Posted December 13, 2016 by Jeff in Tunes

Handsome Ghost: The Brilliant Glow of Shimmering Indie Pop

Handsome Ghost
Handsome Ghost

The creative project of Tim Noyes, a Boston-native and former high school English teacher, Handsome Ghost emerged last year when “Blood Stutter,” one of his early demos, went viral. The indie rock tune racked up over 7 million streams on Spotify. Shortly after, Handsome Ghost signed to Photo Finish and released the Steps EP in 2015. Earlier this year, the band released its new EP The Brilliant Glow, a collection of shimmering indie pop tunes. After a two-month tour as main support for Melanie Martinez, the band returned to New York to rehearse for a short headlining tour. We recently phoned Noyes while he was in New York rehearsing.

Talk about when you first started writing songs?
I was a late bloomer, honestly. I tried to play guitar in high school and I just couldn’t get it. When I went to college, it finally made sense to me. I started writing as soon as I could play four chords. That would have been my freshman year of college. I was 18. It came natural and was more fun than learning covers.

What would you consider your influences?
At that point, I was really into Death Cab for Cutie. I was obsessed with singer Ben Gibbard. Those early songs are heavily influenced by Death Cab. Even the songs I write now are. It was very emotional and I would pay attention to the words as best I could. He’s so good. He’s amazing.

Have you had the chance to meet them?
I have not and I wouldn’t know how to handle myself. It would be really exciting. I like it when you hear good stories about someone meeting a person they really admire. I think they often turn out to be jerks.

When you were teaching high school, did you try out songs on your students?
I brought the guitar in once or twice. I tried not to be the teacher with the guitar. I had a teacher when I was in high school who was always playing guitar and I tried not to be that guy. I don’t think they knew that I was pretty serious about it. I get notes from students who follow along on Facebook. They were nice about it. They were kind to me.

What’s the story behind “Blood Stutter”?
That was the first one I wrote for this band. I wrote it before we were a band. It shaped our sound a little bit. It’s about an old significant other. She was getting married and it’s kind of like a “don’t-get-married” plea. It was a good one. I wrote it with the acoustic guitar and then on the laptop. It made me realize how much I wanted to shift direction and do this type of music moving forward. Lyrically, it’s really important too.

What was your reaction when it went viral?
I was completely shocked. I had literally no expectation one way or another. When it started to creep up there on Spotify, I thought it would stop at some point. That was a huge surprise. It really got us started, and we realized we had something unique and people were connecting with it. I was working with a manager at the time and we just put it out there. We did sign shortly thereafter. At first, it just took off on its own.

Did you set out to do anything differently with The Brilliant Glow?
Yeah. I think sonically, we were trying to push it a little bigger and make it a little harder hitting. It was the first time I worked with anyone collaboratively. It was a unique experience to open yourself up to critiques and new ideas. I sat down with a couple of different producers. I honestly wasn’t into it at first, but I’m really proud and the collaborations were helpful and pushed me to be better and take more risks. I’m really happy with how it came out. I don’t know what I want to do moving forward. I might want to strip things down. It was a great experience.

The opening track, “Graduate,” immediately sounds more upbeat. Would you say that’s the case?
Yeah, I think so. It’s still got a dark element. I can’t help but write dark songs no matter what but in terms of sound, it’s more uplifting and energetic. That was a conscious effort.

You can’t just write slow, sad songs forever.

Is “Promises” directed at someone in particular?
That’s directed toward a lot of people. I’m sure you can imagine to whom, but once this got started, I wasn’t doing a good job of keeping in touch and staying level. I got tunnel vision for the band and trying to grow this project and I let relationships slip. It’s about reconnecting and remembering that I am a human being with responsibilities and relationships beyond touring and writing songs. Those are important too. You can’t just give up on everyone who cares about you. I’m trying to be better. It’s my pledge. I am getting better. One step at a time.

I think “Didn’t I Fade” works as a great closer. Is that intentional?
I did want that to be a closer and I had written “Didn’t I Fade” long before those other songs. I always wanted it to be the last song on something. I randomly listened to it about a month before we wrapped up the EP. I realized it had to go on it. It still resonates with me. I like the mood it sets and I think it fits as the last song for sure.

You got a full-length in you?
We’re going to release our full-length early next year. I have the songs and I feel really good about them. We’re exploring how to progress our sound in a way that is true to what we’re doing but also unique. There are so many bands in our world. It’s trial and error to find something that speaks to us. The songs are written, and we’re on schedule. I always wanted to do a full-length. I feel it will be a huge step forward for us.

Upcoming 2016 Shows

December 14

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Columbus, OH, Big Room Bar

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Cleveland, OH, Beachland Tavern

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Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].