The 70s had disco. The 80s had hair metal. The 90s had grunge. But what is the sound of the internet age? If you asked Phoenix rock band Bear Ghost, they would reply “yes.” Their newest record Jiminy is an electrifying and engaging roller coaster of genre-defying songwriting.
After the release of their first full-length Blasterpiece in 2016, Bear Ghost has turned the ears of domestic and international listeners alike. Vocalist/Guitarist Ryan Abel partners with bassist Andrew Heath and drummer Myke Buttonz to create sonically adventurous rock anthems. The road to Jiminy was long, with the first single coming out in 2020. But at long last, fans are able to listen to these new songs.
Jiminy is a beautiful catastrophe – a trainwreck that somehow leaves us better off than we were before. From its opening moments to its final notes, Jiminy asks listeners to embark on a journey that will forever change them. Abel, Heath, and Buttonz have created songs that are massive in sonic experimentation but feel deeply personal and intimate. The second track “Heavy News” opens with blasts of guitar and drums, before launching into haunting pop melodies that nod to Jazz-era Queen. Beneath Abel’s gorgeous and powerful voice, the band shifts rhythms and styles in seconds. Blast beats are broken up by bits of Samba and Jazz. With song titles like “Big Town Banky Blaine’s Rockabilly BBQ” and “Mario is a Cliche,” the band uses humor to convey the more complicated emotions of living. Electronic beats, ukulele, and showtune-inspired vocalizations litter this album with intricately written musical moments. The penultimate number, “When I’m Dead,” almost ventures into progressive metal territory. The band relies on surprise and suspense to keep listeners wondering just what they’re going to do next.
The final song, “Vultures,” crescendos to a massive final chorus before giving way to a piano only outro that gives listeners a sense of closure. Bear Ghost has such a strong control of dynamics, and that skill leads to some of the most interesting songwriting you will ever hear. A lot of bands can make great records. Only Bear Ghost could make Jiminy.
Jiminy is available on all streaming platforms. Stick around for the band’s exclusive interview with Jammerzine!
Does the band have a collective favorite song on Jiminy?
They’re all our children so we have to pretend to love them all equally. If it was newer, we’d probably say Sirens, but it’s likely Heavy News or Mario at this marioment.
Y’all produced this record yourselves. What was it like to be in the “driver’s seat” the whole time? Was it a challenge to take on everything, from performance and writing to production?
Well, it has its pros and cons. A pro of doing it ourselves is that we don’t have to worry about the almost certainty of a real producer coming and saying, “this is a 3½ minute song and it has a 6 part bridge. Y’all lunatics need to make some cuts.”
So we get to keep our sound intact, for better or for worse. The cons are that we don’t know how to do anything, and there’s a lot of trial and error to figure out how to accomplish the bells and whistles that a qualified producer would just come pre-equipped with.
What do you hope fans take away from this album?
As always, we just want everyone to have fun. We hope it makes the fans feel something. Whether it’s the urge to dance, laugh, cry, mosh, smosh, or take to the internet to tell people who are trying to mind their own business how much you hate it.
Y’all have hinted at a tour in 2024. How do you plan to translate these massive, anthemic songs live?
Well, we have some musicians that play with us live, and we are not above pulling a twenty one pilots and letting backing tracks do a lot of heavy lifting.
Some people hate that. I used to hate it. But now I’m born again, and damn near evangelical about getting away with being lazy on stage. I kid, but also 100% serious.
And if the backing tracks don’t work we can always fall back on the knowledge of what we lack in live layering and playing ability, we more than make up for in stage presence and enthusiasm.
Y’all have been a band for a while. What keeps you writing and performing? What drives you to excellence?
At least for me, I mostly write when an idea hits. It grabs hold and doesn’t let go until I show it some love. And we perform these days strictly for the fans. If they didn’t want to see us, we’d have no interest in being on stage. The new album is for them.
Featured image by Jim Hesterman.