Featured image credit: Taylor Hill
In our effort to continue good coverage from around Ohio, we’ve been trying to reach outside the box and find bands previously unknown to us. The Buckeye State has such a vast reach of great music acts making fantastic music, and just last week I stumbled upon Ghost Train, a quartet making catchy and exciting music for the masses. I was able to chat with drummer/vocalist Ryan T Griffis and guitarist/vocalist Eric Moss about the project, and what plans they have for the future of rock’n’roll…
First things first, tell me about the band! How did you all get together at Miami University? I see from your website that you’re from all over the state.
Ryan T. Griffis: Eric and I first met at Miami back in the fall semester of 2015. I would go over to my friend’s house to buy like five dollars worth of weed with quarters and Eric would always be there hanging out. My friend introduced the two of us and we began talking about music and listening to each other’s solo stuff. As time went on, we got more acquainted. I remember us singing Up on Cripple Creek by The Band together one night and that’s when I started to see the potential in making music with Eric because our voices together sounded so unique. Eventually, this led to us discussing availability and that we needed to have a jam session immediately.
A few days later, I brought my electric drum kit and Eric brought his guitar and amp over to our friend’s house. I remember jamming several songs like Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Joker by Steve Miller Band, Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others that night, thinking to myself like damn, this guy is good on guitar.
I’ve listened to a lot of great music and I’ve seen Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitar players perform live over the years, but I have never witnessed anything like Eric Moss’ guitar playing. That jam session will go down in history as the moment that changed everything. It was the beginning to something great and after about a year or so of jamming together, we decided to take the music a step further and write and record our own music and that’s how Ghost Train sort of took off from there.
Eric Moss: I first met Ryan when he came over to our buddy’s house for a party. We found out that we both played music and both liked classic rock. We let the beer do the talking and the rest was history! Our first jam session was actually in the basement of that same house the next week, and we knew we had something special. We kept writing music for the rest of that school year until we had all the tracks of our first EP ready. We actually recorded our EP on my laptop in Ryan’s apartment over the course of that year. Fueled by 40oz Budweiser’s and general college debauchery, it was a wonder Ryan didn’t get kicked out of that apartment!
From there he introduced me to a former coworker of his, (bassist) Sean Stone. He rolled up with the biggest bass amp I’d ever seen, and thundered his bass lines over our tracks in a way that left me speechless. For a while it was just us three, until we met with Andrew Stuve (keyboards/vocals), who was a former band mate of Sean’s. We rehearsed as a four piece band until we felt ready to take our show on the road, and since then we haven’t looked back!
That’s quite a serendipitous event! How did you end up settling on the name Ghost Train?
RG: Back in 2016 before we even thought about being in a band or writing music together, Eric and I were smoking some weed one day at his place and I asked him what strain this was that we were smoking. He replied, “Ghost Train Haze,” and I said that would be a sweet name for a band. He then said, “What would? Ghost Train Haze?” and I said “no man, just Ghost Train.” From there the name Ghost Train sort of took a different course and the name became this entity that existed, but didn’t at the same time. The analogy that our music could be heard, but not seen live. Kind of like a train rolling thru town where you’re able to hear it, but not see it.
EM: There’s the story we tell in public, and then there’s the actual story of how it happened.
Long story short, there used to be a train that would go through our campus at Miami, and would always be blaring in the middle of the night. We likened that ‘ghost train’ to our own lives. While you don’t always see the train, you always hear it. You know it’s there. That’s the same for us, we’re not yet a national household name, and while we’re seen in a better light, we’re known for our sound. And that’s how we like it.
The name definitely has a cool vibe attached to it. Speaking of cool happenings, bow did you feel about being featured on PromoWest’s Local Discover? I saw your newest single Jailhouse Woman was featured last week…
RG: I feel like it is a great accomplishment to be featured on a playlist like Local Discover because PromoWest is one of the biggest music production companies in the state of Ohio, and the playlist can really drive new listeners and potential followers towards us that haven’t heard Ghost Train’s music before. Ghost Train has been featured on Local Discover before, back in early 2019. They featured one of our biggest hits, Millennial Bop, on the Local Discover playlist.
EM: We feel honored anytime we find out that people are listening to our music or even know who we are. Sometimes it doesn’t even resonate with me how far we’ve come since we first started, and it has been surreal to see our online following grow as it has. For our music to be featured on PromoWest’s Local Discovery playlist gives us that feeling of validation and excitement that fuels us, and we are excited at the prospect of being featured more in the future!
It definitely seems like a great place to get your feet wet. Let’s talk about Jailhouse Woman for a bit. How did the song come together?
EM: Jailhouse Woman is loosely based on a true story. I had been dating this girl who, let’s just say, truly embraced the rock n roll lifestyle. Some unfortunate events unfolded for her, and I found myself in a situation where I was dropping this girl off at the downtown jail! Though it was nothing serious, it was still a strange moment that left me rattled.
I remember driving home from the jail alone, and without thinking grabbed my guitar and started to play music on my back patio. I realized I really liked what I was doing, so I made a quick recording of the tune and started to sit down and write the song. While I no longer associate with the (original) ‘Jailhouse Woman’, I am extremely pleased with how the track turned out, and how it has been received so far.
RG: Jailhouse Woman did not come easy for us. The song was in the writing stage for quite some time. It took a couple of practice sessions and live performances to finally figure it out. The first demo we recorded was roughly seven minutes. So I decided to sit down and really think about how the song should be produced.
At one of our rehearsal sessions over the summer in 2019, we finally practiced the song like the way you hear it now. Eric had written the song, but a lot of the lyrics did not make sense originally, so we had to diagnose the song and get it up to Ghost Train standards. What Eric and I do best is come together as a songwriting team and collaborate on different avenues to take when storytelling and Jailhouse Woman has been one of our best collaborations so far.
That’s great! Any time songwriters can play off each other like that, you definitely have a good thing going. After hearing Jailhouse Woman, I decided to dig into the rest of your (self-titled) EP. I was rather surprised at how seamlessly you bounced around stylistically. At first I was hearing Sublime and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but then I was reminded of more bluesy acts like Gary Clark or Nick Tolford. Tell me how your songwriting evolves?
EM: We are influenced by such a wide variety of artists. Our jam sessions sound like a jukebox in an old time saloon making its way through its tracks. I am typically driven by the Sublime, reggae type of vibe when I approach lyrics and the general attitude of our music. But when I play guitar, I am driven by my top three idols of all time: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eddie Van Halen. I’m all about classic rock with a tinge of modern influence, driven by a punk apathy and a hard rock party mindset.
RG: I am a big fan of being diverse when it comes to songwriting and musical style. Every song on our EP’s or future albums should be different from any other song on the record. That way the listener is engaged with the music and is eager to hear what’s next! One minute you’re listening to a pop, reggae, or rock song and the next minute you’re listening to a psychedelic blues jam which are two totally different ends of the spectrum.
By playing music with Eric I’ve come to realize some of the different genres we can incorporate into our present and future music, because our influences are so stylistically diverse, and it really makes songwriting a true art form.
I know that I was definitely hanging on after each song, wondering what would come next. With all those different influences, what would you call your style of music?
RG: American Rock’n’Roll, incorporating genres all across America into our overall sound. I always strive to create new music from genres that I like as well as what society deems popular and/or mainstream. My vision is to reach an audience from 15-year-old kids all the way to 75-year-old adults who love America and the art of rock’n’roll music.
EM: Hands down, it would be Rock’n’Roll! I feel like there are not as many bands out there nowadays playing the kind of music we are. There is a large movement to play alternative music or try to create a new genre entirely. There is also a certain arrogance and egoism that is rampant in the local music scene.
We are the antithesis of all of that. We are simply here to rock out, kick ass, and have a good time. While I respect different scenes, I think there is something to be said for writing the kind of music we are. It’s a simpler form of music that still packs a heavy punch. I’ve witnessed everyone from the wool-hat wearing hipsters to the chaw-spitting country boys get down to our music, and it’s a great feeling to have.
That’s brilliant! It’s always good to know where you stand, even if you’re all over the place. Speaking of your live shows, what are some of your favorite locations to play?
RG: I really enjoyed playing at J.D. Legends as well as Taffy’s of Eaton, just because it was local to me and a lot of friends and family came out to watch Ghost Train perform. A venue that I was unfamiliar with, but had a great experience at was Mad Frog in Cincinnati. They had a great sound tech and that sound tech made me feel like a rock star.
EM: My personal favorite place to play has always been Miami University. They are not usually our largest shows by any means, but to return to the place where it all started and just go hard for a couple hours means the world to me. Our goal is to get into some of the larger venues on that campus and play where a lot of other up and coming acts have started their career.
Plus, when the show is over the party doesn’t stop. We simply load up the car and get back to it! Can’t wait for our next time down.
It certainly never hurts to get back to your roots. If you could pick one local and one national band to play with, who would that be?
EM: We like playing shows with our friends The Foogazies out of Cleveland. As far as a national act, I dream of one day playing a show alongside Sublime with Rome. Those guys really resurrected Sublime after Bradley’s passing. I love the music, I love the attitude, and I know that we’d fit right in!
RG: Locally, I would like for us to start headlining shows. Whether these shows are at local bars, breweries, college parties or at live music venues, Ghost Train has too much potential for the music to not be heard by the masses. The more people we can attract to our shows, the better! We love to rock n roll all night and party every day, and we hope our audience does too. Nationally, I think it would be awesome to go on tour and be the opening act for a classic rock band like Mötley Crüe or some band of that nature.
That would certainly raise your profile. Alright, we have to get the elephant out of the living room. How is the pandemic affecting the band? Any show cancellations or recording plans altered?
RG: We try to live by the philosophy that nothing can stop Ghost Train along the tracks that we are on, but COVID-19 has made us discuss future plans. Our photoshoot on April 4 for our upcoming single has been postponed until further notice. We have a date in mind, but we are talking with other business entities and it really just depends on if we are still quarantined at the time of the rescheduled date.
EM: As of now, we have been taking it slow and have been practicing social distancing so we can slow the spread of the deadly diseases. It’s a truly terrible thing to see happen across the world, but we remain confident that we will push through and be even stronger than we have been before.
Ghost Train has been collaborating a lot electronically, discussing future events, strategy, ongoing songs, and new material. It’s like telling an Olympic athlete they can’t compete in their sport. We’re getting stir crazy and can’t wait to get back to making music together, but we’re taking it one step at a time. Mostly we are working on new material to record and release later this year, though. Once things return to normal, we will be getting back on the road as well with a string of shows to get the train rolling again.
That’s a great analogy. It just isn’t the same if you can only do it at home. What other things do you have planned once everything gets settled down?
RG: Our plans are to get back into the recording studio sometime in May and hopefully release a new (cover) song sometime in June! After that, Eric and I will have a songwriting/jam session during the summer to finish writing new music for our upcoming EP. We will be looking to book a summer show, a show in the fall and in the winter time as well. We’ve played in Dayton already this year, so we will be looking to book somewhere in Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland. We have goals of releasing three more songs throughout 2020, so be on the lookout!
EM: We will be hitting the studio to continue recording songs for our upcoming EP Life Behind Bars. Unfortunately we’ve had to reschedule a lot of our upcoming dates, so when things get back to normal we will also resume business and continue spreading our gospel throughout the great state of Ohio and beyond.
Ghost Train – Jailhouse Woman