As quick as a clap of thunder, life can change. Back in 2015, The Ghost Inside's world completely turned upside down when they were involved in a tragic accident while travelling between shows in support of their 2014 record, 'Dear Youth'. When their tour bus collided head-on with a tractor-trailer while headed west to Mesa, Arizona, the drivers of both vehicles died, while passengers suffered significant injuries.
"There was a good while after the accident where I was like, 'Dude I'm done with this - I don't want to do this anymore'," vocalist Jonathan Vigil admits. "I don't want to put myself at risk. I don't want to put other guys at risk again."
This fear was more than understandable. Life's uncertainties are rife enough, let alone having to get through the physical and emotional trauma of an accident completely out of your control. But, being The Ghost Inside, a band who profess to be purveyors of "positive, big one-liners," the weight of those previously penned words had helped their fans, and now it was time for the fans to help them.
"Every single day on social media we'd get these messages, these really kind sentiments about what our band was. We knew people liked our band before, but now they were showing [us] the hope we gave people," Vigil says.
"They were like, 'Look, you showed me to not give up… look what you guys said here, you can't give up'. It was just the thing we needed. Well, at least I needed. I can't speak for everybody else. It was the thing I needed to be like I do want to do this. I do want to prove all those things right, and I do really want to stand behind what we said. I want to feel those things again."
The Ghost Inside - in which Vigil is currently joined by lead guitarist Zach Johnson, drummer Andrew Tkaczyk, and rhythm guitarist Chris Davis (bassist Jim Riley very recently departed following the admittance that he has previously used racist slurs: "We are here to say that we as a band fully condemn racism and support the black community in the fight against systemic racism," reads the band's statement on the matter) - have always been the kind of band to stand for perseverance, but Vigil notes: "We didn't necessarily have to go through all the things that we said." This time, things were different. Laughing, he says: "Now we had to put our money where our mouth was."
Regardless of the accident, whatever new music was to come from The Ghost Inside was always going to be a new endeavour. After founding member, lead guitarist, and predominant composer Aaron Brooks left in late-2014, when it came to new songs, it was all a fresh process anyway.
With some material being bandied about before the accident, the groundwork was already in motion, but post-accident, the meaning changed and it found itself becoming an exorcising of everything - something that can be heard in the raw brutality, or soaring melodies, riding throughout the decisive onslaught.
"As dark as it is to say this, the accident showed us a lot, you know? Not just the downside of things, but it also gave us a sense of reinvigoration. It showed us what this could be, what this means and what this is," Vigil says.
Which is why it makes sense for their comeback album, of sorts, to be self-titled. After all, it's The Ghost Inside returning to be a more explosive, cathartic iteration than pre-accident, laying claim to themselves and the band they'd suffered for. "That wasn't the plan at all," Vigil counters. "We tossed around a couple of ideas of what to call the record and just nothing could do it justice. How do you make a word or a phrase encompass the last five years of our lives?"
The idea instantly made the most sense, and the resurrection of The Ghost Inside was to be eponymous. For a while, no one was sure what the future for The Ghost Inside looked like, in fact, they still don't, but they "have clarity now that we didn't have before."
In times of extreme stress, coming out the other side relinquishes a need to hold back. If everything can be taken away so quickly, then why not just let your inhibitions run wild?
"There were times where we were exploring things, and exploring certain ideas, and we were just like, is this too much?" Vigil explains. "And then we just decided to go with what we were feeling, just exploring these ideas, topics and feelings that we didn't really have in the past.
"This record was huge for me, like just to get out all the feelings from the entire gamut of emotions," he breathes deep. "I feel like we put it all out there, and it's, you know, it's done so much for me just having this record being done."
It's helped evolve from those thoughts of never stepping foot into The Ghost Inside's camp again, with feelings of "I'm done, this almost crushed me - this nearly killed us", to "not only are we not done we've played a show: we've conquered that part. We're also doing new music - that's the opposite end. We went through it all, and I think that if it wasn't for this accident, we wouldn't have that kind of clarity."
Living in the wake of the tragedy is certainly not something they want to do forever. "I feel like [we've done that] for so long, you take little steps day in-day out to overcome it. I think, honestly the last part of it is just writing about it, getting it out and putting it behind us.
"We don't want to be reminded of this day in-day out - we live with the scars. We live with the emotions every single day. We've said our piece, we've put out our record to deal with it and the future is wide open. We have a newfound clarity on everything."
Even though the band played a celebratory comeback show at The Shrine in LA last year, the cards for lengthy tours are understandably, truly off the table. Instead, they want to focus on doing more one-off shows - proper events. The band is now based around the ethos of celebrating and holding themselves, and what they've been through close to their hearts.
So, as The Ghost Inside gear up for a year they were never sure they'd see again, even before the pandemic laid waste to immediate plans, if anything can be learned from their journey over the past few years, it's that we will all get there. Things might be different, but the heart will still beat the same, no matter how hard life comes swinging at us.
Taken from the July issue of Upset. The Ghost Inside's self-titled album is out now.
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