Any way you haunt it
The three members of Cathedral Ghost have collectively been in a dozen different bands in almost as many genres over the years, dating back to the mid ’90s. A little over a year ago, vocalist and guitarist John Ludwick noticed something odd about the Reno music scene. For such a small music community, Reno had many genres and subgenres of music covered.
“There’s bands that set out to do a post-punk thing, there are pop-punk bands, there are hardcore bands, all this stuff … but there wasn’t really any rock and roll bands left, I felt, so I thought the city needed someone to do it,” Ludwick deadpans. “It’s a fucking dirty job, man, but …”
“Yeah, it’s a dirty job to write fun songs and play fun shows,” bassist Megan Kay chimes in sarcastically.
The dirty work began when drummer Spencer Benavides hit a wall of his own.
“I had a meltdown with this band I was in, and I’d been wanting to play drums in a rock and roll band,” recalls Benavides. “I wanted to play something simple that everybody could dance to, and just have really fun shows.”
He called up his old friend Ludwick, and the two started jamming as a two-piece without any loftier goals than a good time. Ludwick, a prolific songwriter, started pounding out material immediately. After seeing just their second public performance, Kay, who had never considered herself a bassist, approached them and announced that she should play bass in their band. The growing pains were minor. Ludwick teases Kay about how clueless her tuning was at first, but it wasn’t long before Kay’s backup vocals and artistic energy rounded out the sound that Ludwick had been aiming for.
To a non-musician, the easiest thing to pick out when hearing Cathedral Ghost for the first time is a surfy guitar sound and garage-y riffs soaked in reverb. As influences go, they’re not shy about carrying a torch for the past. They get their swagger from rock and roll, and their raw, defiant energy from more than a dash of punk pedigree.
“I’m not trying to do something that’s a total throwback,” Ludwick says. “Garage rock revival … that’s cool, but it’s not what I want to do. I want to take that sound and see what comes out when we apply it in our own way.”
As it turns out, what comes out is hooky, infectious, ass-shaking fun. Ludwick perceives a lot of musicians looking down on rock and roll because it is technically simpler than some other music. But when virtuoso musicians strive to be technically impressive or challenging, Ludwick says the product can suffer. “Sometimes songwriting is about doing what serves the song and not just what your fingers can do.”
Cathedral Ghost’s tunes are so catchy that if you’re only listening casually—or even better, hopping around in a crowded bar—you might not notice that the songs have some dark subject matter. The good-time sound is somewhat belied by song titles like “Graveyard Hex,” “Creature of the Night,” and “Hey Hades.” While obviously playful, the themes serve as a serious approach to music for primary songwriter Ludwick. He’s a happy person, but a good outlook isn’t always fodder for good music, so Ludwick takes his lifelong love of dark imagery and creates something with an edge. The result, when combined with the broad influences and experiences of the band members, feels familiar but strangely fresh. Most importantly from the band’s perspective, though, is that it feels like a damn good time.