The three members of Switch Ghost tried to practice at drummer Brandt Garrison’s Nederland condo a few weeks back. That’s always a risky move at an apartment or condo, especially with something as loud as amplified guitars and a drum set.
But they seemed to be a hit.
“The neighbors were loving it,” guitarist, bassist and vocalist Jasper Niemeyer says. “We were playing pretty quiet, too. But all the neighbors like coming out and setting up on their porches to listen.”
People are starving for live music and likely anything to break the tedious nature of 2020.
But all good things must come to an end. And sometimes too soon.
“We got shut down in like two songs for exceeding whatever the 72-decibel limit is in Nederland during the day,” Niemeyer says. “I think that’s quieter than a lawnmower, but whatever. It’s not the Nederland I moved into twenty years ago.”
Switch Ghost, which comprises Niemeyer, Garrison and Michael Wright, is rooted in the jam-band world, so members enjoy flying by the seat of their pants in a live setting, extending portions of songs into improvised madness. Some of their recordings are done in a single take to keep with that make-it-up-as-you-go-along spirit. Every song is played differently each time it's performed.
That's not to say the band's sloppy, however.
“We try to base things off of solid songwriting,” Niemeyer says. “With three of us writing, that helps."
Niemeyer doesn’t think the group exactly sounds like a traditional jam band...well, maybe an old school outfit like the Allman Brothers. On the act's Bandcamp page, somewhat facetiously, they categorize Switch Ghost as being “post-genre” in addition to other styles. (For the record, they have on occasion billed themselves as a punk-rock, bluegrass Dad band. It seemed to scare some people off.)
“Genres are weird, right?” he ponders. “I don’t think any of us really like to set limits on where inspiration can take us. We don’t want to get typecast into one sound. I don’t want to have to start a new band just to scratch a one-time itch to write a punk song or a metal song.”
The band’s latest release, Staged Cage of Animals, is self-produced and recorded at Eldorado Springs’s Crucible Recording Studio. At the time, the three members of Switch Ghost were actually in a different band that was beginning to fizzle out. Drummer Garrison is an electrician who did some work at the studio and was paid in recording time instead of money. The three found a bass player and recorded as a quartet. After that bass player quit and a second bass player dropped out, they decided to proceed as a trio with Wright and Niemeyer swapping bass and guitar duties. They knew all the songs and are the primary composers anyway, so it made sense.
“I think every band probably struggles with this whole momentum thing, like you get some stuff going and then something happens,” Niemeyer says. “Life happens, a bandmember quits or moves away, or someone gets in trouble or whatever.”
He says that the band has an entire album's worth of extra songs they recorded when they were making Staged Cage of Animals. So another album is definitely in store later this year. They also plan to record live sets in front of no audience, a new standard for gigging bands in 2020. (Niemeyer hopes that next year will see the world return to some sort of normalcy, and the band can get on the bill at some live-music festivals.)
“We just haven’t finished post-production on it,” he says of the next album. “There’s maybe one more song to squeeze in there, and we are hoping to release some videos between here and there. … I say maybe we will film ourselves playing live, but to no one, in a beautiful setting here in Colorado.”