Handsome Ghost Dive into Stunning Depths on ‘Some Still Morning’, a Beautifully Haunting Reckoning

Handsome Ghost © 2020
Handsome Ghost dive into their stirring sophomore album ‘Some Still Morning,’ an honest, vulnerable, and unfiltered expression of tender electrofolk exploring inner upheaval, self-growth and acceptance, and life’s natural change.
Stream: “Funeral” – Handsome Ghost

 




To me, right now in this moment, this is the most honest version of Handsome Ghost to this point… We’re not hiding anything… there’s no filter.

Handsome Ghost’s sophomore record begins with a haunting elegy of sorts: “One more time to pay my respects, cross my heart and taking a breath,” sings a somber Tim Noyes against an ethereal acoustic backdrop. A gorgeous tapestry grows out of silence as Handsome Ghost capture the universally human experience of saying goodbye to a lost loved one and ruminating on life as you physically leave the gravesite. By the time the band reach the first chorus, their characteristic electroacoustic music has swelled to fill every inch of surrounding air and, with the tenderness of a much-needed hug, Noyes offers a stunningly delicate refrain: “So it ends, oh, but it was beautiful; laid to rest slow, call it a funeral… Everything, everything stops; everything, everything stops…

It feels only fitting that Handsome Ghost would open their new record with such a profoundly emotional scene. Released September 18 via Photo Finish Records, Some Still Morning is a stirring refresh: An honest and unfiltered expression of tender electrofolk exploring inner upheaval, self-growth, and life’s natural change. It’s “starting over in the sense that [you’re] trying to just see the good in everything and appreciate where you’re at, regardless of the kind of winding road that it took to get there… It’s just kind of a natural progression through time,” Tim Noyes explains, attempting to describe succinctly a record that really cannot be summarized in any single sentence.

Some Still Morning - Handsome Ghost

Some Still Morning – Handsome Ghost

“To me, right now in this moment, this is the most honest version of Handsome Ghost to this point. This record and where Eddie and I are at, I feel like it’s very true to who we are. We’re just not… We’re not hiding anything… I think everything we’ve put out, for the most part, has been, “this is the version of us as we are right now,” but if I had to compare everything we’ve released, this just feels like there’s no filter.”

If you wake up someday soon
In a great big house, in a new bedroom
If you get to thinking
‘Bout the passing of time
Circumstances, years are strange
The same old people have new last names
And if for a moment
I am crossing your mind
I hope it lingers
Find me in the weeds, find me in the dark
Diving underneath, fighting off the sharks
Find me still loving you the best that I can
Find me in the wrong, find me in the right
Find me in the calm in the middle of the night
Find me still loving you the best that I can
– “Weeds,” Handsome Ghost

Founded by Tim Noyes, a former English teacher, back in the early 2010s, Handsome Ghost debuted with the song “Blood Stutter” in 2014, followed shortly by the breathtaking Steps EP. “In less than nine months, Noyes’ Handsome Ghost project went from a whisper to a shout, and the musicality is all there: Noyes’ voice singing is honest, heartfelt and mind-blowing, and his songs are deep and evocative,” Atwood observed five long years ago in early 2015. “Handsome Ghost’s songs are ethereal acoustic roller coaster rides full of emotion and reverb, and the live performance is a deep, dark spectacle.”

The outfit grew tremendously on 2016’s The Brilliant Glow EP and again with 2018’s debut album Welcome Back, which found Noyes and multi-instrumentalist Eddie Byun joined by a full band for the first time. “Handsome Ghost’s debut album Welcome Back is a raw, intimate exploration of vulnerability and space – the culmination of a therapeutic, emotionally-indulgent artistry founded on lyrical depth and musical honesty,” Atwood wrote in a profile published at the time.

Now a formal equal partnership between Noyes and Byon, Handsome Ghost soars with serene self-confidence and humility as a duo.

Handsome Ghost © 2020

Handsome Ghost’s Tim Noyes (left) and Eddie Byun (right) © 2020

One can easily trace throughlines from Steps to Some Still Morning, but there’s no denying the growth Handsome Ghost have undergone, both as individual and as a unit over the past five-plus years. “It’s a blend of an electronic and acoustic, but I think the approach is very different now. And I think the sound in general has shifted significantly from the start of the project,” Eddie Byun observes. “I feel like, once we did ‘Welcome Back,‘ it was time for a fresh start and it was time to kind of let that part of Handsome Ghost live in its own world and start new, different storylines and some different themes, and so there has been a big shift in the sound.”

Ever-poignant and heavily introspective, Handsome Ghost find self-acceptance on a record that comes to embrace the special moments and appreciate life for the journey it gives one and all.

“I think the big shift for me personally is kind of a general shift in perspective,” Noyes says of Some Still Morning‘s songwriting. I think ‘Welcome Back‘ and really a lot of Handsome Ghost songs are weeding, picking through the past. And I think, reflecting on the previous releases, there’s a lot of regret and just being really hard on myself… For this record, I think there’s a little bit more optimism and a little bit more contentment or acceptance and just recognizing that without trying to be cliche, the journey itself is worth celebrating, and the fact that I’m here and just everything that’s brought me here, good and bad, is something that’s worth writing about, worth singing about. It doesn’t have to be just beating yourself up all the time. That was the spark in writing the songs themselves, but it led to the shift or the change in how we thought…”

Whereas Welcome Back was sonically dark and intensely brooding, its follow-up is full of mellow light. Songs like “Vampires,” “Weeds,” and “Fifteen Countries” exemplify this elevating warmth; that mix of sentiment and sonic ambience that allows each song to flow organically and free. The below “Vampires” live performance, premiering exclusively on Atwood Magazine, does great justice in showcasing who Handsome Ghost “are” today:

You’ve been pacing there for hours
We’ve been wasting everyday
Wearing holes within the floorboards
What else can we say?
Something still to break the silence
There are spirits in this house
Sure the streets are filled with pirates
But honey, let’s go out
I’m tired of living with these heavy eyelids
I’m tired of saying hey do you remember when
Moon is rising, so lets be vampires again


Rather than being in-your-face, Some Still Morning‘s songs are by and large laid back and soothing. The beautiful “Nightmare” is an especially potent emotional seduction that, through its own lush blend of aural and lyrical poetry, whisks listeners onto another plane.

“There’s a lot of acceptance and that feeling of when you first wake up, or maybe you’ve been up all night and the sun is just starting to come up and the light is really delicate over everything and it’s that particular moment, you stop thinking about things or the weight of everything else that’s happened before,” Byun says of the new album, creating a visual space for it we can all see, feel, and even taste. “I feel like that time of day and that sound fit the record.”

By the time Handsome Ghost close Some Still Morning with the ambient and bittersweet “Sunday Best” – a true elegy this time around – their message seems to be one of a wholehearted commitment to living life to its fullest:

Too soon, we’re wakin’ in the dark
We knew, still came as a shock
And we drive back to your hometown
The white roses on the ground
So you speak your mind in your Sunday best
Share some secret code that I don’t know yet
He was good to you, it was sweet and pure
All the nights that you could’ve thanked him for
In this hotel bed when you switch the light
I am gonna try
I am gonna try
I am gonna try
Now I am gonna try

There’s a resolve in this song that seems to capture everything that came before it – a spirituality and calm sense of self-knowing that affirms the struggle of the past, the self-doubt and self-inflicted stress and despair… because without that tension and hardship, Handsome Ghost wouldn’t have been able to make it here. Some Still Morning is the result of inner upheaval: The aftermath of intense introspection, wandering, searching, and finally, discovery.

“There’s no distance between what we’re sharing and who we are, without being too dramatic,” Noyes says of this music. “This record just feels like the closest thing to the core of Handsome Ghost.”

Handsome Ghost © 2020

Handsome Ghost © 2020

That core is lilting, poignant, and subdued; a beautifully haunting reckoning and a moving, long-awaited acceptance all at once. Handsome Ghost have delivered an subtle, warm and wistful wonderland of a record that promises itself as the perfect fall companion: Some Still Morning is ready to soundtrack those long walks spent in silent reverie, as we venture through the world alone with our thoughts.

Listen to Some Still Morning out now, and check in with Handsome Ghost in our interview below as we dive into the intimate depths of the new music, their emotional and sonic journey, personal growth and self-acceptance, and so much more. Handsome Ghost are in it for the long haul, and we cannot wait to join them on the long road of life.

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:: stream/purchase Some Still Morning here ::
Stream: ‘Some Still Morning’ – Handsome Ghost



A CONVERSATION WITH HANDSOME GHOST

Some Still Morning - Handsome Ghost

Atwood Magazine: My dear friends “Handsomest Ghost”, it is really wonderful to have you both on the phone today; thank you for your time. I guess I'll start with the obvious: How have you been handling this unexpected turbulence, this pandemic?

Tim Noyes: Well, it’s definitely nuts, I think perspective has shifted really quickly, at least for me, a couple of weeks ago. I was like, “Oh, I really hope this doesn’t impact our record,” and then now it’s like, “Okay, that doesn’t matter let’s just get through this.” It’s insane. It’s just trying to do your best to stay healthy, and moral support and…

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I feel like it’s gotten to the point where it’s… You kind of have to force yourself to get excited about the record release. There’s just so much going on where it’s hard to keep your mind on that side of your life. It’s really just something that way and it’s also… I feel like it’s really made me think really… It’s made me really have to reflect on a lot of different things. Just kind of like understanding my reactions to stuff, like I think… Sorry, this is becoming really long winded, but I feel like when things like this happen, at least to me, I go through a million reactions at once and then I need to sort through and be like, what’s actually going on there? But I think when things started to get serious, first with the coronavirus, it was first like, well, what’s going to happen to music? But like Tim said, it’s kind of shifted from that to be like, no, there’s just a lot of fear that goes along to it. So I’m worrying about everything and it’s kind of becoming overwhelming, and… So it’s nice to focus on… At points, it’s nice to focus on the music. At points it’s like, I really don’t care.

I understand, yeah. Well, we're gonna talk about the music today. Does that sound good?

Eddie Byun: Yeah, it sounds good. [laughter]

We've known each other for a long time now, so I thought we might start with Handsome Ghost's evolution. Five years ago, you described Handsome Ghost as “a unique blend of acoustic and electronic”. Do these words still hold true today?

Tim Noyes: I think to an extent, yeah. I think… I mean, five years. Holy Moly. I think it’s like anything. You progress and evolve. So it’s definitely changed over time, but I think at its core, yeah, I think there’s still… It’s still kind of true to where it started. I think we’ve shifted a bit, at least for this upcoming release, and we’ve focused a little bit more on the organic and maybe a little less on the electronic, but I think it’s still present. I don’t think it’s shifted to the point where that’s not an apt description.

Is the no electric guitar rule still in place?

Tim Noyes: It is not. We’ve abandoned the no electric guitar, and I can speak to that.

Oh my God. Who even are you?

Tim Noyes: I know. Who are these guys?

Eddie Byun: Yeah, it’s been kind of freeing. It’s been nice. I think as far as the sound goes, and kind of like… It’s funny because the words that you said, Mitch, are pretty true. It’s a blend of an electronic and acoustic, but I think the approach is very different now. And I think the sound in general has shifted significantly from the start of the project, and I think part of that is, we talked during ‘Welcome Back‘ and you know the whole story behind that and Handsome Ghost, up to that point… I feel like, once we did ‘Welcome Back’ it was time for a fresh start and it was time to kind of let that part of Handsome Ghost live in its own world and kind of start new, different storylines and some different themes, and so there has been a big shift in the sound. That said, it is still basically electronic and acoustic and probably leaning more towards the acoustic now than ever before.

That's really interesting. So you just mentioned Welcome Back. It's been two years since you released your debut album. Looking back now, what does that record represent for Handsome Ghost's career and artistry?

Tim Noyes: At least, I think it was a huge step for us. And I think it’s still very special in our hearts, without being too dramatic. I think it was our first record. We did it together, Eddie and I, here at the studio. And I think, yeah, in a lot of ways, it was like, kind of… Both the songs and the record as a whole, the arrangements, production, I think it was the end of a chapter in a nice way. And I think… I’m really happy we were able to share it and I’m happy that we’re moving on now. It was kind of a nice breakthrough in that we’re able to kind of shift in this direction now.

Do you think it was a fitting debut for the Handsome Ghost project?

Tim Noyes: I mean, I do, I think it captured the kind of essence of what the band is, and in a lot of ways, got back to those initial recordings that got us started in the first place. I think we… You know, we’ve been a band for a while now, kind of a surprisingly long time, but I think… We released EPs in between, the very first EP, the ‘Steps’ EP, and then we released music beyond that, but… Yeah, I think it was just true to the soul of the band and for a debut record, I think it was fitting. I think it captured essentially what we were shooting for at the time.

Eddie Byun: I feel like that the term, “debut record” holds a little bit less weight. Like Tim said, because there are EPs and all that stuff that had come before it.

That's true.

Eddie Byun: So, I think, in one sense, it was like wrapping up what had come before it and the themes that Tim started writing about when he was first starting this project. But I think in another sense, with that record, we realized how important the album format is to us. So in that sense, it did feel like an opening debut record and we’ve got Some Still Morning coming, that’s a different world from Welcome Back, and so… Yeah, I think sonically, it was kind of like closing that chapter and ‘Some Still Morning‘ is the beginning of something else, and we have these things connected in a way.

So then what's really changed? Could you put into words what's changed for Handsome Ghost in the time since Welcome Back?

Tim Noyes: You want to take that one, Ed? Or I can.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I think you should take this one. [laughter]

Tim Noyes: Well, I feel like… Quite a bitch. There’s a big gap between ‘Welcome Back‘ and ‘Some Still Morning‘ and it was essentially, I think a year and a half-ish, maybe more, since we released even anything like a song, single, whatever. But I think that was an interesting time. We had been touring like maniacs for years. Basically, if there’s a tour, we’re in. And I think for this record, it was the first opportunity to just be at home and settle in a little bit. I think that definitely brought its challenges at times.

Right.

Tim Noyes: I guess the big change… It’s a two-parter, but I’ll speak to the songwriting quickly. I think the big shift for me personally is kind of a… Just a general shift in perspective. I think ‘Welcome Back‘ and really a lot of Handsome Ghost songs are weeding, picking through the past. And I think, reflecting on the previous releases, there’s a lot of regret and just being really hard on myself. I kind of… Just thinking, “Could have been different. How do you mess up so bad?” It’s very judgmental and I think, a shift. For this record, although I don’t know how apparent it is, hopefully it comes across, but I think there’s a little bit more optimism and a little bit more contentment or acceptance and just recognizing that without trying to be cliche, the journey itself is worth celebrating, and the fact that I’m here and just everything that’s brought me here, good and bad, is something that’s worth writing about, worth singing about. It doesn’t have to be just beating yourself up all the time. I mean, that’s probably the biggest lyrical shift, and I think that was the spark in writing the songs themselves, but it led to the shift or the change in how we thought… Just the way we thought about the record as a whole and how we were gonna release music going forward. I don’t know if you wanna chime in on that, Ed.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I think it’s similar to what you’re saying about the themes in the songs and stuff. I think ‘Welcome Back’ was pretty dark, sonically. It’s kind of just scenes that were in the songs, but… I think what was really important for this record was… Kind of… I think it… I keep on saying I think. [chuckle] We started this record really concerned about continuity, and really concerned about the sound and how we’re gonna push what we had and mold it in a different direction and… In a lot of ways, Tim had moved on and he’s writing from a different perspective, but sonically, we’re trying to continue what had been started. And I think by doing that, it just didn’t feel right. Where the songs are coming from is a different place, so the sound needed to change by necessity. I think along with that, there was a lot of thinking about the business side of it, and how people would receive the record and the songs, and I think that kind of disconnect between where Tim was coming from with a fresh start, thematically, and not doing that with the music was making the beginning part of this new record really, really difficult.

And we tried a bunch of different things at the beginning that were like a development from the Welcome Back sound, and nothing really worked, and I think once we stopped trying so hard and just let the music come naturally was when this record started to come together, so just kinda deciding to stop thinking so hard and deciding to stop trying so hard and yeah, it was just… I’m guessing that makes sense. It was a different mindset sonically as well.

It sounds like you had to stop thinking about, “Oh, this is the next record that we're making after our debut,” in order to make the record.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, exactly. And…

Tim Noyes: I think so, yeah. I think that that was huge for us. I think we’ve been a band for a while, and I think we were thinking about like how do we take this next step? And that was seeping into the creative process to an extent, and I think just, yeah, like re-approaching with a blank slate and being like, “Let’s just make the album that we wanna make, and not worry about how it fits, how it’s gonna be received.” I think there’s… I think Eddie and I both kind of come… Like our favorite music is maybe a little more… I don’t know what the term would be, delicate or something along those lines like we can both appreciate the great singer-songwriters, and just kind of song first, very purposeful production. So I think once we were like, “Let’s just make what we wanna make.” We were actually able to work pretty quickly after months of banging our head against the wall.

Well, on that note, as I understand that your sophomore album is largely about starting over, Can you talk about why this theme speaks to you?

Tim Noyes: I missed that last part. So please say the last part again, I’m sorry.

Just can you talk about why this theme of starting over speaks to you?

Tim Noyes: Sure. I mean I think like…. Essentially just kinda getting older and growing up a little bit, I think you change over time, hopefully for the better, and you take on more responsibilities and your worldview of just kind of just naturally, things that maybe weren’t so important to you become way more important, and I think, at least for this album it’s… I guess yeah, it’s starting over in the sense that just trying to just see the good in everything and appreciate where you’re at, regardless of the kind of winding road that it took to get there. I don’t necessarily think there’s like one instance or one moment where it’s like, “Oh man, everything’s changed, like I’m starting over.” It’s just kind of a natural progression through time and how you’re different… I guess about… When I started playing music as a kid, just you touring around the country, no cares in the world, having a blast. And I think that’s still true to an extent, but it’s just the natural kind of progression of perspective, I think.

So it sounds like there's a lot of acceptance in there as well, kind of baked into that idea of taking a step back and kind of going into the next phase, whatever it is.

Tim Noyes: I think so, and I don’t think it’s particularly unique. I think a lot of people have that realization or whatever, whatever term you wanna use, but I think that’s a good way to describe it. I think it’s just… It’s accepted… It’s not necessarily like, “Oh, I’m accepting this, I’m giving up.” It’s just kind of like being at peace with where you’re at, and just appreciating the little things as opposed to analyzing every little decision you’ve ever made, it’s kind of just accepting that you made them and that’s okay.

Remind me, when did you move back up to the Massachusetts area?

Tim Noyes: It’s been a little while now since we’ve been here, I think I wanna… Has it been like almost three years, Eddie?

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I guess.

Tim Noyes: Something like that?

Eddie Byun: It might be a little bit more than that for you.

Tim Noyes: Really?

Eddie Byun: Yeah. I don’t know.

Tim Noyes: We did… I lived in New York for a while, and then we did the kind of we’re always on tour thing, which I think is just a nice way to say homeless. [chuckle] But then we… Yeah, we settled back here temporarily, but I guess it’s been more than three years so how temporary is that?

Eddie Byun: Yeah. Yeah, and I think I had my home address in ‘Massachusetts’ for a long time, but when we actually settled down, I think the first thing we did was that “Brand New Colony” cover many, many, many years ago. And now, it’s kind of like, “Alright, let’s set up a studio and try it out here.”

I like that, I like that. Okay, cool. Before we talk about the actual songs themselves, I just wanna get a handle, do you two feel like you have a better sense of who and what Handsome Ghost is now than you did in the past?

Tim Noyes: That’s a really good question. I mean I would… Instinctively, I wanna say yes, and I do believe the answer would be yes but it’s a very strange… Like I feel good, I feel really good personally about this record that we’ve made like this is… I feel very happy and proud, but I do feel like the band… We’re changing all the time. I can look back at the very beginning of the band and be like… Man, you had no idea what you were doing. But I can also tell you that at that point, I thought I had everything figured out. I think like I guess the short answer is, yes, but I also recognize that in whatever, three or four years down the road, I’m probably gonna be like, “Oh man, you didn’t have anything figured out.” So I’ll probably look back at this time. [chuckle]

I love that, I definitely...

Tim Noyes: Probably be thinking about that.

I definitely feel that way when I listen to this record, I think about all the EPs that I heard in the past, and I feel like this is like the truest to whatever sound you've always been striving toward, than even the first album then the last EP before that and the first EP, I feel like this is like a very apt summation of what you've been making to date, and I really like hearing that like this album hits home.

Tim Noyes: That means a ton. I’m really happy to hear that. Thanks, Mitch.

Of course.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I think personally, if I were to talk very, very personally, I think I’ve always struggled with understanding what Handsome Ghost did and how I fit into it. And I think that trying to struggle, worked its way into some of the conflict that we were having at the beginning of this second record recording process, and I think if… There were a lot of things that we were both working through, Tim and I in sorting itself out, but I think… Part of what went to that clarity was better understanding my role, and yeah, so I think for me, I just feel a lot better about understanding this project, which is like I just… I guess it took a while to step back and realize like, Oh yeah, I’m just… I’m a fan of Tim’s writing like I love his songs, and I get to work on that with him. And it’s not… I think personally, it took a lot of dropping my ego to be like, yeah, this is just like just appreciate where you’re at with these songs and try to bring out what you can in the moment. Yeah, I think a lot of that conflict with trying to insert myself a lot more than I should have, working on the arrangement set.

Handsome Ghost © 2020

Handsome Ghost © 2020

There's always been this question, is Handsome Ghost the moniker for Tim Noyes? Is it the band project when it was a fuller band? Is it a duo? How do you two see Handsome Ghost today?

Tim Noyes: Well, it’s a duo now. I think Eddie, your point is a good one, but I think we’re like it’s a unique situation where, yes, the project did start as like my thing.

And I think… Eddie got involved in the beginning as a live player, and like it’s just been a very, I guess, a natural progression to move slowly from live player to like contributing to the recordings and now, at this point, like essentially a partnership. I think… I don’t know, I don’t know how common that is. But I think it has… It’s a process that I think we’re at this point. We’ve figured it out, but I think there’s a shift where it’s like, okay, now we’re in this together, and that’s amazing in some respects as you want, like it’s great to have a partner. Bounce ideas, celebrate the good times, get through the tough times together, but there’s also like a kind of trial and error where it’s like, “Alright, now we’re creative partners here. How do we make this work effectively and efficiently?”

To Eddie’s point, part of the struggle around is at the beginning of this album, the kind of like the dark days, if you will was, yeah, finding like finding the roles that we felt comfortable with, where we’re… We both feel like our opinions and our perspective is being recognized ’cause I think ‘Welcome Back’ was really the start of this band as a duo. And it was like, we’ll try this and we’ll see how it goes. And then for album two, it’s like, okay, now this is confirmed… It’s the two of us together, so I feel better about it now than I ever have. But short answer is, yeah, the project has developed from the thing that I started in my bedroom to the two of us together now. It just feels good.

I love that, I love that. So let's dive into the music a little bit. Now, I'm gonna be honest, I focus most of my stuff around the music that's already out rather than talking necessarily about too much of the album as a whole, and I thought if we get a little bit closer to the release date, we could talk more about some of the other songs... Does that sound good to start for today?

Tim Noyes: Absolutely.

Yeah, so I can't have asked for a better return... I don't think you could have asked for a better return track with “Massachusetts”. I mean, it's hauntingly beautiful. Why is this your return?

Tim Noyes: I think if we… Eddie, you can speak to this as well, but I think it felt like the perfect song to release first after such a long hiatus, if you will. I guess, the biggest piece is… It was really the breakthrough song for us in that it was the first song we recorded where we were like, “Okay, I think we’re onto something here.” And at that point, it was… We were in rough shape, we were like, “Do we even wanna play music anymore? Has this band run its course?” And we just gave it a shot and it felt fun and loose, and we were just kinda like… The energy was right and I think it really kinda set the tone for the album as a whole. And yeah, it just felt like… It felt like a good re-entry and it’s about Massachusetts, which is perfect too.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, as the first song that we were able to actually finish. One of the things I love about Tim’s lyrics is that you can really interpret them in a million different ways depending on where you’re at in life. And ‘Massachusetts’ always spoke to me as… For those themes of going back to where you’re coming from, and of leaving something that was your life for a long time and stepping back from that. But the first verse I think really hit when we’re at the point, when we’re working on this actual song where it was… We had discussed just calling it quits, we discussed just quitting music in general or just breaking up the project, and all these types of things. It really was like, “If this is the last thing that we ever do, what do we want it to be?” And so, I don’t know, those first lyrics that Tim wrote really hit home and I think that helped everything to come together. I wanna hear the sounds one last time. It’s very dramatic, in that, if you think about it in the context of the actual record, so I think itself, it’s like, let’s do it, this is our last try, let’s see how it goes.

And it all worked out.

Eddie Byun: Oh yeah.

Tim Noyes: More or less. I think that was the tipping point in a good way, where it’s like, “Okay, we’re on to something here.” And I think we were able to just spring board off that energy that we found in ‘Massachusetts’ and just like, yeah keep plugging. That was… We did that at least the basics, we did over the course of a weekend and it was intense where it was just like all these blocks and all this stress and negativity at times, and we were just kind of hit our stride and, “Okay, this is why we’re doing this.” Yeah, it just felt fitting that that would be the first song, yeah.

That sounds wonderful. “Could you give me just a minute, just a second more, then I will be going if there's nothing to fight for,” you sing in the chorus. What do these words mean to you? Eddie talked about it just now a little bit but I'd love for you to expand on that.

Tim Noyes: Yeah, I mean like short answer without going too deep, the song’s about this relationship that I had in New York a while back. And I’m writing it from the perspective of being here in ‘Massachusetts’ now, which I think gives you just the space and time and distance to reflect with a little more… Just a different perspective or a little more appreciation than you would if you were in the moment with that emotion and raw feeling. But the chorus itself is that kind of… I don’t know if you guys have ever been through a rough break up, but when you’re packing up the apartment and it’s just that intense feeling where the life you had is all just thrown into boxes and you’re moving out, and you just want that last second to just take a look and take stock and appreciate what you’ve been through with this human. I guess you’re trying to capture that feeling of, man, too bad it didn’t work out, but it was a good run. It definitely, it was something special.

I can definitely appreciate that. No, that really means a lot. You sing about forgetting the feeling, and I want to zoom in on this language because it feels important as well. What is it about loss that permeates this song specifically?

Tim Noyes: Yeah I mean… I guess in the context of this song, it’s not too far off from that prior point, but when you’re in the moment and things are rough, you’re on that roller coaster I think. It’s easy to lose that… You lose the… How unique or how important your connection with someone else is. I think in the song, it’s written in the present tense like, “I’m forgetting the feeling,” but it’s really reflecting… This is kind of a matrix tech situation that… Like you’re forgetting the feeling as it happened, but with time and space, you can… You remember… You recognize how special it was, for lack of a better word, so I think the character or the narrator in the chorus is going through it as it happens, but the song is written from the perspective of someone who can appreciate what it was.

Yeah. I definitely appreciate that. No, it's definitely a special return. I think “Massachusetts” is the perfect song to introduce people to Handsome Ghost who are just getting to know the band for the very first time, and it's also this perfect welcome back tune for everyone who has missed the band and wants to hear more of your music. It's a good synthesis of both of those things, which is what you want.

Tim Noyes: Yeah, we hope so. That’s the goal and we feel good, regardless. Hopefully, that really is the case. Honestly, really appreciate your perspective on it at this time. But yeah, hopefully, that’s what we get across.

Can I ask what inspired... I know there's a song called “Some Still Morning.” What inspired this to be the album title?

Tim Noyes: You want to take that one, Ed?

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I feel like a lot of… If you look at the album, lyrically, like Tim was saying, there’s a lot of acceptance and that feeling of when you first wake up, or maybe you’ve been up all night and the sun is just starting to come up and the light is really delicate over everything and it’s that particular moment, you stop thinking about things or the weight of everything else that’s happened before. And I feel like that time of day and that sound fit the record. Where Tim’s coming from, from the lyrical side, what we went through with the music of just like, “Let’s wake up and start fresh and see everything in this new light,” so that lyric is from one of the later tracks called ‘Weeknight Crowd’ and it just felt right. I think “Some Still Morning” sonically feels right. Just the idea of the morning is important, and that track in particular was initially just like a bridge track between ‘Vampires’ and ‘Nightmare’ to hold it together, but had that dream feeling that that song has I think one of the others on the album, I thought was kind of nice… A nice thing to name after the album. So it wasn’t the album was named after that song, it was the track was named after the album. Does that make sense?

Oh yeah, that's interesting. I like that. I almost like that idea a little bit more. Let me go on by asking. I know that this question can feel weird to answer because they're all your babies, but do you two have any specific favorite tracks on this album that you're most excited to see out in the world?

Tim Noyes: You can go first Eddie. I gotta think. [chuckle]

Eddie Byun: There’s a couple. Like I said before, I’m just a huge fan of Tim’s writing and the first song… So Tim writes in batches, so he’ll just disappear for a little bit, and then he’ll text me and be like, “Hey I’m sending you over a couple of tracks.” And he’ll send me like ten. [chuckle] But the first song that really got me was, “Christmas in Jersey.” Just there’s something about the lyrics that made me feel like every moment of my life fit that song. But just again, as a fan of Tim’s, “Fifteen Countries” is a song that’s always been on my mind from Tim. And it’s something that we’ve tried to work on many times for Handsome Ghost and we could just never get it right. It’s been our Bowser song where it’s like the final boss [chuckle] and we definitely [struggled]. So, it’s nice that we finally did it in a way that felt right. So I’m excited for people to hear that one.

That's wonderful. Tim?

Tim Noyes: You’re right, it’s tough to pick ’cause you’re like, “Oh, they’re all so important.” So I think it probably goes in phases. If I had to pick, I’d probably choose either the first track, “Funeral” or the last track, “Sunday Best.” And I think “Funeral,” that one, where Massachusetts set the tone for Eddie and I in our recording process, I feel like “Funeral,” at least for me, set the tone lyrically. I feel like that was, if not the first one, one of the first ones that I shared with Eddie. And even though it has a super dark title, I think it’s semi-optimistic in a weird way. So I think that, at least to me, signaled a shift in perspective that permeates throughout the record as a whole. And then “Sunday Best,” I just love the recording. I feel like we did a good job. I just like listening to it. I like that I feel the tone. And to me, it’s the easiest one to just drift away, which is my bar for a great song or a great album, just put it on and just disappear. I think that one. I don’t listen to the album a ton, just ’cause it’s a lot to… It’s kind of weird to listen to your own music, unless we’re working, then I’m gonna listen to it a ton but if I could only put on one I’d probably put on “Sunday Best.”

I hear you. I understand. I really like that. It's interesting that you ended up making that song the closing track of the album.

Tim Noyes: Yeah, it just felt right. That was one of the last songs we recorded but I think it just fits as a nice bookend, and I think it came out great. We just played it… This is unrelated, but we were up doing some videos, live videos and we played it at my little spot in Maine. I don’t remember what time it was, but some time like, I don’t know 9 or 10 o’clock at night outside, it was just really special. It was just one of those, “Wow, I’m so happy to be playing this song at this moment,” kind of thing.

That's so wonderful. I like the idea that this music still speaks with you. I think that there are so many artists where when we're... By the time we're talking about the music, they already moved on to the next thing. But I feel like the strength of really good record is that it continues to resonate with you long after you're finished.

Tim Noyes: I agree. And I hope… Again, I think we’re… It’s weird ’cause we have this record has been complete now for a little while, but at least for me, it’s still… I’m not over it if you will, and hopefully it resonates with anyone who listens to it. I don’t know how you feel about that, Eddie?

Eddie Byun: Yeah. I feel like it’s fun because we’ve worked on music in a bunch of different ways and different sounds and now that the record’s done we’re starting to think of how we’re gonna play it live and that sort of thing. I know the current situation makes it difficult to even imagine what that would be like but when that time comes, that will be another injection of life into the songs. So we’ll see how close or not close to the record the live sound ends up, but it’s another way to see the songs differently again. I’m excited about that.

I like that.

Tim Noyes: Me too.

Handsome Ghost © 2020

Handsome Ghost © 2020

So coming back out of this, how would you... And if you feel like we've already answered this, feel free to say that, but how would you describe this new era of Handsome Ghost? What words best capture who you are right now?

Tim Noyes: Any thoughts on that off the top of your head, Eddie?

Eddie Byun: A moment to think on that. There’s… A lot of these questions are, as you mentioned, giving us a lot to think about. When we’ve been thinking about other things so much recently, you dive back into the music and that sort of thing, so I appreciate the interview and all that.

Yeah. I think music is an escape.

Tim Noyes: You always have good questions, Mitch. You’re always keep ’em… We’ve done this a few times and I feel like every time I’m like, “I did not see that question coming.” You’re good. [chuckle]

I'd like one day for my reputation to be, you gotta do some mental practicing before you come in and talk to me because if you're not ready...

Tim Noyes: Makes you wanna prepare. [chuckle]

You know what? I appreciate as well that you two speak from the heart. You take your time, and it's okay to have a little bit of silence in a call while you're thinking about how you want to respond, or what your music means to you; it always changes. You can say one thing in one interview and one thing a week later and it says something totally different, but we're just capturing who you are in the moment, and hopefully people who like the music will enjoy learning more about it too, right?

Tim Noyes: Yeah, and I actually do think you nailed that, but to your question it’s tricky because you don’t want… To me, right now in this moment, this is the most honest version of Handsome Ghost to this point. This record and where Eddie and I are at, I feel like it’s very true to who we are. We’re just not… We’re not hiding anything. And the reason why there’s a little bit of a… I’m hesitant to say that is ’cause I don’t think that anything we’ve released in the past has been necessarily dishonest. I think everything we’ve put out, for the most part, has been this is the version of us as we are right now. But if I had to compare everything we’ve released, this just feels like there’s no filter. There’s no distance between what we’re sharing and who we are without being too dramatic, but I just… This record just feels like the closest thing to the core of Handsome Ghost, if that makes sense.

I love that. So I'll move on to my last question: What other artists are you listening to right now, that you would recommend to our readers?

Tim Noyes: Are podcasts included? Just kidding. [chuckle] I think… Eddie, chime in by all means, as you wrack your brains. I have to admit that I have not progressed from my college-age self, if you will, those are still my favorite artists… Just the bands that I was listening to as I was beginning to become a real musician myself, they’re still… They’re the heaviest in my rotation. But in terms of new, new acts, I found this band recently that I’ve been listening to everyday, Planet 1999. Have you heard of them?

No.

Tim Noyes: Okay. It’s very different from our records, but I just cannot stop listening. It’s just cool, in my opinion. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s not… It feels like pop music, but it’s not, the melodies are not what you’d expect from pop.

Cool!

Tim Noyes: It’s cool. I would recommend the band just… I just find myself being like, “I’ll just put that song on again.” I could listen to this one song again and again, so for what it’s worth, that’s my recommendation.

That's awesome.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, I feel like part of this shit that happened with working on this latest record was stopping. But I think to that point, as soon as I got working on Handsome Ghost and quit my job for Handsome Ghost, music became something that I wanted to analyze. How did they make me feel so sad? But I think it takes some of the sadness out of it or whatever emotion that you’re feeling and part of the shit that we did with Handsome Ghost through this record was also kind of falling back in love with music. And I think in order to do that, I needed to go back, like Tim said, to the stuff that was really hitting me hard when I was at the peak of my music stand in as opposed to in an analytical mind. But recently, I’ve been getting back into discovering music and stuff, and there’s a lot of stuff that has been around for a while that I’m seeing differently now that I’m thinking less hard about the technical side of stuff.

Oh, yeah?

Eddie Byun: Yeah. I really like Soccer Mommy and that newer record and all back it’s really… We listen to a lot of Stevie B records. I like that fancy contract eight song like they did last year… It’s been like discovering music all over again. But part of that is also seeing stuff that’s been out for a while again with a fresh mindset. Not too much discovery, I guess, just more appreciation in a different way and stuff.

I get that, I like that a lot, actually. It's so tough, there's this kind of constant barrage of new music every day that comes out, and at the same time, I'm trying to remember to listen to the artists I was brought up on: Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and The Beatles and stuff...

Tim Noyes: Yeah. Sure.

It can be tough to balance those two things together, but... that's... forever, the challenge.

Eddie Byun: That’s beautiful too. There’s an endless amount of music to go through.

It's beautiful. It's also daunting.

Tim Noyes: I think that’s gotta be tough from your perspective, Mitch, I’d imagine… I don’t know, I just don’t know how you can digest the amount of music that you do. And, I don’t know, just treat every song or every album with… I don’t know, ideally, fresh ears. I’m gonna give this a real shot. It’s tough. There’s just so much music.

It really is, I don't know; somehow we manage. It's difficult, you have to take off the analytical lenses for a time, and just enjoy music for what it is.

Tim Noyes: I would say not to get into a super deep music conversation, but even now, even with the… How things have changed so much obviously with the years, but if there’s a true masterpiece… My analytical mind will shut off, and [think], “Honestly, this is phenomenal.”

That is still like, the cream rises to the top kind of thing. Just because there is… It is so easy just to be like, “Alright. Let me focus on how he or she wrote the song or all the production.” But if it’s really great, it still resonates, which is good, because otherwise why would you even listen? [chuckle]

It's interesting that you mentioned that. Sometimes, my favorite songs have been the ones that I find the hardest to write about and the ones that I procrastinate the most on actually reviewing, specifically for that reason that you've mentioned.

Tim Noyes: Interesting. Food for thought!

Food for thought.

Tim Noyes: I kind of expect that if it’s like a magical song, I’m gonna use the word “magical”, I imagine that’s probably more difficult to articulate. It’s amazing, what can I tell you?

Eddie Byun: That would probably get me to listen to a song really… Especially from someone like Mitch who is usually, so incredibly thoughtful, if it was that simple, I’d be like, “Alright, I guess this is gonna be my new favorite song.”

I have had the urge to do that lately, especially with certain bands who I just listen to and I'm like, “I want to spearhead this, I want to shepherd you into...” These groups that have 200 followers, I'm just thinking, “Let's change that in whatever way I can.” Just listen! And that's the thought on my end.

Eddie Byun: Anything in particular that hit you recently of newer bands?

I have a favorite band right now called Nicotine Dolls. They are sort of an indie-rock band from New York City who, I think their lead singer, he's just absolutely fantastic. I grabbed a coffee with him just so I could learn more about him and learn more about his goals with the band. They only formed last year, and they have four songs out. We actually premiered one of their songs recently, so if you want to check it out, it's called “Should Have Danced.”

Tim Noyes: Nicotine Dolls?

I swear by the music. I think it's just so good.

Eddie Byun: I’m kind of excited to listen to them.

Yeah. I would love to hear your thoughts actually. But listen, back to you two, I want to thank you both so much for your time today. This has been absolutely wonderful. I'm really, really excited to have this album out in the world, and I wish you and your families the most health and happiness during this really difficult period.

Tim Noyes: Likewise, Mitch. Really appreciate the time. Stay safe, stay healthy.

Thank you guys.

Eddie Byun: Yeah, thanks for taking our mind off of the world for a little bit.

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com