Detroit's Silverghost adds an extra dimension to DIY
Published: November 24, 2010
When the first item on your Saturday morning to-do list reads "make oversized alien heads with friends," you know you must be doing something right. And for Marcie Bolen and Deleano Acevedo, the creative forces behind Detroit electro-rock duo Silverghost, that's all part of the plan.
The duo has pretty much been a self-contained world, exploring the fuzzy, fuzzed-out electronic otherworld of rock, creating a galaxy of synth-driven, guitar-colored sights and sounds for a growing base of fans — both local, coastal and within an after-work drive — for more than three years. And they've done it their own way. And, this Saturday, Silverghost drops its (naturally) self-released debut full-length, The Year We Make Contact, at Ferndale's Magic Bag Theater. It will be a homecoming celebration of sorts, complete with video evidence of the duo's travels beyond the galaxy, and visits from some alien pals.
See, according to the album's backstory, Silverghost has recently returned from a distant binary planet that may or may not resemble our own in subtle ways, but is nevertheless alien. The document they've put together catalogues their observations of the planet SR-001.
The Year We Make Contact is chock-full of musings about technology, alienation, connection and the perils of fame and fantasy. In other words, it's classic dystopian-glam fare. Riding a heady line between Gary Numan's Tubeway Army, alternate-reality-infused synth-pop and boy-girl affection and disaffection, The Year We Make Contact — the album, as well as the accompanying film — was concocted in the Bolen and Acevedo's Ferndale home, and finds the band crystallizing the appeal of their handmade, world-ready approach to making art in an era when anyone can do it — although few pull it of with such aplomb, vision and drive.
Anyone with a pulse and at least a handful of brain cells dedicated to following Detroit's music scene will certainly recognize diminutive, flame-haired, porcelain and seemingly inscrutable Bolen. She was the co-founder and rhythm guitarist for the breakout raw rock quartet the Von Bondies, the grounded, cool yin to lead singer Jason Stollsteimer's wailing yang. She struck a chord with both her sonics and her presence. On stage, she seemed to personify the kind of post-punk tough-girl cool that the Cramps' Poison Ivy had defined for a generation of lady ax-wielders.
Deleano, for his part, had been making and performing "relaxed, more ambient, chilled-out" compositions.
The pair met at a mutual friend's Fourth of July barbecue in Detroit in 2006.
"There were literally fireworks," jokes Bolen, getting the bad pun out of the way immediately.
They began dating and how they came to form Silverghost became one of those classic "girl-quits-embattled-successful-band, boy-meets-girl, girl-plays-guitar-on-boy's-ambient-solo-compositions, girl-writes-songs, boy-writes-songs, boy-and-girl-fall-in-love-to-a-soundtrack-of-their own-making" stories. You know the kind, right?
At the time, Bolen was at loose ends, but feeling the urge to get something new started.
"I had been trying to find people to play with," she recalls. "'Cause I wanted to start a new band and had started writing songs. It just wasn't really working out."
So she took some time and started adding atmospheric guitar parts to Acevedo's jams when he played live. So, they thought, why not try something new — together.
"When we formed Silverghost, we started writing all the songs together," Bolen says.
"When it first started, we were both playing guitar. It was more rock 'n' roll," continues Acevedo.
"We went to the basement one day and plugged in a drum machine and I started playing synthesizers. We were like, 'Wow, this is cool!' And we wrote like three songs that day!"
In other words, something clicked.
Still, they tried to recruit bandmates to fill out the sound. "And that just didn't feel right," Bolen says. "Something wasn't there. It kind of just went back to him and me when we first started writing. It kind of drove me crazy. Not knowing what the project was and what the sound was supposed to be. So we kept going. Then we realized that there was a sound there.
"I like a lot more distorted, kinda weird stuff," Bolen says, explaining how they finally cracked the code.
"I've always liked that dirty, raw sound. And Deleano kind of helps bring all the structure together. I think the sound of it took a little while."
Once they got it rolling, though, the duo quickly became ubiquitous, playing often and sharing the stage with friends old and new. It was a pragmatic, classic new-band anywhere-anytime attitude that let them hone their sound live and build a following in the process.
"Sometimes, we'd play twice in a weekend. It was good in the beginning, because it gave us practice and we got to get out in front of more and different groups of people in Detroit, Ferndale, wherever."
And for Bolen, it was a chance to figure out exactly how to be a proper frontperson, after years of playing a more supporting role.
"I always liked the idea of becoming a character. I thought it would be the easiest [that way]," she says.
"I love to dress up. Sometimes I wear the same clothing I wear on stage to work. So I feel like I'm not being fake at all. Which makes me feel more comfortable."
That comfort eventually morphed into a cool warmth that feels natural to Bolen.
"I have come to the idea that I really just want to connect with the audience members. It's nice to be able to see people liking the music and you can open up with people."
As they evolved, they made a conscious decision to engage their pop sensibilities more too (as The Year We Make Contact amply shows).
> Email Chris Handyside