Ghost Town Orchestra have been making a name for themselves within the Canadian rock scene with a sound that incorporates elements of groups like The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kings of Leon, and The Darkness. These guys are one of the most vibrant and electrifying funk/rock bands to emerge in quite some time and they’re ready to take things to the next level, as they they hit the stage as a part of the WTFest Music Festival in Brantford, Ontario on June 14th alongside Hedley, Lights, and USS at Lions Park. We caught up with frontman Victor Martisius to discuss their new album and upcoming slot at WTFest.
Talk a bit about how the band came together and how it’s evolved since your inception.
Martisius: I joined the band as the lead guitarist in the summer of 2012 in a basement out in Mount Pleasant, at that point Ghost Town was a folk rock project still in its first month of conception. Immediately I started writing new tunes as we were just porting old singer/songwriter songs into a full band outfit. We started branching out from the folk genre parameter and explored all different genres of music. As the band evolved and started gaining traction we saw a few different line-up changes. Each change was a learning experience and influenced us differently. The line-up we have now is far removed from the folk roots the band grew from, we’re now a little more intense and musically-driven as opposed to intimate stories told over strummed chords. It’s really exciting.
Talk a bit about your sound and influences, because you have a classic rock feel to the sound, but it’s still contemporary and organic.
Martisius: My first musical influence is from my Dad. His favourite band is “The Band” who have a very classic organic rock feel. They had it all! The stories and the music which is why they have such notoriety. My first 100% personal opinion on music didn’t come until I heard a Millencolin song called “No Cigar” on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 soundtrack. It was that song that made me want to follow the fool’s dream called music. As I was in my early teens the punk rock genre gave me the intensity that I needed as I slowly figured out who I was.
I love playing music with people so I found a way to adapt to the players I was playing with. If I needed to be rock, i could play rock. If i needed to be metal, I could be metal. If I needed to be reggae you know I would hit up that island feel! A lot of those feelings you get from the music are not my inspiration alone. It comes from, what I tried to understand from the people around me, what was wanted and needed. Music is all about the community! Be it your country, your city or right from the source: your band! My inspiration and influences are heavily routed in the people standing beside me.
How do you describe the sound to someone that hasn’t heard the band before?
Martisius: That’s always been a hard one for anyone involved in this band to pin. We like to keep upbeat but not too intense that it would alienate someone from the sound. Most of our songs are a fusion of a few different genres in one. Take “These Old Fangs” for instance. It opens with a very aggressive metal intro which comes back as the bridge, but without even skipping a beat it changes to the verse progression which is very ska, almost Police-like feel, then runs right into a very Beach Boys chorus. How we made it work is beyond us, but it’s encouraging and allows us to constantly search out different ways to present our art.
Tell us a bit about your new album and what fans can expect if they pick it up?
Martisius: Vocally we have a new approach. Lots of harmony, low octave unisons and swell vocals to fill up the air in between the music. I’m personally striving to up my guitar game and toss in my idea of a well thought out solo. As well as the arrangements of the songs, I’m looking at different song structures and genres to keep our sound fresh. The rhythm section will remain our anchor with tight, driving drums and smooth, walking bass lines, which is something a lot of people continually compliment us on. We’re not trying to create another Dead Wait. We want to create something even better.
Tell us a bit about winning the Aboriginal Music Award and what that experience and what it was like.
Martisius: You got a couple hours? Where to start…. Well I guess being from Brantford and growing up with a pretty regular life I never thought something I’ve done would amount to something so special. All I remember during the awards, and I’m speaking on a completely personal level, is this feeling of complete doubt…. Like it couldn’t happen to me, I’m just a boy from Brantford… and then BAM. We get called up. All of the sudden I’m walking down an aisle, I totally did the Bill and Ted air guitar in front of the camera. I walked on stage, told the pretty gal who was on side stage that she was beautiful. Said a few words into a mic and then all of the sudden we were on-stage with a packed crowed in front of us and we were about to play. I totally blacked out, if I didn’t have my best friends, family, and loved ones watching and messaging me “DUDE YOU’RE ON MY TV,” I would tell you it was just a dream.
Check out the song “Lies Will Bury Us” here.
Any cool stories from the road that you can share?
Martisius: One time in Winnipeg I was at a urinal talking about getting up to some nonsense with Choclair. One time in France I told a movie star from Barbados I would write her a love song with the title “Coffee” because that’s the common ground the sparked our conversation…. I don’t know her name, but I have a picture of us. I also got to meet Big Wreck’s frontman, and one of my guitar heroes, Ian Thornley at the Gibson Juno’s afterparty where The Ascot Royals played. I’ve never “fan girled” before in my life, but the verbal diarrhea that I said when I was meeting Ian met legendary status. I also photobombed way too many pictures at that party. In fact, someone stopped me in Toronto to tell me and exclaim to her friends that I was, “That guy who made all their photos way badass.”
You got confirmed for an opening slot on WTFest in Brantford on June 13th with Hedley, Lights and USS. What is it like to have such a big show in your hometown?
Martisius: It’s an honor. I owe Brantford a lot and we’re hoping to set the bar for the rest of the event.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at WTFest this year?
Martisius: Straight up everyone. But I will say I hope my guitar work is on point because it would be really cool if Ian from Big Wreck was like “That’s that dude? I would have never expected that.” It’s not everyday someone gets to share the same stage as one of their heroes!