A fine estate of affairs

Their name has emotive connotations but new quintet Ghost Estates are more interested in kicking out the doom-pop jams than making a political statement.

It is very hard not to get irritated when you hear the words “ghost” and “estate”, signifying as they do those rotting eyesores left behind by the boom of construction and the bust of recession. From Leitrim to Wexford, Louth to Kerry, their concrete spirits haunt what were once pristine landscapes.

But a measure of redemption comes in the form of a band which has taken the brave step of adopting the dreaded name.

Step forward, Ghost Estates, a five-piece built on foundation stones expertly laid by Joy Division and the Stone Roses while straddling the mellow brick road leading to Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party.

Only 18 months on from their construction from the remnants of Dublin bands Sickboy and 8Ball, Ghost Estate will perform at Electric Picnic, a festival that they’ve attended religiously as paying punters since its inception.

“We’ve been every year. It’s definitely one of the best festivals around. To be playing it is a dream. We’re dead excited to have the opportunity,” reveals the band’s bass-player Colm Giles, who is also looking forward to seeing fellow 2011 picnickers Republic of Loose, PJ Harvey, And So I Watch You From Afar and DJ Shadow.

But how have they come to share the limelight with such illustrious bands in such a short space of time, before they’ve even released a full-length album?

Clues emerge when the rubble has been cleared from one half of Ghost Estate’s previous incarnation, Sickboy. The three-piece, made up of childhood friends Dan Doherty (drums and lyrics) and brothers Colm (bass) and Brian Giles (guitar), seemed to have reached a dead end two years ago. However, it proved to be a chance to rebuild from new foundations.

“After we got back from South By Southwest we were just getting sick of it all. Dan, our drummer, had a load of great solo songs which he couldn’t sing from behind a drumkit. So we decided to start from scratch. We got Keith Byrne in as our new drummer. Then Mono (Allen Monahan) from 8Ball called us up and we got him on board. It brought a whole different side to our music and different ideas,” explains Colm. “Sickboy was alive and raw and we wanted to produce a whole new sound. The songwriting has gone a different route. Now it’s a melting pot of ideas. We all chuck our ideas into the pot.”

Out of this cement mixer, Ghost Estates have managed to bring a number of elements together to construct their new sound. This collective spirit is most apparent on the band’s atmospheric debut single ‘Paris’. The song rises from bleak beginnings to a wondrous, sun-filled crescendo, via pounding drums, chiming guitars and haunting vocals. A spoken word interlude on life from legendary playwright Arthur Miller and a Springsteen-esque trumpet solo from Cillian Kenny of reggae band Indica add spice to the mix.

With a second single ‘Forever Or Never’ on the way on August 26, a 10” release slated for October and a debut album mixed by Marc Carolan (Muse, Snow Patrol, The Cure) nailed down for March 2012, things have moved far faster than the five-piece had originally anticipated. They’d planned to build up their reputation brick by brick.

“The main thing was to start playing live and get our name out there. We’ve kind of done it backwards though. We decided to keep our head down to get an album out first. So we’ve only been playing live for a couple of months. It’s been great so far. People have been picking up on what we’re doing,” says Colm of their breakout success, which has grown roots even far beyond Ireland.

“Radio has been really good, especially on the smaller stations. Today FM has been playing ‘Paris’ and blogs have picked up on it a lot as well. Also we were on the Music Alliance Pact mixtape which was sent out to 36 countries. And if you look at the destinations on SoundCloud that downloads of ‘Paris’ have been coming from, there are so many people from places like the States. We’re really chuffed with that.”

Like their Castlepalooza gig, which Colm admits was great preparation for the Picnic, Ghost Estates will be giving punters a sneak preview of their highly anticipated album with such tunes as ‘Paris’, ‘October’ and ‘Winter Day’ sure to get a buzz going through the crowd.

And what of that band name, which could have been an Achilles heel? Well, Colm remains philosophical about the choice.

“We picked it because of the current situation here and the image it has in your head. We put it to a few people from the States and they thought it was a cool name even though they didn’t know what it signified. It’s more about the picture it puts in your mind.”

With Electric Picnic as the first brick in the wall, it looks like there is at least one Ghost Estate that you will be happy to see on the map.


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