The first thing that struck me about The Ghost Wolves was, well everything.
The slick black and white website with a video of “Gonna Live” featuring Jonny and Carley Wolf driving around in a big old car with white leather seats that match Carley’s white cowboy boots up on the dashboard. The twangy slide guitar. Carley’s old-soul voice – one that sounds like a reincarnation of Ma Rainey from back in 1923. Then there’s Jonny providing harmonies while driving, and the clip ends with an amazing jam session in the living room. I must have watched it five or six times in a row.
Here’s what you need to know: The Ghost Wolves are a married duo from Austin, Texas; they’ve recorded with “the” BP Fallon; they’ve also worked with Cheetah Chrome and Eric Ambel among others, and you can use the words “stomp“, “swamp“, and “sneer” to describe their brand of blues rock and roll.
We asked drummer Jonny Wolf a few questions about the band, but just watch the video here before reading the interview. It says more about what this band is all about than I can.
50third: How did The Ghost Wolves become a band?
Jonny: We’ve always been together. We met at a Cramps show in Houston. They’re our heroes — The Ghost Wolves started a few years ago though, we were tired of playing acoustic music and wanted to rock out.
50third: Why did you decide that The Ghost Wolves would be a duo?
J: It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I came home one night and Carley had sold her classical guitar and bought a Fender blues deluxe amplifier. She had this old Gretsch semi hollow body and was in the living room playing slide with a beer bottle. It sounded awesome, so I set up my drums and we jammed. We played a lot of rockabilly and country blues classics first. We never felt the need to have anybody else in our band, we make all the music we wanted to just fine by ourselves. It’s a challenge and we have to work twice as hard, but we love that.
50third: Your latest record – Man, Woman, Beast was recorded at a Austin’s venerable Arlyn Studios (Booker T, Willie Nelson, Dr. John, Les Paul, Bobby Bare, to name a few), released on Cheetah Chrome’s Plowboy Records and mastered by Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, the Ramones, the Clash). How did being surrounded by all this musical greatness rub off on you during recording?
J: Ah you know, there’s a really special thing about working in a studio like that. All of that history really does rub off on your mental state – like, we don’t want to mess this up, this place is serious — fucking Ray Charles recorded piano in the exact same spot I’m drumming…so we better focus and make the most of this. We rehearsed really hard leading up to that session.
50third: Tell us about the relationship with Cheetah and Plowboy. How did it come about?
J: I’m not an expert, but to my understanding both Cheetah and Plowboy founder Shannon had kids at the same school in Nashville – so they met there – and Shannon was a fan of Cheetah’s before that. I think they got to being buddies and found out that they had a lot in common, and when the label started, Cheetah was there. They have a great vibe over there, Cheetah really brings a “don’t fuck with me” edge to it that we love – but they’re a family business – it’s really great. We’re playing a show with him in Nashville in November and are totally stoked about it – Shannon even plays drums in his band. Super cool.
50third: You play a 4 piece drum kit and Carley sometimes plays a one string guitar. Have you experimented with a bigger sound, or other musicians?
J: We bought a small analog synthesizer recently which is a lot of fun. We do work a lot on our amplifiers. We have a custom rig coming down the pipe from a small Austin company. We’re excited about that. We don’t need other musicians in our band at this point, although we wouldn’t rule it out if we could make it work. We definitely keep a list of the people we’d love to play with. Honestly though, we’ve been stripping it down even more lately. I’ve moved over to a 3 piece kit and Carley is playing a lot of air guitar.
50third: Tell us about Winter, your 130 pound “3rd band member”.
J: Our dog, Winter is part of a long lineage of animals that our family has kept in the Texas hill country — the bloodline goes back a good 30 years. They’re a northern breed — Akita, Malamute, and some other breeds. They’re very sweet animals, incredibly laid back. Winter is a big baby and he tours with us a lot, he’s a great guard dog and keeps us company on long drives. He loves listening to NPR on the radio. He eats a 50 pound bag of dog food about ever 10 days to two weeks.
50third: When you’re not touring what keeps you alive?
J: We’re always swirling with projects – videos, posters, Carley paints – this band is a 24/7 thing. When we’re off the road, we’re still working on it constantly. It can be stupid stuff like the van needs washing or merchandise needs mailing out – or important stuff like writing songs. We’re always focused on it. We don’t do anything else these days, Ghost Wolves it is.
50third: What’s playing in the tour van?
J: Green Day’s “Dookie” … Tan Vampires “For Phyiscal Fitness”…King Gizzard and The Lizzard Wizard. A lot of NPR too – TED Talks, Snap Judgement, there are some great shows out there. We like to listen to talk radio because we hear a lot of music the rest of the time.
50third: What’s in store for The Ghost Wolves in 2014-2015?
J: We’re hitting up Europe for the first time this fall and then 2015 will bring more touring, writing, recording, videos, and a lot of other great stuff. We’re still new, so we’re hacking it out day by day. We love it. Thanks for your time.
Fri 9/26/14 Canal Street Public House Dayton, OH
Sun 9/28/14 The Press Room FREE Portsmouth, NH
Fri 10/3/14 Crazy World Salzwedel, Germany
Sat 10/4/14 Trash Bar Berlin, Germany
Sun 10/5/14 Cafe Tikolor Erfurt, Germany
Mon 10/6/14 Subway To Peter Chemnitz, Germany
Weds 10/8/14 Fluc Wein, Austria
Fri 10/10/14 Haifischbar Augsburg, Germany
Tues 10/14/14 Lio Bar Brescia, Italy
Weds 10/15/14 Sidro Club Savignano s/Rubicone, Italy
Thurs 10/16/14 Irish Pub Pianola L’Aquila, Italy
Fri 10/17/14 Beer Room Pontinvrea, Savona, Italy
Sat 10/18/14 Ohibo Club Milan, Italy
Sun 10/19/14 Arci Virgilio Mantova, Italy
Tues 10/21/14 Eldorado Biel, Switzerland
Wed 10/22/14 Bar 3000 Zürich, Switzerland
Thurs 10/23/14 La Parenthèse Nyon, Switzerland
Fri 10/24/14 Venue TBA Lugano, Switzerland
Sat 10/25/14 Veka Glarus, Switzerland
Mon 10/27/14 Rocky Bar Huttenheim, France
Tues 10/28/14 Hausbar Münzgasse 13 Tübingen, Germany
Weds 10/29/14 The Clearing Barrel Kaiserslautern, Germany
Thurs 10/30/14 Sonic Ballroom Koln, Germany
Fri 10/31/14 After Dark Colmar, France
Sat 11/1/14 Kult 41 Bonn, Germany
Tues 11/4/14 Sonny’s w/ Soggy Po Boys Dover, NH
Thurs 11/6/14 Slim’s Raleigh, NC
Fri 11/7/14 The Garage Winston-Salem, NC
Sat 11/8/14 The Odditorium presented by Pabst Asheville, NC
Mon 11/10/14 The Basement w/ Cheetah Chrome Nashville, TN
Weds 11/12/14 Wherehouse Fort Worth, Texas
Fri 11/14/14 SweetWater Austin, TX
Tues 12/30/14 The Shrine w/ Rev. Horton Heat Tulsa, OK