By Mark Simpson
Barberton is the name of a unique and small town located in South Africa. The town was a gold mining town in the 1800’s and is surrounded by some of the oldest exposed mountains in the world. This improbable town also provides the name for the newest album by local Inland Empire indie rock band Ghost in Pocket. “Barberton” is the five-track stroke of genius that, with the help of kick starter and their fans, Ghosts in Pocket gave birth to on October 9th, 2015.
” It was important to us that we try to make “Barberton” feel like progress, because that’s also what the songs strive to do musically and lyrically.” – Keith
The album was produced, mixed, and mastered with the help of up-and-comer John Kunkel, who is a Los Angeles Native who owns Division 87 Records and performs with the group New Division. With influences such as Burt Reynolds and Carrot Top laying heavy on the band’s mind, they could go into the studio and lay down what may be, in my opinion, the best sounding local album I have heard in the last 5 years. The first track on the album is the title track “Barberton” which has an amazing video that gives you a look at the band and the lengthy recording process that goes with releasing an album.
From bandannas, to Nick cutting a good rug, to empty Rolling Rock on the floor, you can get a sense of how much this album met to the group. As someone who has found myself in padded room for hours on end listening to the same song over and over, I can tell you that the studio process, though amazing, can be quite lengthy.
“I think I speak for the group in saying it took us a lot longer to finish this project than we would have hoped. I suppose it’s all a part of the learning process.” – Zach
The group’s song that is a personal favorite of mine is “Make it Break” which shows off Chris’ unique drumming style. As a fellow drummer, I love that the song consistently keeps it’s energy and drive while Keith sings moving lyrics that, by the end of the track, have us all saying “Lovers, Lovers, Lovers”. When asked about the track Keith gave us some interesting perspective on what makes it such a hit with fans:
“My music interest has always been guided by meaningful and intentional lyrics, regardless of genre or style, and so, especially with the EP, I wanted the songs to resonate with a theme. I think the song that does it best is “Make It Break,” which I also think is one of the more basic songs structurally.” – Keith
I pictured myself sitting with the group listening to “Make it Break” and sipping on a Banana Daiquiri a favorite of my main man Nick… you read that right, a Banana Daiquiri. As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder about the group that got its start from playing a pancake dinner for elementary children. As Keith put it, the song has a mood to it that is quite hypnotic and, as you can see from the video, the song may have a darker meaning than one might expect.
As I listened to moving songs like “Separated by Ice” I got a feeling that this album is much darker than their first album Shadowbox. I could see where a bit of studio magic had happened on the track; originally the track was slated to be electric but at the last-minute John Kunkel asked Keith if he might try it with the acoustic. As Nick put it, he is forever grateful for John’s quick decision and went on to say that, to this day, the track still gives him chills.
“Keep the Heat Coming” may be something of a dark horse on the album as it fits in perfect with the album but, on it’s own, shows a much different side of the group. It is a song that shows the most pressing of steady, high energy and ends with Zach playing a very powerful solo while the group seems to explode in different directions that work together simultaneously.
The album comes to close with what may be their most powerful song to date, “Statues Pulse,” which features a cool assortment of horns courtesy of Zach’s good friend Sean Portanova. The band, who gets their name from the haunting work of Dave Eggers, really shows their strengths in this song as singer Keith lays down one of my favorite lyrical lines:
” There’s nothing to prescribe I’ll trade my nerves to help you feel alive.”
As I finished the album, I could see why the group has been so successful and able to open for groups like We are Scientists. It is, to me, the way that the group can write such moving music while staying objective about their art. The group is a tight-knit group who can be a lot of fun to hang out with. They are bit witty and comical, but when they take the stage, much like Shaq when he hits the court, they rise to the occasion. If you would like to see these guys rock the desert make sure to come out to their show at Frogee’s on April 14th. As a closing, for this album review Id like to leave you with some information on the group as well as Nick’s 3 things that will help you conquer the world. Cheers!
“First, chip clips are poor substitutes for nipple clamps. Second, a tri-tip should rest for at least 10 minutes after you pull it off the grill. And finally, if California marijuana farmers aren’t called “ganjapreneuers,” they should be.” – Nick
Buy an Album $5 right Here –> https://ghostsinpocket.bandcamp.com/album/barberton-ep
Catch their next show at Frogee’s Apple Valley with Rustic Wild and Heavy Door on Friday, April 14th 2017 at 8pm.