WE CAN'T SEE CLEARLY NOW: The Holy Ghost Circuit is in uncharted musical territory.
The Spirit Moves
The Holy Ghost Circuit embraces musical evolution 1
By Claire Young
MEMBERS of the San Jose sextet the Holy Ghost Circuit originally believed solely in creationism, but have since embraced evolution—in their music, that is.
Andy Tran (programming) and Alex Tran (drums) met at Liberty Baptist High School in San Jose. Alex Tran found bassist Kevin Danh at a Starbucks where Danh was casually performing, and was introduced to backing guitarist Ricky Marinez at a youth group. Lead guitarist Kenny Kempis rounded out the lineup.
"God brought us together," says Alex Tran.
Though Christianity may have played a role in how the band originated, the Holy Ghost Circuit's music is no longer solely focused around religion. The music itself has taken full priority for the group, which is currently in the transitional mode of breaking in new vocalist Elohim (Eli) Pichado (formerly of Efata) while actively working on new material, building a cohesive setlist with the hope of recording an album early next year. Through writing together in an open and flexible fashion, the musicians hope to evolve, not only in their sound but also as individuals.
"We're trying to figure out ourselves and work things out," says Andy Tran. "New music comes out of it. Our egos clash, but if we survive, great music comes out of it and we grow as people."
To aid in this creation process, the Holy Ghost Circuit created the Doom Collective, a song project with the theme of a collection of stories, similar to a movie with different parts. "We want the song to tell a story, where they don't just listen to the music but they actually feel it, visualize something," says Andy Tran, who composes backbeats and orchestral flourishes supporting the sum of the parts of the other band members.
"I always write my songs to movies," he says. "The intro to one of our songs ... I got after finishing The Kite Runner. I was like, 'Wow, I just need to write something before I forget that feeling.'"
The other members elaborated on the concept of the relationship between movies and their music. "We're kind of like the set of the movie, all the background and stuff, and [Eli's] the actual plotline," says Alex Tran. "He's the actor," Marinez adds. "Yeah, he's Denzel," says Danh.
Kempis, as lead guitarist, and Pichardo, as lead vocalist, also do their part to create dominant themes and messages through their writing and interpretations of what each member brings to the table. "Mainly what I go by is the mood of the music they create, and try to centralize on one common theme or mood," says Pichardo.
Those moods are expressed through an amalgam of orchestrated ambience and a pulsing back beat, created by Andy Tran, with live drums, bass and guitars layered over it. The Holy Ghost Circuit's songs take on a rich, vibrant, dancey sound akin to a blend of Maroon 5 and the Killers' earlier works, but with a slightly harder edge and an electronic vibe, accented by Pichardo's tender vocals. With six members, it's a lot of work to perfect every facet of a song, but that's exactly what the Holy Ghost Circuit aims to do. With the ability to program extra instruments, Andy fills the role of violinist, keyboardist, choir and whatever else he chooses to engineer for any given song.
"It's like creating a new flavor," says Alex Tran. "You put all these different types of drinks mixed together and you come out with either something gross or something good."
"And we've mixed a lot of bad drinks," adds Andy Tran.
When the band mates initially started the Holy Ghost Circuit, they knew little about the instruments they were attempting to play, and thus worked to emulate bands they admired as part of their learning process. "Now we're more put together and try to write our own music, try to write a story to each song," says Andy Tran. "It takes a lot more work, but all those times before that we couldn't really write music as well, now we have the tools to write it."
As a unit, the Holy Ghost Circuit seeks to draw attention to sociopolitical and economic issues through some of its songs, such as "Daughters of DaNang," which touches on the history of the first city in South Vietnam to fall to the communists toward the end of the Vietnam War. In writing about these events, along with their own experiences, and promoting personal ideals on their MySpace page, the band mates hope to shed light on topics many young listeners may not have been exposed to. "You have a large resource [in your audience]," says Andy Tran. "So we try to incorporate and try to sneak messages in."
THE HOLY GHOST CIRCUIT performs with THE ATARIS Saturday (Oct. 11) at 6pm at San Jose Skate, 397 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose. (408.226.1155)
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