“The easiest way to understand Ghost Friends is that me and Maisie [Allen] are best friends and we hang out,” said Chris Monzon
For anyone who has spent time with the two, nothing could be more clear. The dynamic between the two friends and bandmates is based on a deep bond, and they’re unafraid to be the weirdest version of themselves around each other. There’s an authenticity to the band’s style that speaks to friendships we all have—with a sister or a best friend from high school, or with ourselves in the mirror alone.
Though they now play a full electric set, the earliest stage of the band was an acoustic arrangement they practiced in Monzon’s apartment. With neighbors nearby, noise had to be reigned in, so they practiced on an acoustic guitar, a snare drum and a cymbal. It was here that Allen learned her way around drums—and where the two decided to form a band.
“We were like, ’We’ll just be, like, indie, because that’s easy, right?’” said Allen. “It wasn’t easy, and we weren’t happy.”
After the acoustic demos were uploaded to Bandcamp, the duo sought a louder, more abrasive sound. Monzon picked up an electric guitar, and Allen started to practice on drums. Ghost Friends set about recording their first EP.
“We started recording for real, our actual band, and then we stopped being friends for three months,” said Allen. “We called ourselves ex-friends.”
The fallout occurred in the middle of the recording process, leaving many of the EP’s tracks without vocals, and Ghost Friends effectively disintegrated.
“Then we started dating,” said Allen. “We didn’t become friends first. We just said ’We hate each other. Let’s date!’”
The name Ghost Friends became a metaphor for Monzon and Allen’s deceased and reanimated friendship. Many of the songs on their EP share that sensibility, too. “X Friends” touches on the concept of band members as former friends, lovers and collaborators.
Three of the tracks from the EP are inspired by dead writers, who become sort of “ghost friends” to the band members. “Hesse” for the Swiss author Herman Hesse, “Skinsberg,” a combination of the names Sonic Youth and Allen Ginsberg, and “Elise,” which draws inspiration from Beat Generation poet Elise Cowen.
“There’s this book I got at a used bookstore in Chico called Women of the Beat Generation, and it’s my favorite book,” said Allen. “Elise Cowen is one of the authors they touch on. She killed herself in 1962 and never published anything. She was in love with Ginsberg, followed him around everywhere, and they were best friends, but he was always dating these Italian boys, and not her. And there were only three poems from her in that book, but I resonated most with her story.”
The subject of death is approached in the song “Bummer” with the refrain: “Death is a bummer/ So am I/You’ll forget me when I die.”
The lyrics come from Allen’s fear that her death would be met with utter indifference. Her intent in writing the song, however, was not to wallow but to break through to catharsis.
“’Bummer’ was written shortly before bad times,” Allen said. “It comes around to that catharsis that we feel a lot in our music. It feels good to play it, rather than just be sad.”