Roadkill Ghost Choir
It’s been two years since Roadkill Ghost Choir has taken listeners on a ride. Last trip, Andrew Shepard (Vocals / Guitar), Zach Shepard (Bass), Maxx Shepard (Drums / Vocals), Stephen Garza (Guitar), and Kiffy Myers (Pedal Steel) packed the car, pedal to the metal, with a banjo, guitars, and the profound swelter of the South. With the upcoming arrival of False Youth Etcetera, the quintet outgrows their roots in a supersonic fashion – exchanging their known vehicles for an electrified, aspirational magic carpet ride that soars through the night sky versus the tireless trudge of clocking mileage on an odometer. Coming off of a handful of challenging times, Andrew in particular was a bit hardened by his experiences on the road under pressure to deliver new songs. It’s no surprise False Youth Etcetera feels like a turn towards fantastical and anthemic escape compared to songs from the past. It’s immediately felt on the band’s first single, “Classics (Die Young),” which bends beautifully and purposefully in the direction of M83 than the group’s previous resonance to contemporary folk, based mainly in their choice of instruments to begin with. “Going into [the band’s first major release] In Tongues, I was terrified because I had never written under such a pressured amount of time, and I had struggled with writer’s block for a good portion of that time. After the record was completed, I had my first full-on panic attack on tour in Houston during one of the worst tours we’ve ever been on,” notes Shepard. “The sandwich I was eating [before a gig] started to fall apart, and it felt symbolic of my current state. I immediately left the awful restaurant and found myself aimlessly walking around an unfamiliar city, feeling I had hit a wall both in my personal life and creatively within the band. That was a major seed for the record – the dread that informs life being in a band.”
Shepard was able to afford a more comfortable and inherently inspirational environment where his body of work for the band could flourish, and where he could feel closer to himself. He explains, “It ended up being the first time I didn’t have a timeline, so I went right back to that – me sitting and recording, getting ideas down, and navigating what I really wanted to do sonically
and lyrically. False Youth Etcetera is more textural, more synths, more interesting.” Shepard is pointed in the departure from their familiar sounds, confirming “there is no banjo” on False Youth Etcetera. Instead, the new set of songs is “sonically, what I always wanted to do. I got to sit in my room in my underwear and play on synthesizers all day long figuring stuff out. We learned a lot more in the studio than ever before recording as a band, figure things out, and fully realize what we were going through.” This notion also shines through in the songwriting of False Youth Etcetera, the strength of which Shepard credits to his ability to “go through all [his] petty shit, sadness, take a deep dive, face it, reconcile it, and at the end, realize it’s not that bad.”
This desire to explore new musical terrain was only bolstered by Shepard’s adoration for similarly sonic explorations that feel like transport and transformation – felt in roots of influence like The War On Drugs, and Shepard’s longtime desire to “make a record that sounded like Springsteen if Neu! was his backing band. I think I listened to nothing but Springsteen for about a year… Songs like ‘Tougher than the Rest’ informed how I wanted to approach the record sonically. The great 80’s synths, and big drums, huge and covered in reverb. I’m drawn to it for some reason and I have no idea why.” This refreshed perspective and palette of inspiration, combined with the “comfort” and “centrality” of a new home base in the richly musical town of Athens, Georgia positions Roadkill Ghost Choir to brighten many corners as False Youth Etcetera unfurls to an audience waiting to sit shotgun wherever the path guides them next.
The album is a drive that picks up an impassioned pace – starting with the extended, hazy dream sequence of “Vision on Vision (Undo)” that will make Roadkill Ghost Choir faithfuls feel right at home; picking up the pace on the majorly pulsating “Dream Shiver;” later careening into the stunning peak of a starry, Kraftwerk-inspired, and multilayered journey called “Panik Kit.” The back half of False Youth Etcetera is masterful aural poetry – from the soaring liberation of “Sad Magic,” the impassioned yearning of “Suit Said Sing,” to the lilted, sweet conclusion, “Out of Existence,” so clearly and beautifully delivering the group to a whole new illuminating, electric terrain.