Holy Ghost

Following the somewhat surprising success of their debut album and extended tour, Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost! returned home and found themselves in an unfamiliar situation.

“I think Keith Richards called it post-tour depression – I read it in his book,” said Alex Frankel, half of the synthpop duo. “You come home from tour, and a lot of your friends…don’t text you anymore because you always texted back, ‘I’m away. Sorry I can’t come to the birthday party. I can’t come to the wedding.’ You missed your best friend’s wedding. You missed your parents’ birthday. You missed Thanksgiving.

“And then you come home, and there’s not the excitement of the shows. There’s no more press to do. There’s no more fun times to be had and early morning flights. There’s no drama. There’s just you and your house.”

Frankel and partner Nick Millhiser, now both in their 30s, found that their old lives didn’t exist anymore. That spurred the duo, who perform at the Treasure Island Music Festival next weekend, to get back to work and write a follow-up (Dynamics was released last month). Some of the themes and “darker sound” on the album stem from the restless energy the two felt about moving on.

“I remember feeling kind of lost, like, ‘what do I do now?’” Frankel said. “I was looking for the album to be some way to get some stuff out.”

Friends since elementary school, Frankel and Millhiser initially had a hip hop act with live instrumentation and were signed to Capital Records while still in high school. After Capital didn’t know how to market them, they were introduced to James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, who were at the time starting an indie label called DFA. A 2004 album was largely ignored, and the band dissolved.

The two friends, however, continued to work with DFA as studio musicians, and Millhiser toured with the Juan MacLean. In 2007, the two released single “Hold On” – their first as Holy Ghost! That led to demands for remixes from artists such as Phoenix, MGMT, and, Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem. An EP and a DJ tour followed.

Holy Ghost!’s self-titled debut wasn’t released until 2011, which makes the two year break between the debut and Dynamics short in comparison.

“It’s more direct, and by direct, I mean lyrically and sonically something that is more minimal and widescreen,” Frankel said.

“We wanted to make an album that was contained within itself, that didn’t feel as much of a collection of singles as maybe the first one did,” Frankel said. “I hope we…created a real mood with this album and established an arc for the record that has a movement when you listen to the entire thing front to back.”

The songs range from the introspective, such as “Must Be The Weather” and “Changing of the Guard,” about growing older, to the fun and slightly creepy, such as “I Wanna Be Your Hand.”

The latter started off as a demo of “Midnight Man,” by ‘80’s Australian new wave band Flash and the Pan (member George Young is the brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young).

“In the video (for ‘Midnight Man’), there’s a gigantic hand poking this girl and chasing her out of her bedroom and stuff,” Frankel said. “I recorded a demo of (‘I Wanna Be Your Hand’), and the original chorus was ‘Midnight Man.’ Then it popped up into my head that what was even creepier was, ‘I wanna be your hand.’”

As the duo continued to experiment, the song took on a ‘70s AM radio vibe.

Frankel and Millhiser have never turned away from hip hop, but DFA’s Murphy and Goldsworthy made them feel more comfortable with making dance and disco music, which was not a very popular mindset to have in New York in 2001. Frankel credits the two with giving the duo the impetus to make big decisions and shaping the band as it is today.

“Traditionally, you either make it or you don’t as a musician, and they showed us that there was a middle ground,” he said. “At the very least, you can make stuff for your friends, and hopefully it catches a larger audience. You can make a thousand copies. You can make a 12-inch and see what happens.”

Follow writer Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter and RomiTheWriter.Tumblr.com.