INDIE/FOLK band Ghost Trains may be headed up by Stoke-on-Trent musician Tim Ellis, but their popularity transcends Staffordshire — and even the UK.
As I meet with the band; made up of Tim on vocals, guitar and bass, Alex Dee on lead guitar, and Jack McCarthy on percussion — they are set to embark on a European tour the next day.
The growing success of the band is well overdue. Tim played in various indie bands throughout the 90s and was even signed to a label — a contract which unfortunately fell through. Their current Russian manager secured a recording contract with a German record label.
“It was more difficult in the late 90s to get anywhere doing your own stuff, it seems better now; I think people are more willing to give you a chance,” says Tim. “The internet’s helped in an amazing way in getting us known – we’ve even got fans in an underground music club in Iran!”
“When we go abroad it can be massively different to playing here. When we played in Russia it was like we were the Beatles! We were on TV and radio and had to leave out the back door a few times — it was quite crazy really! We’re well received abroad, I think they appreciate that you’ve gone over there to play for them.”
“Ghost Trains seem to be popular in countries where Eurovision is popular!” says Alex. “Perhaps we should do Eurovision!” laughs Tim. The band’s grateful bemusement at their success in overseas countries has led to them playing intimate gigs in fans’ living rooms all over Europe.
“I think in terms of the experience that those audience members take away — it’s a more memorable thing and they then feel more personally invested in the future of the band,” says Alex.
“There’s no real barrier,” agrees Jack.
Despite this, the band are keen to replicate this success back at home by playing more locally and focusing on festivals.
Back at home, they are finding themselves in the lap of support from music critics such as Andy Hughes from Acoustic magazine and broadcasters such as BBC Introducing’s Tom Robinson.
“The fans matter most but it’s always nice when you’ve got critics raving about you. I think it makes potential fans give you a chance so it is really important to have people like that behind you,” says Tim. They’re currently focusing on promoting a best of CD; a compilation of their highlights from the last four albums.
Throughout the recording of these albums, the line up of the band has changed several times, but the present incarnation of Ghost Trains is, Tim insists, the best ever.
After needing a new percussionist, Tim called upon a friend who suggested Jack. Jack then introduced Tim to Alex and the current line-up was born.
Jack and Alex were both already professional musicians and met on the gig circuit. Both started playing at a young age and grew up on rock and grunge music. After studying and playing more music, their tastes soon diversified into jazz and Latin American music.
Tim’s favourite albums growing up came from The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and ABBA and as a teenager he entered a psychobilly phase before joining various indie bands.
This wide range of influences from all members is, the band agrees, a good thing.
“Tim writes the material but he’s quite collaborative” says Alex.
Tim’s classic approach to song-writing can be heard in their songs – with a definite hint of classic British bands such as The Beatles and The Kinks coming through in their sound.
Wherever their sound takes them next, it certainly looks as if Ghost Trains are on the right tracks.For a full length video version of the interview, watch the clip below.
We were also lucky enough to be treated to some exclusive live sessions from the band, which we will be posting on the website over the next few weeks. Here is the first one- of their popular song 'Michael Caine'.
For more information, head to: ghosttrains.net.