“I haven’t met Steven Wilson yet – I always joke with people that he doesn’t know it, but I’m his next guitar player.” It’s a big claim, and one not often made by 23 year olds with one album to their name.
Then again, Jared Leach, the maestro behind Georgia’s Ghost Medicine, isn’t averse to that sort of show-stopping coup. He expands: “I’m really picky on who plays on my music and bass players are really hard to find. I was really depressed one night and I found Colin Edwin [bass player with Porcupine Tree] on Facebook. I thought, what the hell, I’m going to send him a message. I was really surprised when he got back to me!”
In a surprising turn of events, Edwin ended up completing the Ghost Medicine line-up for Discontinuance, joining Leach on vocals and guitars, Scott Prian on drums and Sarah Hoefer on additional vocal duties.
Leach is speaking over a fuzzy Skype line from his home in Atlanta just a few weeks after the launch of the aforementioned debut album. While the record received high acclaim, including in these pages, Leach is rather more analytical of the result.
“Even now, there are things I wish I could go back and fix. At the time it was the best any of us could have done. I really don’t like my vocals. But I think it’s a really good document of where I was as a writer.”
Leach’s criticisms are bred from his own deep-seated need for perfection. A graduate of music school and an expert multi-instrumentalist, Leach’s work on Discontinuance started five long years ago when he began work on album centrepiece Desert Spring.
The resulting album is a complex but resonating work, which pays homage to the likes of Pink Floyd and carries a sort of heavy/light duality in the vein of Devin Townsend. His vocals, which Leach is unduly harsh on, hold a raw intensity – but also have the propensity to fling themselves into Fair To Midland territory.
The album swoops between passages of acoustic sweetness and shuddering riffs – accordingly, many of his lyrics dally with nature but some veer towards Leach’s thoughts on heavier topics such as existentialism.
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“I remember reading a David Lynch interview – he said he doesn’t really understand everything in his films,” Leach explains. “That’s how I feel about my music sometimes.
“If you want to extrapolate meaning from the album…” he pauses, feeling for the words. “The world is a beautiful place. It’s also very cold, dark and unforgiving. Think about the fact that eventually all the stars will burn out, and there’s going to be nothing left.”
Leach’s passion for his art is scrawled thickly across Discontinuance – and any suggestion that future works should be toned down to reach a larger audience receives short shrift.
“Some people I talk to say I shouldn’t write long songs as it’s taking way from the amount of people I reach. Are you going to take Beethoven’s Ninth and turn it into four-minute songs? If you streamline it, you may reach more people – but you’re not going to reach some people as deeply.”
Jared Leach (guitars/vocals), Scott Prian (drums), Colin Edwin (bass), Sarah Hoefer (additional vocals)
Ghost/Deconstruction-era Hevy Devy set against Pink Floyd landscapes
Discontinuance is out now on Uranium Club