by Joel Klaverkamp
Ghost Twin released their newest album, Love Songs for End Times, on Friday, June 4th via Artoffact Records. Their first single and video, “Pet Cemetery,” is a real step up the magical ladder for this local heartwarming duo. The sound is dialed in and focused. It’s powerful and dark, mixing with quirky and sad lyrics. Each song works perfectly with the rest as part of a bigger picture and the visuals are so tight. I had a chance to call them up on the video phone and have a chat about it so I took it.
Joel Klaverkamp: First question is the one that’s probably on everybody’s mind so I’m going to get it out of the way. When did you first learn how to levitate books and make them glow green, do you have to summon demons from the Netherworld for this and is that safe?
Karen Asmundson: (laughs) wow
JK: Straight to the chase.
KA: I’d say that I borrowed magical powers inherent in BJ Verot. He’s the one with the real magic.
JK: He’s the person that directed the video?
KA: Yes he is.
JK: It’s very cool, it’s kind of creepy and gives me the Ghost Twin vibe for sure.
KA: Yeah he totally got it.
JK: Clearly. All right with that one out of the way let’s do backstory time. How did you guys meet and what are your different backgrounds?
Jaimz Asmundson: Oh God. (both laugh)
KA: What do you remember, Jaimz? Dust off the old brain cells.
JA: Yeah we met at Wellingtons at the Goth Night which we’re totally dating ourselves saying that.
KA: because it’s been closed for a good 15 years.
JK: I was there.
JA: We had mutual friends and it was the time of mp3.com and I had the internet since I was like 12, I was a big nerd about computers and technology and was pretty excited about this new thing, the internet and Karen didn’t know anything about it.
KA: yeah I had recently discovered email.
JA: A friend introduced me to Karen as someone who could help make an mp3.com profile page for her band.
JK: Cool, what was the band at the time?
KA: It was called Querkus.
JK: Oh yeah, I remember Querkus.
JA: Then we just started hanging out, and hanging out more.
KA: Then I invited you out for a date to see Jello Biafra.
JA: And the reason for that was you wanted to make sure I wasn’t some… KA: Some kind of right wing asshole?
JA: Which I’m not.
KA: No, he’s not. He passed the test.
JK: He passed the vibe check with Jello Biafra. So what’s it like being Winnipeg’s coolest celebrity couple then?
KA: (both laugh) I don’t know you can ask them, whoever they are.
JA: Yeah, that’s definitely not us.
JK: OK, next question. You both seem to have dedicated yourselves to a unique and well defined aesthetic. How do you describe what you do when normies ask?
JA: We played a show in Brandon, and there were a bunch of dudebros there, we thought they hated us but they loved it. They bought a bunch of stuff and one of them compared us to a mix between The Cranberries and Nine Inch Nails.
JK: Wow that’s actually not bad.
KA: Those would be other artists that everyone would know about. If someone at my work asks I usually say it’s electronic pop music but it’s a little bit scary as if it was written for only Halloween and then they’re like oh ok I can kind of imagine what that would be like.
JK: That’s also a pretty accurate description, that works. And if you do say The Cranberries and Nine Inch Nails and you’re talking to a younger person there’s still a very good chance they might not know who that is.
So your musical background Karen, I understand, you have an education in music, is that right?
KA: Somewhat yeah, I don’t have a degree or anything but I took Royal Conservatory music lessons for a very long number of years, both piano and voice. Actually I was taking them right up to pandemic time but my teacher had to shut down. I tried doing Zoom lessons but it didn’t agree with me unfortunately.
JK: And I guess Jaimz, you’ve got a lot of experience with the video programming part of the show that Ghost Twin does?
JA: Yeah I think all the experience I have musically is stuff Karen has taught me over the years. Just from being a nerd, I started using different music software. My dad first got me a computer when I was 14, I just started using the Windows sound recorder and slowing things down and you could paste things in there, and then I found some freeware and I’ve just been playing around with this stuff. I’m still kind of learning from Karen what chords are.
KA: A common question is “I’ve got these chords, are there any other chords that would go well with them?” so I’ll help him with those kinds of things and then Jaimz is brilliant with sound design and production so I will write something complicated and clunky with bad sounds and get that to Jaimz and he’ll be oh boy, all right, I’ll make this into something but it might take a while.
JK: That carries into the next question, which is not really a question, but just maybe talk about the writing process and the recording process for this record.
JA: We didn’t mix the record, we got this person named Valentin Huchon to do it. He worked with this other artist Das Mörtal that Karen sang guest vocals on one of his songs and we just liked that sound and we thought this guy just really gets this sound and would do a really bang up job with mixing this record.
KA: He helped take it a few steps more into that world than we’re able to produce ourselves.
JA: I have an Access Virus TI 2 that I found at a ridiculously low price in Toronto.
KA: You screamed like a 6 year old girl.
JA: I was so excited, it was half the price but I still tried to Winnipeg style haggle them “would you take 200 dollars less?” And they were like “no, you’re already getting a deal!”
JK: What is a song you’ve always wanted Ghost Twin to cover?
JA: We talk about this all the time.
KA: We have very polar opposite ideas of what would be a good song.
JA: We went on tour with this band NITE from Texas in 2019 and they had a cover of Sweet Dreams and I was l though Oh, this is a really good idea to do a cover because if you have a style of music that’s really hard to classify for people, if they hear that they can clearly associate it and be like “oh, so they’re like this but different in this other way.”
KA: But we just can’t make a decision. We’re just going to have to use one that’s important to us and do two covers that way everyone’s happy. It’s just a lot of work. Actually we have a surprise cover, possibly debuting later this year but it’s not like a normal cover at all, it’s pretty bizzaro.
JK: What would be one of your picks Karen?
KA: I like the idea of covering songs that are super well known to the point of being annoying and then reproducing them to make them really interesting. I want to do some late 90s or early 2000s dance pop.
JA: Like what?
KA: I wanted to do that really annoying one from Night at the Roxbury.
JA: (sings) What is Love? Baby don’t hurt me.
KA: I want to do that song because I think it would really confuse people but it’d be a lot of fun.
JK: I can hear it, I think it’d be good.
JA: There’s actually one song I was trying to cover and it went horribly wrong. It was the new theme to the remake of Suspiria that Thom Yorke wrote. I almost did the whole thing and then I played it for Karen and then I realized this is a bad idea, I shouldn’t do this.
JK: If Ghost Twin was one of those 80s cartoon characters that had a tagline, what would that tagline be?
(long uncomfortable silence)
JA: Like the bad guys in the show or the good guys?
JK: Whatever you want.
JA: One time I had this dream. There was a talking bear that drove a car. He got really depressed and turned to drugs and became suicidal and ended up in a mental hospital and his girlfriend came to visit him and it was Karen and I was the bear and I still had my car but they had put it out of commission so I could just pretend I was driving it and when I would go to drive it I would go “ZIPPITY DO!”
KA: Let’s just go with that.
JK: That far exceeded my expectations, that was a tough question and you absolutely nailed it. Next question, if hypothetically speaking, Hamlet is right and nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so, what has been a good thing about the pandemic for you?
KA: Spending time with the dog.
JA: I don’t think she’s ever been happier because I’ve been working at home pretty much every single day.
JK: This will be remembered as the golden year for dogs.
JA: Every pet is just ecstatic right now about the situation. I’ve definitely developed a language with her which is kind of becoming bizarre because I know what she’s thinking all the time, I know what she wants.
KA: He knows all the small variances in dog language.
JA: So that’s one thing, I’ve learned to speak dog.
JK: It’s a bit of a head trip realizing dogs understand language pretty well they just can’t form words.
KA: It’s more like psychic prompts.
JK: So you have a telepathic connection with the dog.
KA: I think I found that I care a lot less about stuff. Before I would think maybe I should buy a new shirt because my clothes are not looking so good but now I really don’t care, why do I need anything?
JK: Consumerism all around has gone down, people just don’t spend like they used to. I know I don’t, I don’t leave the house so what am I going to spend money on?
JA: I think I realized how precious time is too, getting stuck in this loop and endless cycle of 9 to 5 and wishing my time away, wishing it was the weekend. It sounds cheesy but every moment is precious and I’ve found myself really analyzing everything like “why am I doing this certain thing that doesn’t make me happy and just going along with it? I have the power to change that situation or just remove myself from it completely.”
JK: It will be interesting to see if that takes hold on a societal level because everybody is getting more reflective about what they value from all of the increased isolation. Coming out of this maybe that will be a positive thing who knows.
KA: There’s potential for lots of positives about it. The way things were kind of going in 2019 it felt out of control before the pandemic happened.
JK: That’s true. How do you feel doing what you do being Winnipeg based? Winnipeg has big enough population to have a couple of thriving scenes like an earnest indie pop rock scene and a punk and hardcore scene and then an “other” scene for everything else.
JA: We don’t really know any different. We’ve both lived here most of our lives. It has its advantages and disadvantages. There’s no-one doing what we’re doing so we’re unique in that way and if we were in a bigger city there might be more people doing similar type things and we may get lost in the shuffle I don’t know. It’s definitely hard to put on a show when there are only 2 or 3 other bands that are complementary but then it opens up more opportunities to play with bands that sound nothing like us.
KA: That’s kind of a Winnipeg thing too to have a multi band night where they don’t all sound the same and that’s ok.
JA: The nice thing about that is people’s musical tastes are quite varied, they’re not into just one sound and here it’s not possible to be into just one sound because you’d be watching the same 3 bands over and over again.
JK: What part of the world do you think understands Ghost Twin the best?
JK: I did not expect that.
KA: We’ve had really interesting shows all over Canada and the US you never really know where it’s going to connect. There’s people who are into it everywhere you go as long as we’re smart enough to reach out to them so they know that we’re coming to their town.
JK: Now I miss touring. Alright last question, what are your post pandemic hopes and dreams for this new album?
KA: We definitely want to get back out on the road. We’re not sure when we’ll be able to do that exactly just yet. We’re hearing that just because no one has been touring for at least a year now virtually the hope and dream of possibly touring in spring 2022 may not happen because there’s so many tours being booked for that time venues are just going to be slammed. Not really sure when we’ll be able to do that again but as soon as it seems feasible we’re definitely there.
JA: Yeah there’s like 4 times as many bands wanting to tour at the same time now and I don’t know how many venues have shut down so there’s less places to play and 4 times as many people wanting to play. We’ve always wanted to go to Europe and Mexico.
KA: We get a lot of sales and streams in South and Central America and in Europe so we have our sites on doing some touring there if possible. Hopefully they’ve all supported their venues in the off season trying to keep them alive. That’s something we’ve done, at possibly the detriment of our health, is eating a lot of Magic Bird.
JA: The one we really want to be there after this is the Handsome Daughter so we’ve been eating Magic Bird way too often.
KA: They’re probably wondering “how are you guys still alive?”
JK: And I bet the audiences are going to be super hungry.
KA: I hope so.
JK: I know I will be.
JA: At my work we were talking about that, are people going to be cautious or is it going to be a big party for the next decade? I hope it’s the big party.
JK: Me too.