Ghostbunny are a four-piece blues-rock band from Austin, Texas with a tendency to crank the amps up to 11 and get the party started.
We caught up with bassist Morgan Johnson to talk about recording and releasing their debut EP, South By South West and umm… killing Justin Bieber with a panther!
So firstly then, why don’t you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m Morgan Johnson, you can call me ‘Mojo’ if you aren’t trying to take me out. I play bass for Ghostbunny, one word. When it’s not Ghostbunny, it’s grad school, bartending and general mischief-making.
How did you and the rest of the Ghostbunny gang meet?
Well I’ve known Marshall (Newman; lead guitar) since the eighth grade and Nick (Hanson; guitar, vocals) is Marshall’s brother’s best friend. I moved to Austin last May when I graduated & Nick needed a roommate, so we got a place and started writing songs together. The rest is history! Oh, and we found Ray (Holland; drums) on Craig’s List, haha.
And how you did you evolve into the balls out, blues-rock band that now stands before us?
Well the balls-out inklings were kind of always there, but I’d have to say we’re all pretty motivated by the notion that Rock & Roll should be fun! So many bands in Austin are badass, but too cerebral—too much thought and not enough rock. Don’t get me wrong, I love shoegaze as much as the next girl, but I’ve just been to too many shows that feel like coolness contests where everyone seems more dead than alive. We want to make music that facilitates dancing, fucking and running from the cops.
I’ve been listening to your debut EP a lot this week, it’s pretty fucking good, it has to be said. How pleased are you with it?
First, thank you! I myself am just thrilled with the EP—it’s still kind of surreal that it’s finally out there in the world. Kent Chandler (producer) did such an incredible job; we owe a lot to his ears. For our first endeavor together it turned out pretty rockin’ if you ask me, so I can’t wait to get back in the studio with the guys and see what’s next!
Was making the EP hard work?
Work hard, play hard, right? Generally I’d say it was more diligent than ‘hard’ work simply because we’re so compulsive and perfectionistic. We made the EP out in San Marcos, TX at a kickass barn that was converted into a studio. We’d just pack everything up and stay out there for a few days at a time, so in some respects it was pretty exhausting, but we were in the countryside right next to the river with a bunch of instruments and bourbon, so let’s be honest—it was a fucking blast.
What is your favourite track on the EP?
‘Tell Me Your Secret (Girl You Know I’ll Keep It Too)’ I know, longest title ever. The song is emotionally poignant for me but also just easy to groove to, I think. Fun fact: Nick did the vocal track for it on the EP in one take and we kept it because it made me cry; he’s so sincere when he sings. (To clarify, by the way, it was like a sexy, single glistening tear type of situation.)
So you guys come from Austin, then. There is no other city I’ve ever been to that welcomes live music quite as much as Austin. Do you think it’s an advantage for you to have so many great venues to play and a local crowd that are generally up for watching bands play?
Being a band in Austin is kind of a mixed bag as far as it being advantageous; it depends how long you’ve been at it and what your ultimate goals are. One the one hand, we love playing all the killer venues around town and the local crowd is fun as hell. Plus, there’s something seriously awesome and visceral about playing music in ATX; there’s nothing better than rocking a crowd of Austinites who are sweating their balls off and screaming, mad to drink in whatever you’re throwing at them. Play Portland, New York, LA, Nashville, Seattle, wherever—you won’t feel more welcomed as a touring band, or party harder with complete strangers.
At the same time, everyone who lives here sees so much music all the time that it can be tricky getting tons of people to come out as a growing band. Likewise, so many of the best venues just have high house costs, so a lot of times it can be more about a band’s draw than anything, which is admittedly tough for a band just getting off the ground. From what I’ve gleaned working in a few different facets of the music industry here, for a band to really make it, they have to kind of play hard-to-get around town.
Can you tell us about your first ever show?
Our first show as Ghostbunny? It was a Halloween party last fall that this local music collective, The Skanky Possum Collective, put on at this guy’s house. Nick was Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Marshall and I were Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace, respectively. Of course the cops came (Fact: we’ve never played a house party without the police crashing it) but we managed to get in a full set and everyone was going absolutely nuts. We really love playing sweaty dance parties in tight spaces, so it was a perfect way to kick off the band.
Obviously, I can’t interview someone from Austin and not mention SXSW. What do you guys make of that festival? It’s pretty awesome, right?
Yes, and I can’t be interviewed about it and not say a ton—South By is BEYOND awesome. I just don’t think anything like it could happen anywhere else; every bar, venue, pizza place, shoe store, etc. hosts live bands every day the entire time. The Official Showcase bands are invariably amazing, but you also end up following “FREE BEER” signs and stumbling upon tons of bands you might never have heard of that rock. There are also tons of surprise shows that huge bands play in uncharacteristically intimate settings, which is incredible.
You also just can’t say enough for the opportunities it affords so many bands; it’s all a numbers game and timing is everything, so playing 5+ shows in a week (though the number for a lot of bands is in the double digits!) is a priceless experience. I think there are probably some changes coming due to legal issues like zoning and noise issues (because it literally takes over the ENTIRE city for days and days), which is kind of a bummer, but local non-profits like Austin Music People are rallying together to preserve the festival the way it is.
Who is the best band you have seen play SXSW?
Tricky question… Since I’m relatively new to the city I’ve only ever been to one SXSW, but man—I can’t narrow it down! I’ll say from this year: The Dodos (CA), The Frontier Brothers (ATX), Wild Flag (Portland), The Bright Light Social Hour (ATX) and Hank & Cupcakes (NY). These were all killer shows for so many reasons I can’t pick just one…
What other bands would you say are your main influences?
Pavement, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I adore Karen O), Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies… Also lots of blues and classics like Zeppelin, The Zombies (big one for Nick), Rolling Stones and Queen (Marshall is obsessed with Queen).
I know you guys are just getting started, but what are your dreams when it comes to Ghostbunny?
Well I’d honestly be a happy camper if we could always just keep playing shows for our friends, but I’m already getting the itch to get back in the studio and ultimately I want to be on the road with Ghostbunny. We would absolutely love to do a European tour sometime, so I’d say that’s up there if we’re dreaming big here. For now, I think our focus will be adding friends to the Ghostbunny family and aiming to get into SXSW & ACL in the future.
If you could make more money than U2, get more groupies than Mötley Crüe, take more drugs than The Rolling Stones or have better outfits than The Beatles – which would you choose?
Definitely get more groupies than Mötley Crüe, but what kind of drugs are we talking about!
If Ghostbunny are playing a show and across the street, pop superstar and every teenie bopper’s crush Justin Bieber, is also playing a show, how would you convince his army of fans to blow him out and come and watch you guys instead?
Um, maybe let some panthers loose on stage to eat him and chase everyone else out? I don’t really know where we’d acquire the panthers. Anyway, then we’d probably have to offer the tweens cash or iPhones or something to get them to watch us, a) because they’d most likely be moderately traumatized and b) we tend to be a little loud and rowdy for people who dig radio pop.
So what plans have you got for the rest of the year then? Any shows in the pipeline?
First and foremost, recover from the EP Release Party. I think I’m still hungover. But then yes, lots of shows this fall to spread the EP and with any luck some songwriting.
Finally then, this is the part where we let you say whatever the hell you like – knock yourself out!
Whatever the hell I like? I guess mainly, thanks for taking an interest in Ghostbunny! I’ve been so overwhelmed by the positive response to this EP. It’s cheesy, but I just want our records to make people feel good; our lives are too damn short to waste time feeling otherwise. Aside from that, I should probably say the standard business stuff—everyone can stream the tunes for FREE at: www.facebook.com/GhostbunnyBand and the EP is also available on iTunes. We want to come party in the UK!