The first song on Caught a Ghost’s new album, “Human Nature,” opens with a dragging beat that sounds nothing like any standard percussion instrument. That’s because it isn’t. “There’s spoons and a saw blade and a deck of cards on that track,” says lead singer Jesse Nolan.
Nolan, the LA-based musician behind Caught a Ghost’s soul-based sound, was trying for something a little new and different. He says the goal was to create a sound everyone would enjoy. “What two things do people really love? They really love soul music and they really love ‘90s rap. Everybody who actually likes music likes those two things, so let’s see if we can get them to sit side by side,” says Nolan.
The result is a sound somehow both smooth and jaggedy. Nolan wails, mutters, then croons across the whole album, backed periodically by actress Tessa Thompson, who the TV-loving music fan might recognize from her stint on “Veronica Mars” or the upcoming film, “Dear White People.”
“Human Nature” mixes Nolan’s soul influences with a heavy degree of sampling, which would be where the ‘90s rap side of the equation comes in.
“What I think is so cool about sampling is that you can capture that human element in really small pieces. You’re almost like a collage artist hinting at little pieces of work that in and of themselves have their own life,” says Nolan, who grew up listening to Dr. Dre, but also the blues and soul music his father loved.
“He was always sort of force-feeding me records for my birthday and stuff,” Nolan says with a laugh. While the sound may not have been a hit with the young Nolan right away, he eventually found himself coming back to it.
What makes someone who grew up in the ‘90s so interested in such an old sound? “It’s really about kind of freeing up your voice to deliver certain emotions,” Nolan says, calling the production of the album “very much a process of self redefinition.”
That said, Nolan may be considering a more collaborative effort next time through. “Collaborating is, I think, more energizing and fun than working by yourself like a mad scientist for hours and hours,” he says.
If you go:
Brighton Music Hall
158 Brighton Ave, Allston
127 E 23rd St, New York