song takes an empowering shift, lyrically and sonically, charging toward a new realization, a new freedom.
“A person can rewrite their own reality with their actions, just like someone else could rewrite your reality and just change the way that you interact with the world by basically not allowing you to move on, or not allowing you to live your life,” Branch says.
“I would say a lot of our themes are pretty ethereal; stuff about life and death and just the nature of existing in the world and stuff,” Dubuc chimes in. “But then there are definitely songs that are more specific, like about, you know, addiction and relationships.”
The song “Speak” is about sisterhood and important female friendships; forthcoming single “Sun Look Down” is about the frustrations of addiction and how substances can cause you to lose touch with the world around you. Now three years sober, Branch says she wrote that song during a time when she was still using.
“You start to feel like you’re sort of becoming like an empty shell, with no passions, no drive, and you’re not engaged with your life,” she says. “This song is just about feeling so high that you’re not, like, connecting to the world at all, and you’re sort of just floating around.”
Like other songs in their catalog, “Sun Look Down” sonically undulates to bring the listener into the story, intensifying at the song’s climactic breaking point. Branch explains how she vocally “goes off” in that moment to match the intense frustration that often comes with addiction: “It’s like, why can’t I stop doing this? I don’t want to do this.”
Ghost Feet’s sound is shaped by what Branch calls Dubuc and Erdal’s “producers’ ears.” “When they’re throwing in a sonic element or texture or layer that just adds to the whole ambient nature of our music,” she says, clarifying, “Not that we’re an ambient band, but there is a certain layer of, you know, wavy textures in the songs.”
As an engineer herself, Dubuc is inspired by rulebreakers like Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. At a Ghost Feet show, you won’t hear much banter, but you’ll hear a steady stream of one song rolling into the next, taking listeners from shoegaze to trip-hop, from synthwave to psych rock, each sound wound together in story.
Chiming in with some producer talk, Erdal, who is also a recording engineer, says, “We’re trying to have a really cool, cohesive show where there are levels and dynamics, where songs stitch together, and it’s super vibey.”
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“I love the dynamic songwriting and sonic exploration from Ghost Feet and Sit Pretty. I’m a sucker for trip-hop and shoegaze, and they both scratch the itch.” —Aaron Bergeson, composer, producer and sonic artist