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Are Austin electro rockers Ghostland Observatory the future of Texas music? [INTERVIEW]

2010 October 29

This week, Austin’s beloved Electro-rock band Ghostland Observatory release a Codename: Rondo, the duo’s newest album in two years. Last night, they celebrated the release with a party up at the Cedar Park center. If it was anything half as good as their normal stage show, it was probably amazing.

Ghostland Observatory, ACL 2009 - Photo by Steve Hopson

Ghostland Observatory, ACL 2009 - Photo by Steve Hopson

My first experience with Ghostland Observatory was at ACL Fest 2009. At the time, I’d heard a few of their tracks, but hadn’t seen their live show. Waiting for their set to begin, I was smashed in with a big group of teens. Covered in black light sensitive body paint, they tossed handfulls of glow sticks into the crowd. A set of twins professed their undying love. This would be their fourth Ghostland show. Others had only seen YouTube videos of the lazer-infused concerts, and were super hyped to finally be seeing the band live.

By the end of the show, I was covered in glow paint. Many of the kids around me had cried a few times. In fact, I still get chills watching the grand finale of their set that night:

Ghostland Observatory “The Band Marches On” Featuring the UT Longhorn Marching Band at ACL Fest 2009

It still blows my mind that Ghostland went from playing the roller derby to playing stadium shows. They’ve challenged the stereotype that Austin was a rock-only city, and helped pave the way for many of my favorite Austin-area electronic artists.

Before their show this week, we chatted with Thomas Ross Turner, keyboardist for Ghostland Observatory

  • INTERVIEW:  Thomas Ross Turner from Ghostland Observatory

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In response to going from small shows to big stadiums:

We did so many shows where there was like 5 or 10 people or no people or just the bartenders or an angry club owner. It’s nice to be able to bring out all the lights and lasers and do a big production. It makes it a lot of fun.

How they got through the tough times:

In the beginnings we were just having fun with it just like now. You know it’s fun for us. You’re not even thinking of it in terms of success in the beginning. You’re just like happy you got a gig and a stage to play on. We did so many of those where we were just excited to be there. Even if it was just one or two new people that had never heard of us.

In response to growing number of Texan electronic acts:

When we first started out, we were kinda the odd ducks. We probably still are. You’re playing electronic music. Aaron is wearing hot pink tight pants and dancing around. And you think of Austin music and it’s either rock, or blues or garage or some kind of rock-based or blues-based thing, and we’re doing this off the wall deal.

What happens on an off night:

Normally we feel very comfortable when we take the stage. If the crowd is feeding us good energy and everyone is having a good time, that makes the set even better. If that’s not happening out in the crowd, we just look at each other and go back into our zone and maybe make believe we are just in our rehearsal space and we can take it where ever we want to go.

In response to the changing sound of Austin music:

It’s so cool that people are melding electronics into all kinds of forms of music. It’s not like back in the day when people were like “Naw, I don’t listen to techno or electronic music or whatever. I only listen to rock.” Now people are just shutting down those barriers and accepting it. It’s so cool, because really the possibilities are endless when you start including electronics into your sound because it doesn’t just have to be guitar, bass drums and vocals, it can be guitar, bass, drums, vocals and whatever sound you have in your head.


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