BANDED and Ghost Box Orchestra: an interview with Nazli Rex

About Ghost Box Orchestra:

Ghost Box Orchestra is a psychedelic, mainly instrumental, Boston-based band who infuse western soundtracks with a desert rock and surf reverb tinge. Their songs speak in subtle whispers and fuzz-freaked panoramas full of stomping rhythms and hazy shoegazey guitar slabs.

Involvement with BANDED and PULSE: 

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Their epic composition, Desert Lights, has been featured in three exclusive project-based composition lesson plans on PULSE. As the film, BANDED, captures their creative approach to designing an intense auditory aroma, students and teachers gain an understanding that musical inspiration transpires through no fixed medium.

Interview:

We had the opportunity to chat with Nazli Rex, keyboardist and percussionist of GBO, about her musical background and experience with the band.

PULSE: What was your musical training like growing up? Influences? Role models?

Nazli Rex: I started piano lessons in second grade. Apparently my mom heard me banging on the piano (my older sister was taking lessons at the time) and wanted to hear something more musical. In fifth grade I picked up the trumpet and then in 10th grade I started learning the guitar. In high school, I was in marching band, concert band, and jazz band, but I listened to everything from the Beatles, to grunge, to swing, to classical, and everything in between. I equally loved Nirvana, Bille Holiday, Debussy, and Led Zeppelin. Role models for me were (as cheesy as it sounds) my band leaders. They lead the show and made it fun.

PULSE: How did the band start and how did members come together?

NR: Jeremy (lead guitar and vocalist) wrote the majority of our songs by himself in the beginning. He approached me after hearing that I was looking for a new project. It took a while to find all the right players. We auditioned several drummers before finding Marty. Chris (rhythm guitar) was an acquaintance of Jeremy’s and our original bass player was also a friend of a friend. Once we all got together, it gelled. Since then, our music was derived either from jam sessions or from one member bringing in a riff that led the song in the direction it needed to go.

PULSE: How did the name “Ghost Box Orchestra” come about?

NR: Jeremy wanted to use the idea of a ghost box in our name. Each band member brought a characteristic sound to the overall group and since, electronically, we were creating so many different sounds with our instruments, we added orchestra. To me, we were bringing together sounds beyond the traditional timbres of our instruments to communicate.

PULSE: What are some positive and negative factors while striving to produce a musical product with other creative musicians? 

NR: I personally like to write music collaboratively. I am not a songwriter. Every once in a while, I come up with a little melodic line, but I don’t know how to develop it. When you’re in a group of people with all different songwriting skills, your ideas can take shape progressively. It may not always go in the direction you expect, but since I deeply loved the aesthetic of my friends’ music with whom I played, I was happy with the result.

PULSE: During the BANDED film, you composed a song based on an image. What are some other sources of inspiration or, rather, conceptual techniques you all use while composing?

NR: Jam sessions and riffs or melodic lines helped to shape a lot of our music. Some songs were composed by an individual but then each member put their own take on their instrument’s part.

PULSE: I’ve noticed a member of the band has left since the filming of BANDED. How have new members redirected the overall band’s sound or collaboration, if any?

NR: It definitely changed the sound in subtle ways. Each person has their own set of influences and that in turn affected the band’s sound. Dennis is very much into post-rock and avant-garde jazz and a lot of our songs had uncommon structure during his time with us. Zac, our current bass player, listens to much heavier music, and brought a darker, grittier sound to the songs.

PULSE: What is next for GBO?

NR: Good question! No big plans currently.

You can check out the Ghost Box Orchestra’s website for music and upcoming events.

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