by Jane Roser
Huntsville, Alabama rockers Rearview Ghost are no strangers to the Nietzsche quote “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” and for good reason. Lead vocalist. Josia needed surgery almost every year to correct an ongoing medical issue so she could continue to sing. Then, in the Spring of 2011, the band lost all of their equipment in a tornado. The final blow, only a few months later, was the accidental deletion of their almost completed album. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, they persevered and are set to have their best year yet with a new album and more extensive U.S tours.
“At the time, we didn’t think twice about giving up,” recalls bassist Phillip ‘Flip’ Cooper, “but you look back and think how did we not just go-screw this, I’m going home.” That determination and inspiring attitude, as well as kick ass gritty tunes, is just one of the many things their fans love about Rearview Ghost.
Starting in 2006, the band was originally just Cooper and Josia. “We were put together by a friend of ours who owned a bar and wanted to have a house band every Saturday night,” says Cooper. “Josia and I had never met before and we were both burnt out playing in bands at the time, but we started working on all of these crazy cover songs. Then, the band fell apart and we decided to just start writing songs together, plus I’d been looking for a vocalist like her for awhile. We brought in [guitarist] Craig Shadix in 2008 and that changed everything.”
“I really think it’s the chemistry of all three of us,” says Josia. “We all come from different backgrounds and it created an entirely different energy and emphasized what Flip and I had started to create, so when Craig came in, we felt confident moving on as songwriters and hit our stride with our first album.”
Growing up, Cooper was listening to classic rock early on and three members of his family were musicians. “I was also listening to country music as a kid and fell in love with it, so I started focusing on what I enjoyed about music, picked up a bass and went from there. I always had a song in my head.”
Being Italian-American and living for a time in Italy, where her father was stationed in the military, Josia always had opera music around her. “I really wanted to connect with the audience, though as myself and not as a character [in an opera], so I leaned towards the rebelliousness of rock and roll because there you can have your own message and be yourself.”
Rearview Ghost’s self-titled album dropped in 2012 and quickly climbed up the regional rock charts. They recently found a hit with their infectiously rocking single, “Devil’s Backbone”, off their upcoming second album which was produced in Nashville by the legendary Michael Wagener (Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Alice Cooper). It’s no wonder this song gets so stuck in your head since that’s how it started out for Josia.
“I’d come up with the first verse ‘it started with a whiskey’. I just wanted a party song and that line was in my head; I thought of all the possibilities of what could happen with ‘it started with a whiskey,’ so we began with that and then Flip added ‘it ended in a fight.’ We thought about every party moment in our lives and put it into the song.”
Cooper continues, “then Craig comes in with a couple of lines and that’s how we write most of the time. It really is a collaboration, that’s why I love what we do. When it gets down to the nitty gritty and going into the studio, then we’re all involved. I might write down crazy poetry and hand Josia my notebook and she runs with it.”
Josia jokes, “because I think that Flip is way too wordy.” Cooper laughs and says, “and then she’ll come in and say I have this idea for a song and gives us one line.”
“As a singer, for me no matter what the lyrics say, I really need to know how I feel about the song in order to sing it,” says Josia. “A word or group of words might evoke a feeling or an idea and then when we feedback off of each other, it creates the song to go in different areas rather than if I had come up with the idea originally, I think it’s richer with the collaboration of the entire band.”
Being in the minority of female rockers out there today, Josia is very supportive of other female singers of all genres. “I think women musicians face different challenges than guys do, so when I see a woman out there, I know they have to be a little bit stronger than most to be able to deal with it.”
We start gushing about Lzzy Hale from the York, PA rock band Halestorm. She’s a sick guitarist and one hell of a live performer. Josia exclaims, “we need to have a kick ass women of rock tour!”
Revolution Of An Open Mind, the band’s upcoming six song EP, will include a bonus track of an acoustic version of “Make Time” off their first full-length album. The EP was funded by fans through Indiegogo, which was new territory for Rearview Ghost. “It was fun coming up with the cool perks and we got a lot of great feedback from friends, family and fans,” says Josia. “There were so many people out there supporting us, it was just amazing. We have t-shirts with your name on it for our backers that say “I helped start a revolution” and we’re hoping to hook up with a whiskey company for a sponsorship at some point.”
The energetic music video for “Devil’s Backbone” is part concert footage/part goofy antics that was, for the most part, filmed by musician/videographer David Koonce. “He came to one of our shows and shot some footage that he sent to us,” says Josia, “but we thought it needed to reflect the party element a bit more, so we decided to have fun with it and had our crew, Jenae and Ryan, film us at home drinking whiskey and goofing around. We sent it to David as a joke, but he used a lot of the shots and it just looks so cool. We had fun with it and I think it comes across in the video.”
Rearview Ghost just finished a small tour of the east coast, playing the Irish Rock Festival where Cooper says, “we were treated so well. We were on Staten Island and New Jersey and the people were just so nice to us, we can’t wait to come back. One of our goals is to start touring up there regularly and we would also love to play some Philly shows.”
Currently, Rearview Ghost is planning a short tour through New Orleans, Mississippi and Texas, as well as preparing for their upcoming album release show in Huntsville. “We put a lot of love and sweat into this record,” says Cooper, “and we can’t wait to get it out and have people hear it. Our goal for the year is to play the biggest shows and festivals we can and tour more cities.”
Josia adds that, “the tornado kind of derailed on our plans, so now we want to go out to as many places as possible and get our music out there, we’re so excited.”
Gutsy, edgy and cool as heck Rearview Ghost is a band I’m excited to hear more from. Judging from their “Devil’s Backbone” video, I can only imagine what a wild ride their live shows must be like. Also, any band that posts on their Facebook fan page this gem: “Apparently our cover photo violates a guideline on FB. That’s just rock and roll, baby.” I say hell yeah. That sure is rock and roll, baby.