Cool Ghouls to Play The Smell on June 8th

Posted by Billy Gil, June 4, 2013 04:16pm | Post a Comment

With the glut of great garage rock bands in San Francisco, Cool Ghouls have their work cut out for them. Luckily for us, the young lads have tunes and energy for days, pouring out of their recently released self-titled debut in the form of country-rock licks, hippie harmonies and an infectious, sunny attitude. These aren’t poseurs trying to seem laid-back; songs like “Ballin’” are packed with little whiskey-soaked riffs and suddenly harmonic choruses, while “Natural Life” features subtle horns that give its summertime vibes added depth. Recorded by The Fresh & Onlys’ Tim Cohen, it’s a more-than-worthy entry into the S.F. psych-rock/garage rock canon. The band comes to L.A.’s The Smell Saturday June 8, with L.A. faves Dirt Dress, Santoros and Them Howling Bones. Additionally, they'll be at Phono Del Sol in S.F. July 13 and San Francisco Psych Fest Aug. 3. I quickly caught up with the band, made up of Pat Thomas (bass), Ryan Wong (guitar), Pat McDonald (singer/guitar) and Alex Fleshman (drums), all between the ages of 21 and 24, as they gathered around the phone in their Oakland home.

PST: Let’s start with the name. Was it a joke, is there a specific meaning?

McDonald: We got the name from a live DVD of Parliament Funkadelic playing sometime in the '70s. That’s how George Clinton addressed the crowd.

Wong: It’s kind of ... it’s not really a joke. The reason we liked it was it was kinda jokey I guess, but we liked it.

PST: How did the band come about? Were you playing in other bands, meet in some other way? How were the Cool Ghouls born?

Thomas: Three of us are all from the same hometown, me, Ryan and Pat [McDonald]. From Benicia, in the Bay Area. We knew each other in high school. We weren’t great friends, but we knew each other played music. Pat and I started exchanging music. During that time, I moved back up to the Bay Area after school, and that’s when we really started the band. Alex, our drummer, we met at San Francisco State. We were kind of born out of SF State.

PST: Did you have some unifying concepts about what kind of music you wanted to make when you came together?

Thomas: To an extent, me and Pat McDonald kind of were the ones who talked about this band for a year before it happened. We had an idea that it was gonna be a rock ’n’ roll band. We were kind of prompted by what was going on in S.F. at the time — Thee Oh Sees, garage and psych. That was really something that excited us because that’s sort of our jam. It was right for us to step in.

PST: Not at all to limit your sound, but with all the garage rock style bands coming out of SF, do you find it harder to have your band and your sound stand out?

Thomas: I don’t know how much we really worry about standing out. We’re just trying to make good music. I feel like if anything, it helps to have such a supportive community of rock ’n’ roll bands that are around. Novelty isn’t really a concern, if we do it right.

PST: It could be easier at the same time, since there is already that attention there.

Thomas: Totally.

PST: One thing that draws me toward your band are the vocal harmonies. I’m just always a sucker for them. I feel like bands often now sort of have vocals as an afterthought or they’re really rough, which is cool and all, but it’s nice to see that attention to them here. Was that something you always wanted to have in your band?

McDonald: We like music where harmonies play a key role. It’s a lot of fun to harmonize, and we all try to write our own harmonies and stuff.

PST: Are you guys excited to play Phono Del Sol? I went last year and it had a nice, family-friendly vibe to it.

McDonald: Yes, absolutely. We’re nothing but excited. Thee Oh Sees are gonna be there.

PST: I imagine that’s quite different than some of your other shows. What’s some of the craziest stuff you’ve seen at shows of yours?

McDonald: Probably the craziest show we’ve ever played was in a cave down by the Sutro Bath Ruins. Right down by the beach, there’s this little cave. A couple of our friends went down there with a generator and our gear. That was probably the nuttiest thing we’ve ever done as a band. It felt very like primal.

Thomas: It was like a very pure gathering of people.

PST: I really like the song “Natural Life” and its video. Can you talk about filming that a bit? It sort of has this great home movie, road trip feel that perfectly fits the feel of the song, and it seems like a love letter to California.


Thomas: My brother Rob (Robert Thomas) filmed it. He’s a film student at [SF] State. He and I kind of conceived the idea for the video. I feel like we did it that way because it felt like a pretty easy way to do it. Just like oh yeah, we’ll grab a camera go to a cool spot. We definitely were kind of thinking having that imagery of the coast and California like that would be good for the song. Something we take for granted living here is how beautiful it is. People could kind of dig it in ways we forget. It fits the vibe of the song.

PST: Can you give me a list of some of your favorite albums? They can be California albums or just other albums of your choosing.


Creedence Clearwater Revival

Green River









Something I’ve been listening to recently is the Grateful Dead Aoxomoxoa. I can’t call myself a Deadhead, but I’m probably the only Grateful Dead fan in the band. The reason it’s called that is it’s a palindrome the artist (Rick Griffin) they got for the album art created, and it worked well with what they did for the art. It's probably my favorite studio album of theirs.







Dave Brubeck

Time Out









Jefferson AIrplane

Surrealistic Pillow







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Cool Ghouls (8), San Francisco (385), Garage Rock (23), Psych Rock (4), Creedence Clearwater Revival (4), Grateful Dead (20), Dave Brubeck (5), Jefferson Airplane (3)