Aaron Kyle Behrens – lead vocals, guitars
Thomas Ross Turner – drums, keyboards and synthesizers,
“It’s called See You Later Simulator,” Aaron Behrens says of Ghostland Observatory’s first new album in eight years. “I’ve always been on the sci-fi edge of things, which is just a reflection of being a child of the ’80s and growing up with video games and computers, but also remembering a time before those things were common. I think all of that comes into play on this record. It’s a real comment on what’s going on right now, and on trying to figure out what’s reality and what’s a simulation.”
See You Later Simulator finds Behrens and longtime partner Thomas Ross Turner bouncing back from an extended hiatus to create music that ranks with their most ambitious and timely work.
With a musical sensibility that incorporates Behrens’ interest in rock, country and psychedelia as well as Turner’s love for avant-garde electronica and analog disco-thump, Behrens and Turner formed Ghostland Observatory in Austin, TX in 2003, setting out to create a style of music that still existed only in the pair’s collective consciousness.
Ghostland Observatory originally rose to prominence with a series of visionary albums and a reputation for athletic, high-energy performances featuring mind-bending laser light shows designed and executed by Lightwave International. While the duo’s concerts have embraced soaring spectacle, their recordings have maintained a somewhat earthier vibe, with Behrens’ striking vocals and driving guitar work anchored by Turner’s percussive beats and funky, Moog-generated melodies and hooks.
While Ghostland Observatory’s spectacular live performances made them a headlining attraction in clubs and festivals across America, their albums—2005’s Delete.Delete.I.Eat.Meat…, 2006’s Paparrazi Lightning, 2008’s Robotique Majestique and 2010’s Codename: Rondo, all released on Turner’s Trashy Moped Recordings—won a sizable listenership.
But the stress of the band’s hands-on approach eventually took its toll, causing them to take an extended hiatus from touring, during which time they reunited for occasional shows and informal studio sessions.
“When we first started, we were really young and this whole thing was very new to us,” Turner notes. “We started playing, and the shows got bigger and bigger, and it just took us for this super-fast-paced ride. There was no one telling us what to expect or what was next. We were on this thing for years, and it got a little overwhelming, and eventually Aaron was like, ‘I’ve gotta hit the breaks or I’m gonna lose it.'”
The pair couldn’t stay apart forever, though. “When we were doing these scattered shows, Aaron and I drove together to most of the shows, so we spent a lot of time shooting the breeze,” Turner recalls. “Eventually, Aaron said, ‘If you ever want to get back to work on a record, I’m ready.”
“If you hang onto something long enough, it comes back around,” Behrens offers. “Me and Thomas had gotten to a point where we were communicating really well, and we thought, it’s a shame to waste this unique thing that we have together. That power has never wavered, and it was waiting right where we left it when we got back together.”
Having decided to create a new album, Behrens and Turner found the seed for See You Later Simulator in the material that they’d begun to cut casually during their hiatus. “Over the years, while we were on hiatus, we had popped into the studio and worked out some tracks, and every time we did, we came up with something really good. It’s like, the water’s always there on tap, all you’ve gotta do is just open it up. So the songs were poppin’ out, and they really started to flow into something bigger. The story really did start telling itself, and we started seeing the connection between the songs.”
The reunited twosome worked together with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss. “The set-up was very stripped-down,” says Turner. “I had a small console, a sampler and a piano, and Aaron had a guitar and a vocoder thing, and we just fired up the machines and did it, and kept it raw and rough. We didn’t spend a lot of time noodling around, we just kind of got to it, and if something wasn’t happening, we’d just move on to something that was happening. We just kept moving forward and didn’t overthink it.”
The resulting album ranks with Ghostland Observatory’s most ambitious and accessible work, with such tracks as “Paradise Lost,” “Permanent Vacation” and “Miss Abyss” delivering both uplifting electro-dance-rock and a loose but absorbing storyline that isn’t likely to interfere with the sweaty intensity of Ghostland Observatory’s upcoming live shows.
“We tour with a small crew, but there are so many lasers and so much stuff that you’d think we were traveling with a couple of 18-wheelers,” says Turner. “On the last tour, we’d pull up to these venues who were expecting big rigs and buses, and we’d be in a couple of vans. Everyone in our crew knows exactly what their job is and that there’s not much leeway for mistakes. We just come in, set up the show, soundcheck, play the show and we’re out.”
“We’re really ready to get back out there,” says Behrens, adding, “We’ve already played some big shows and a couple of big festivals. It’s been awhile since we’ve played in front of that many people, but as soon as we hit that stage, everybody was one. That feeling of connection made me happy to realize that we’re back in a position to uplift people. I’m just so thankful that our band has gotten over that hump that some other bands might not have been able to get over. I’m super-happy and super-proud that we’ve gotten past that last challenge and that we’re still here.
“We worked hard on this record, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come,” Behrens concludes. “This is our rebirth, the phoenix rising from the ashes, and we have no plans to slow down. We’re stepping out of the weird simulation we’ve been in, and coming back into the world for the beginning of round two.”
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