Concert preview: TV Ghost tries to balance artistic ambition with economic realities

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From the November 28, 2013 edition

TV Ghost frontman Tim Gick, like many his age, is struggling to balance the idealism of youth with the harsher economic realities that settle in as one enters into his mid-20s.

“I’m getting to an age where money is a big issue, and all of us are really struggling,” said Gick, 26, who joins his bandmates for a show at Kobo on Tuesday, Dec. 3. “It’s a tricky balance, and I go back and forth. What is success? Is it being stable and having money to take care of yourself and people around you? Or is it when you reach some deeper understanding with yourself and with existence?

“Those two ideals — the pursuit of business and finance and the pursuit of art — conflict for sure. Sometimes they can meet on total freak accident and it’s great, but most of the time they’re in constant tension with one another.”

These tensions can be heard all over the band’s third full-length album, Disconnect, a moody, atmospheric monster that’s at once more accessible (Gick said the band entered the studio determined to incorporate more immediate pop melodies) and more exploratory than anything in its increasingly diverse catalog. “Sirens,” for one, opens with a probing guitar riff and a synthetic ping that mimics a submarine’s sonar combing the murky depths, gradually coalescing into a shimmering pop tune reminiscent of Echo & the Bunnymen at its most graceful.

But while the music on Disconnect could, at times, be described as pretty — one could almost imagine Winona Ryder’s “Beetlejuice” character slow dancing to portions of this at her prom — a tension runs just beneath the surface. Take “Sirens,” where Gick, his voice as steady and measured as a crisis negotiator, ruminates on the ways human beings are so easily distracted from asking life’s bigger questions.

“A big part of what first drew us together [in high school in Lafayette, Indiana] was none of us really fit into the whole way society tries to have people structure their lives or their thoughts,” the singer said. “You have religion, which answers the hard questions for you and gives you this sort of comfort in knowing when you die you’re going to keep living on and things will be perfect.

“It’s this structure and this system you’re supposed to fit into where you go to high school, and then after you graduate you go to college and get married and get a job and work the rest of your life. It’s a structure that keeps you from asking those hard questions, and that’s one thing we’ve always rebelled against.”

Gick, who was born in Lafayette and raised by an electrician father and a mother who worked various odd jobs, received his introduction to music listening to his grandmother play the organ regularly while growing up. It wasn’t until he encountered Nirvana’s Nevermind at the age of 12, however, that he first decided to pick up an electric guitar and start making music on his own.

“I remember listening to Nirvana and telling my brother, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be in a band like this,’” he said. “I begged my parents for a guitar that Christmas … and it was pretty much over after that.”

Greg The Mayor photo