In February 2013, Steph Carter followed in the footsteps of his brother Frank and quit Watford punks Gallows.
Two years later, he’s back with his new band, The Ghost Riders In The Sky – an idea he’d been brewing while Gallows were working on their seminal second album, Grey Britain (2009).
He’s joined by his wife Gillian (vocals), Paul Taylor (guitar/vocals), his younger brother Richard (guitar), Jason Green (bass) and Kris Banks (drums) – and people familiar with Gallows’ rabble-rousing anthems may be surprised with the direction Steph has taken with his new project. But they shouldn’t be.
“The thing for me is that Gallows is not the music that I necessarily go and put on my iPod straight away”, says Carter. “Ghost Riders in the Sky is what comes naturally to me when I pick up and play a guitar. So this band as a whole is actually a much better perception of what my musical taste and performance ability is.”
The name itself is based on an old cowboy story. According to legend, a herd of red-eyed cattle were chased through the clouds by a gang of ghosts on horseback – and Johnny Cash retold the tale on Ghost Riders In The Sky, a track taken from his 1979 album, Silver. Carter admits to spending a lot of time listening to the Man in Black while writing the band’s as-yet-untitled debut album and took the name from the song. It’s all a long way from the Watford punks’ spit-flecked fury. So just how does Carter define their sound?
“With regards to the genre”, he begins, “my wife Gillian – who’s from the States – sings in the band. For her, country music is very different to an English person’s perspective of it. I remember talking to her about the project and saying, ‘It’s kind of got some country vibes to it’, and straight away she was like, ‘No, it fucking doesn’t. It doesn’t sound anything like the shit we’ve got over here that people call country.’ So the way I’ve tried to describe it to people is ‘classic Americana’, which is the Johnny Cash and Elvis side of things. It’s like British Americana.”
On paper, it shouldn’t work – but it does.
“It’s a genre that I feel we’ve created in making these songs”, Carter explains. “The whole point when making the record, was I didn’t want to write something and send it to someone and have them be like, ‘Oh yeah, it sounds just like this.’ That wasn’t the purpose. What I wanted from it is I wanted to bring all of my musical tastes and elements into the project and put out something that, more than anything, I wanted to listen to, and that I hadn’t heard before.”
Debut single Wasteland is a significant departure from his past recordings and hints at the scope and grandeur that characterises the rest of the album. The track is incredibly cinematic too, recalling the classic American storytellers, but situating the narrative within a contemporary, distinctly British context – the video itself plays out like Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law crossed with Somers Town by Shane Meadows.
“If the music speaks to you in any way shape or form, then it’s done its job,” says Carter. “The reason music is so important in my life is because it’s the one art form that creates so many visuals in your brain. If you put 10 people in a line and you play them a song, they’re all going to have a different picture in their heads. That’s the beauty of music and I’m really proud of this.”
The Ghost Riders In The Sky’s single Wastelands is out now through Everything New Records. For more information, see their official Facebook page.