Locals Only: Ghost Shirt

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's a magical thing when the pieces come together just right and a band clicks. Branden Barnett waited for his chance, and his patience was rewarded with Ghost Shirt.

"I had been writing a lot of these songs for years," said Barnett, the singer-guitarist who spent years as a sideman in groups such as country-soul outfit The Shatters.

After The Shatters broke up two years ago, Barnett was too burned out on band stuff to do more than occasionally fill in on guitar for The Whiles. But eventually he got the itch to round up a lineup to play his long-gestating tunes.

"I wanted to select really close friends that I trusted and that I got along with really well," Barnett said. "Before, I've never had a band that wasn't haphazardly thrown together and forced to like each other."

Barnett patiently plucked players from a social circle that revolved around Grandview indie-rock hub The Treehouse, nabbing Judas Cow rhythm section Ryan Haye and David Murphy as well as Treehouse manager Phil Palma on guitar. Sam Kim, a classically trained violinist who had never played in a rock band before, rounded out the lineup.

Ghost Shirt played its first show last September and immediately went on a rampage, playing as many shows as possible around Columbus. They've kept up a steady pace, even as Palma recently exited due to commitments with The Treehouse.

From the beginning, it was clear this new endeavor was a step up from the players' previous projects. Barnett's bandmates bathed his dignified folk-rock tunes with widescreen grandeur, like Arcade Fire come back down to Earth. It's rough enough to appeal to the Americana crowd but sufficiently epic for fans of more majestic fare.

Among the band's earliest supporters were hard-touring Columbus roots-rockers Two Cow Garage. This week, Two Cow allowed Ghost Shirt to join them on tour for the new band's first shows out of town.

"It was handed to us on a golden paper plate," Murphy said.

The invite hinged on one condition, Haye explained: "Shane [Sweeney] made me promise that we would follow this up with another one."

First things first, though. Ghost Shirt will celebrate their return Saturday with a show at The Summit, where they'll release a four-song EP to preview their upcoming debut album. Barnett hopes the record will help build a buzz outside Columbus for something besides the abrasive "shitgaze" sounds that have won international attention in recent years.

"I just get so tired of Columbus being about the new movement of noisy nothingness," he said. "I think bands like us and The Whiles, we definitely feel like we're sort of bonded together. We write melodic pop songs that are interesting, and we're almost trying to move away from that as a unit. With the friends that we play with, everybody definitely says it out loud. We feel the connection with going back to writing good songs again."

Ghost Shirt

When: 10 p.m. Saturday, April 11

Where: The Summit, Campus