The Ghost Inside are about to release their fourth full-length, a concept album titled Dear Youth, one co-produced with the help of A Day To Remember's Jeremy McKinnon and Andrew Wade. AP caught up with frontman Jonathan Vigil shortly after a set in Australia, where he spoke candidly about their impending LP, its controversies, their longevity and the state of the scene.
Before you dive into our interview with Vigil, we have the exclusive stream of the band’s new album, ‘Dear Youth,’ here for your listening pleasure! Pre-order it now.
Can you explain the concept of Dear Youth?
JONATHAN VIGIL: Dear Youth is basically just about getting in touch with my younger self, with my youth and remembering that feeling of having this world of opportunity in front of me.
Was Dear Youth something that you wrote while on Warped this summer?
No, actually, I finished the record the day before Warped Tour and then flew to start Warped.
So it's been done for a while.
The idea of the record had been done for a while, but we didn't actually finish recording the record until the start of Warped Tour.
When did the album title hit you?
To be honest, it was just a lyric it was just an idea for a song. It wasn't necessarily going to be the album title. As the album started coming to life—we don't title albums until the album's completely done—we were going through the lyrics and it was actually our guitar player Aaron [Brooks]'s idea because it was a lyric on the song “Dear Youth (Day 52).” The whole letter idea was actually separate from the actual lyrics. The letter I wrote to myself had nothing to do with what the lyrics were about—it's in the same vein—but the lyric “dear youth” just really stood out and was a really cool concept. It's really what this record is about for me and us.
Do you think being in the Ghost Inside helps you hold onto your youth?
Yeah, absolutely. I come home from tour and spend time with my friends and family. Most of my friends are late 20s, early 30s and they have their lives together—not together, but you know—they have their lives furthering themselves in the future. They have girlfriends or wives, careers and houses. All that kind of stuff is something I can see myself in the future having, but going on tour and playing shows and looking out and seeing those kids in the crowd that I used to be when I was younger—that keeps me connected to that youthfulness. When I go home, I don't get to hang out with kids, I don't have any younger friends. They're all my age or older, so it's definitely a way for me to connect with the youth again.
All the trappings of the so-called normal life can start to slow bands down, member by member. Will that apply to you guys?
That's a hard thing for a lot of bands. It takes five members who are on the same page, and that's why we see a lot of member changes in certain bands. They just feel they've got everything they wanted out of the band and want to pursue other stuff. The Ghost Inside have always been a democracy. It's always been something that we've had the same general idea for. We're all in the same boat. Some of us have girlfriends, some of us are single, some of us are a little more serious with their significant other, but I think that it takes a certain kind of person to be able to date someone in a band. I don't mean infidelity-wise, I mean not being able to see them all the time. That's a hard thing for a lot of people to deal with.
For me and my relationships, it's been hard to find someone who truly understands what it's like to be gone all the time. You can never blame someone who is not in a band. They want the normalcy. They want to be able to spend time together and be able to go to family outings and get invited with other couples and this and that. It's a hard thing for someone to have to be alone all the time. The position we're in now, our significant others are very understanding of what we do. They have their own lives. They know that TGI is a big priority for us. We've been working at this for a very long time. We dedicated almost 10 years to this. It's something that we obviously take very seriously, so I think they understand before getting into it.
What keeps you going at this point after almost 10 years in the band, then?
Honestly, what keeps me going is just having more goals to strive for. It's not necessarily about our band getting “bigger” or “huge” or making a million dollars. For us, it's just about seeing more and more of the world—being able to travel, being able to see our friends across the world—that's always been a big thing for us. Right now, we're in Adelaide, Australia. We have some of our really good friends here that we get to see once, maybe twice a year. It's real easy to take for granted, but I think it's a big part of us, having those goals: “Where haven't we played yet? Where can we go? What's left to do for us?”
We want to keep making music. We'll know when there's a time when we've accomplished everything we ever wanted to do, we've said everything we have to say on record and we've gotten everything out musically and creatively that we've ever wanted to get out. This band is going to keep doing this until we reach that point where we have done everything we've wanted to do, but I don't see an end in sight. We're all very goal-driven, and there are still a lot of things we want to do.
How do you think it happened, taking hardcore to this worldwide level?
I think it's just the rising popularity of this kind of music. For a long time hardcore, punk and metalcore—whatever scene you want to call it—was really, really underground. If you knew about it, you were all about it. With a lot of the crossover bands there's a lot more—I don't want to say mass appeal—but just growing in popularity overall across the board. That enables bands like us to be able to go play in South Africa, Japan, Russia and all over Europe.
Even Australia—this is our seventh tour here. Growing up, I never thought I'd have the money to be able to fly to Australia for a vacation. Now, you can drop me off in the middle of Melbourne or Sydney, and I know how to get around. That kind of stuff trips me out. I think it's really awesome in the place where music is right now. I think there's still some stuff that needs to be worked out within our scene, but overall I think it's alive and well. I'm pretty stoked to be a part of it.
What influenced your decision to return to Jeremy McKinnon and Andrew Wade for this album?
Just the general process of how Get What You Give went. It went so smoothly and those two guys are so, so creative and so talented. Literally, if we ever hit a roadblock, they always were able to spark something in us to just get us to keep going and put out the best material possible. Jeremy is obviously in A Day To Remember—one of, if not the biggest band under this umbrella of music right now. They're absolutely killing it. To have him working on records with us is awesome. Andrew Wade is a big guy behind the scenes. He's the reason why the record is even as good as it could be. He does a lot of work and needs to get the appreciation that he deserves. It was just a good group. The whole dynamic of how we wrote songs, how we tracked them and the ideas flowing was just a really good process for Get What You Give. Dear Youth took a little bit more time, because we were touring a lot more. It was hard to lock down time to just do it.
Do you think these will be your hardest songs to perform live? Three choruses per song is sort of a new thing for the Ghost Inside.
Yeah, there are a few songs that are definitely going to be difficult. We've been playing “Avalanche,” the first song we released, on this tour. We've been playing “Out Of Control,” which is not a difficult thing for us, but it's something that we definitely need to take some time work on. For us, we've kind of been riding a line between hardcore and metal for a very long time. Our lyrics make us a hardcore band. The way we are as people and on stage makes us a hardcore band. The sound of our band might not necessarily be straight-up hardcore: It's a little more technical at parts.
I think when people hear the letlive. guest spot, they're going to shit their pants.
It's something that's been talked about for a very long time. I sang on one of letlive.'s old, old records that I'm sure nobody's ever heard before. [Laughs.] It's cool that it's come full circle to have Jason Butler on a track with us on the same label. He’s definitely one of the most talented people I've ever met. He's insane with his vocal range. His singing and how he is live—he's a fucking nutcase, dude. It's so cool to watch him succeed, because he's been at letlive. ever since I've known him.
Do you think you'll return the favor on one of their new songs?
Yeah, maybe! If Jason asks me—I know they write a very different way than we do, so I don't know if it's as much of an option to be on one of their songs.
They did do the “Renditions” thing with Keith Buckley and others.
Yeah, that was really cool the way they did that. Maybe something like that. There's a band that me and Jason grew up with and are friends with called Final Fight. They put out a song called “Day 53.” Jason wrote “Day 54,” which kind of comes after what happens in that song “Day 53.” Jason and I are still really good friends to this day with the singer of Final Fight. So when they wrote “Day 54,” I had an idea to write “Day 52,” I guess the prequel to the actual song where Jason wrote the ending to the trilogy. It's kind of cool that it's come away like that—I don't think many people are going to pick up on it.
I didn't pick up on that, but I did pick up on a Carry On reference to A Life Less Plagued.
Yeah, we have a lot of references in our new song “My Endnote.” It's about the music scene and about how when I was younger it felt so inviting. When you were going to your first hardcore show, you felt like you were a part of something. It felt like everybody there were your brothers and sisters. It felt so welcoming, like, “We want you to be a part of this.” For a long time, I felt the love. Over the past few years, I really lost the feeling of the love for it. To me, it almost felt like a competition of sorts. It almost seemed like it was so judgmental. That was so not what got me into this kind of music. “My Endnote” is basically a homage to the bands and the records that got me into the scene. There's tons of references in there. I don't think anybody's going to be able to pick them out, but there's the Hope Conspiracy, Carry On, Panic, Throwdown—a big Orange County hardcore band for me growing up. There's a Comeback Kid reference, who are obviously a huge, huge influence on us. If you go through it, there are tons of references and that was kind of the point. “This is what got me started on this music. This is what made me feel like I belonged to something.”
For the past few years, I felt like that left the music scene. That's what I was talking about earlier, that I think there are a lot of things that need to be worked out in the scene. The attitude that comes with some hardcore bands and some kids nowadays is really off-putting. You'll go to some shows and see some kids just totally judge other kids and shut other kids out from something that's so beautiful and life changing just because they're wearing a different shirt or because they don't know a certain band or they don't know a certain record. What if someone gave you this kind of shit when you were first getting into it? You didn't know these bands off the bat. You didn't know what it was about. You didn't know what was cool. It's a bummer.
This kind of stuff, you want as many people to be involved as possible, at least I think we should. I understand that people get protective of something they love, and I would never want to take that away from somebody, but I think everybody should be involved with this. It's such a good thing.
There are also people that judge your band in the same way, who might not realize you grew up on the same bands as them.
That's another thing. You wouldn't know from our name and you wouldn't know from our sound. I think what makes a hardcore band a hardcore band is the lyrics. Flat out. That's always been a thing for us. Writing songs that have meanings and songs that people can relate to. Yeah, some of the songs are pretty straightforward and easy to read, but that doesn't mean we're not a hardcore band.
What do you have to say to people who pointed out the cover of Dear Youth resembles the last Dillinger Escape Plan album One Of Us Is The Killer and that the intro of “Avalanche” sounded like Bring Me The Horizon's “Suicide Season”? Have you heard that yet?
I heard the DEP thing, I didn't hear the BMTH thing. I mean, I know the song. I guess it does sound kind of similar. I think for us we were so into the idea behind “Avalanche” and the way the beginning was vocally and lyrically that it didn't even come across to me.
As far as the DEP thing, I honestly didn't even see their record. We obviously got a bunch of shit for it. Even the band was like, “Yo, what's the deal?” To me, it is, I guess, similar, but really different in a lot of ways. That's the whole point of the album. The album is called Dear Youth. It's literally about writing a letter to your former self and that's where the quill and the ink splatter comes from. The feather's disappearing because it's losing that feeling of being younger and knowing what the world's about. We just went with this idea and we went forward with it—lyrics, album art, everything. It's a bummer that some kids see it only as the same exact album cover, but it's definitely not.
We meant no disrespect to the band. I haven't listened to DEP in the past few albums, I think the last one I listened to was Miss Machine. I've never been a big fan of technical metal bands. I liked it a lot when I was younger. I've been into a lot more different music these days. I should have been following the band a little more closely, but I honestly didn't even see that record. If I had seen it, I still wouldn't have changed anything about our record, because I think our record is exactly what it needs to be.
The whole direction of the art was kind of my idea, but I didn't really go into exact detail. I didn't say, “It's gotta be black and white, it's gotta be this, it's gotta be that.” I was just like, “I really want something to illustrate the fact of writing a letter and something kind of disappearing away. Maybe some kind of ink bottle with our logo on it. Some kind of creative pen.” I didn't have any kind of exact detail for it, but I did have an idea of what I wanted. That's how it came out. Like I said, I'm happy with it and wouldn't change it if I saw the record before because I think it's different. Dear Youth is exactly what it needs to be for me.
You're the only frontman I've ever seen that wears a hockey jersey on stage.
When did that become a “thing” for you?
I don't wear a hockey jersey all the time. It's actually just a coincidence. So, I'm a very big Los Angeles sports fan. I've been a Kings fan my whole life. I've been really big into hockey the last seven or eight years. The Kings had obviously never won a Stanley Cup before. The first year we did Warped Tour in 2012 was the first year the Kings won the Stanley Cup. They won it a day or two before Warped started, and I was actually in the building. I was there when they won the cup for the first time ever. I was so emotional, stoked and happy that I just watched my team win the Stanley Cup. I was like, “You know what? I'm going to wear my jersey all summer long. I don't care what anybody says. I don't care how hot it is. They didn't give up on it; I'm not going to give up on them.” I wore it all summer long.
So, I wore it all of 2012. I wore it as a celebration. Two years later, 2014, we get the offer for Warped, the Kings are in the Stanley Cup finals. They win the Stanley Cup the first day of Warped. I had my jersey in my bag and I'm like “Well, guess I'll wear my jersey again all summer.” It was kind of a coincidence that it happened to be both Warpeds that we did, but yeah, it's only been a Warped thing. There were some days when I wish I didn't do it, but like I said, my team didn't give up so I wasn't going to either.
You're booked solid until Christmas. What's in store for 2015?
We have some stuff in the works, nothing finalized yet. We'll be on the road. We're a band that likes to go on tour all the time.
More headlining tours?
Definitely, definitely. We're going to do another world headlining tour like we did for Get What You Give. We got to play a lot of new places, which was really awesome. We got to play China, Greece and Turkey for the first time so I think we're going to try and do more stuff like that. See the world and do a proper headlining tour around it.
Not to mention reap the benefits of that longer set.
Yeah. [Laughs.] “Benefits” is a loose term—some of us don't like headlining because you have to wait around all day and then when it comes time to play you're exhausted and tired. We're all out of shape, old and fat so sometimes headlining sucks, but obviously it's cool for the kids to play all the songs they want to hear. We look forward to doing that, for sure. alt
Read more Q&A with the band in AP 317.