Close your eyes and allow yourself to be immersed into Acid Ghost’s world. They say they make indie music, but I’m not quite sure that suffices when talking about this San Francisco band. Made of Ace Barcelon and Mikey Mendoza, their music transcends genres, moods, and draws from many different sources of inspiration, providing you with the opportunity of seeing the world perfectly from Ace and Mikey’s eyes. And seeing the world like they do is not a bad thing, to say the least.
Both band members display an evident passion for music and art in general, which is what allows Acid Ghost’s music to become a multi-sensory experience. One of their videos, named “Artist’s High,” calls into the spotlight the relationship between art and seduction and leaves you wondering about it for long after the video’s minute and a half is over.
Acid Ghost’s music can be perceived as a collage of their lives: Each song another snapshot of a person, place, or moment in time, and each album a different chapter of their story. On September 9th, they’re releasing what seems to be their most honest album yet – the ambitious and promising I AM WARHOL. Atwood Magazine caught up with them before the album’s release to talk about what to expect from it, where they draw inspiration from, seduction and art, Mac Demarco and, of course, Andy Warhol.
Watch: “Dilemma” – Acid Ghost
On a Facebook post about I AM WARHOL, you listed a few factors which influenced the making of the album, like being expelled from college, going to rehab, etc. It literally feels like we’re tearing into your soul just from that paragraph. What prompted you to be so honest in this particular album?
Ace: Well, Mikey since Mikey is in Idaho I decided to put an album together while he was away. Basically I pretty much just gathered all my thoughts and everything that was going on in my life and put it into one album, I put all my ideas in this album. Then I had Mikey give me some ideas with some harmonies in some songs, and we tried to make it work despite Mikey being far away and all that. Hopefully people like the new album.
Did you fear being this blunt with your music?
Ace: Yes, a bit. You know, everyone is hearing my story but I think that’s what music is for for me, I guess, to put my ideas out there. I would say, yeah I was scared at first, but I got used to the idea of people listening to my story.
Also could you tell me a little more about the title of the album?
Ace: I was reading an Andy Warhol biography and I was just inspired by his story, his views on art. I just wanted to have a title that would be pretty blunt and out there, and I wanted something attention-grabbing too. I thought it would be a good title.
You released a video named “Artist’s High” as part of the I AM WARHOL campaign. The video is about seduction throughout, but at the end also seems to be about others accepting your truth, when she does agree that you are Warhol. Could you explain a little more about this video and the reasoning behind it?
Ace: You got the idea right. As artists, we forget that there’s a certain layer to art that people can’t understand about how art can be portrayed. Pretty much I just took it a step further by interpreting how seduction would happen in the art world. Basically I wanted people to understand what artists have to go through, putting their art out there and not being scared, that’s what I was going for with the video.
Watch: “The Artist’s High” – Acid Ghost
What, do you think, is the most seductive element of art in general?
Ace: I guess… I don’t know… I don’t know I listen to a lot of black metal too and it’s nothing too religious but it’s still an art form, but I guess people should try to understand what we’re trying to say?
Mikey: Be open-minded.
Mikey: For me, I guess it’s more like exposure. Not individually, but as a whole piece. The amount of exposure people put into their work. How much they’re willing to let people see.
It seems like each of your albums/EPs tell a specific story. For example, for I Want to Hide My Face and Die, you described the album as “A story about some guy falling in love with a girl.” How do you decide what each album will be about?
Ace: I guess it’s not as conceptual as that album. The new album is some ideas that I had going through 2016 and also what Mikey was going through, it’s a combination of both of our lives in one album.
Mikey: It started at the end of 2015, I had some stuff going on, then this year Ace had some stuff.
Ace: Basically both of our ideas combine into one album. I guess there’s a concept behind the darkness of heartbreak but overall it’s an album that doesn’t have a specific story to it.
On Vacation II, lots of the songs are named after people or places. Do you find it easier to write songs when they’re inspired by such specific and concrete things, or do you prefer writing about more abstract themes like feelings?
Ace: Vacation II is a whole bunch of songs written by me, Mikey, and some other friends that are in my life. It’s inspired by other places I’ve been to and Mikey’s been to.
Mikey: I thought it was a little easier to write about more concrete things.
When you released “New York,” you wrote a post on Tumblr explaining the reasoning behind that song. Why did you think it was important to explain that particular song’s meaning?
Ace: “New York” is pretty much based on the film Heaven Knows What. I was watching the film and I decided to write a poem to it and then I formulated it into a song.
Have any other movies inspired your music?
Ace: With the new album I guess some Warhol stuff, there’s one thing he made with the Velvet Underground and I guess that inspired a lot of it. Pretty much a bunch of movies, Heaven Knows What for “New York” and some films by Warhol for the new album.
Watch: “New York” – Acid Ghost
A few days ago you tweeted “I make music for John Green movies.” If you could choose a movie, John Green or not, for your music to be featured in, what would it be and what song would you choose?
Ace: I’d say probably “Overthinking”. I tweeted that because I saw someone comment that on one of our videos, I think it was “Overthinking”, and I thought “Yeah, it kind of does sound like a John Green movie”. I don’t know, I think Paper Towns would be a cool movie.
Mikey: Hmm… Probably… This is a tough one. Endless Summer. I’d probably say my favourite song to go in a movie would either be “Aly’s Song” or “We Hate Indie Music”, I think one of those, they’re really fun to play.
Mac Demarco seems like a recurring theme on your social media platforms. He’s listed as your genre on Facebook, you have a picture with him, you tweeted about meeting him backstage, and even one of Vacation II’s tags on Bandcamp was about him. May I ask why he seems to be so present in the Acid Ghost world?
Ace: When I started listening to indie music, I guess Mac Demarco was the one who introduced me to it. It’s just another sarcastic way of saying “We make indie music also.” People who listen to our music listen to him, so I guess it’s a funny kind of joke.
Mikey: Yeah, when we made it it was kind of a joke.
In a recent interview you said you don’t plan on being signed to any label for now. Why is that?
Ace: Music for me and Mikey has always been just for the music, and that’s the other stuff that comes along with it. We’ve always been a “do it yourself” kind of band so we have more freedom with the ideas, when stuff will be released. I guess that’s why we don’t plan on being signed.
Mikey: We’re just doing it for the fun of it, just to enjoy it. We don’t want to be tied down to anything just yet.
You recently released a book - what prompted you to do so?
Ace: Basically what happened was, I moved to San Francisco and I basically wrote about the experience I had living in San Francisco for two years. And I guess there were issues with the pressing, we’re still trying to find another place that will publish it so I guess it’s on hold for now, but one day I really plan on releasing it.
What inspired you to start writing and making music?
Ace: I don’t know for Mikey but for me, I always listened to music. Me and Mikey met at a show and we found out the both of us played instruments. One day we decided to jam and I guess that was when we made our first song.
Mikey: Yeah it kind of happened. He asked me to play drums at a show one time because he didn’t have a drummer, so I just did that, and three weeks later it turned into a single that would be released.
Ace: We actually didn’t know we could make music like that. We found out…
Mikey: And stuck with it. We had nothing else going on here in our lives.
Ace: It’s a good hobby to have.
What’s your ultimate purpose with your music?
Ace: As artists I guess your biggest goal should be to inspire other people. People have made art of our music and sent it to me and Mikey, and that’s really cool, that other people are inspired by it.
Mikey: We’ve had a lot more recognition as band, which is pretty cool because I never thought that would happen, and when people say how it affects their lives and stuff it’s kind of gnarly, all I do is play drums, I don’t know how that affects people’s lives but if it does that’s cool. Our songs have meanings so if our songs help people through whatever they’re going through, I guess that would be it.
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cover photo: Acid Ghost