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The Alpine Ghost finding life in dynamic sound

Courtesy of Chelsey Cassady

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This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every Thursday.

A live band that sounds just like the its album becomes stale and trite.

Live shows are an opportunity for experimentation and The Alpine Ghost leaves this door propped open at all times, not just for live performances.

The members of The Alpine Ghost might describe their genre as “indie-jazz rock,” but they also said that doesn’t mean much.

The Alpine Ghost is made up of four former or current Ohio State jazz students: saxophonist Jack Menkedick, guitarist Andrew Sais, bassist and fourth-year in jazz studies Alex Jewell, and Brandon Paul, a second-year graduate student in speech and hearing science. Just more than a year ago, the ensemble came together to perform for a wedding set in a wooded area. The environment of their first gig and the way the group’s music is constantly changing inspired the band’s name.

“These songs that we perform at a given time are snapshots, they’re silhouettes, they’re shadows of the actual entity or creature that we think we are shaping with some sort of music,” Paul said.

“It’s not as mystic as that sounds, but the idea is the shadow of something that is changing,” Menkedick said.

The band released a new EP on Jan. 1, “Silhouettes.” The EP includes three new songs and two new versions of their older songs.

Menkedick said it has been a very long process.

“When you hear one of our songs, you’re going to hear that version, and we’re constantly making changes to them,” Menkedick said. “So the next time you hear any set song of ours, it’s probably going to have a different feel in the bridge or a different section in general. … It’s really based in improvisation. We’re all jazz majors so we’re open to change.”

“We were going to call it ‘Transformers,’ but I guess that’s copyrighted or something,” Sais said.

Though the group’s explanations of the band name and album title sound a bit heavy, they pride themselves on their playful interaction on stage.

“We do a lot of different stuff, but it still has that same feel of it’s the same band doing it,” Sais said.

The band writes and rewrites songs together, and they are often all involved.

“It’s a really good dynamic because we’re all super comfortable saying stuff sucks, frankly,” Menkedick said.

One reason the band’s songs change so frequently is because someone wants to make it better. Sometimes, it just takes a comment like, “We need a good opener,” to get the gears of the Ghost rolling.

“It’s actually like the most collaborative I’ve ever done of anything because our total song writing process,” Sais said. “We don’t have a set song-writing process.”

Menkedick said some of the songs have taken years to craft.

Though their first performance as The Alpine Ghost was at a wedding, the band has played many venues in the Columbus area.

Paul said venues such as Scarlet and Grey Cafe are great for new musicians.

“Dude, God bless Scarlet and Grey,” Menkedick said. “Because sometimes people down on it or whatever, but it’s such a useful tool for musicians. I love them, honestly.”

Improvisation is one of the tenets of the band’s music and that might set them apart from other bands in the community.

“What we do is a little bit more outside what’s normal and what’s really popular in the Columbus music scene right now,” Sais said.

Because the band tends to experiment with different styles and sounds, The Alpine Ghost doesn’t have trouble fitting more than one mold.

“It’s fun because our band within the Columbus music scene can kind of hop around because we have all of those different influences, a lot from the Columbus music scene, frankly,” Menkedick said.

Each venue affects the bands’ personality.

“We treat our songs very differently in different venues,” Paul said. “If … it’s smaller, we have a completely different style and approach to our songs as opposed to when we’re miked to hell.

Every time you see us depending on what venue it is, we’re going to tailor it to what works best for us to perform.”

Overall, the foursome said it prefers the intimacy of smaller venues.

“I think our on-stage atmosphere, though, is definitely more together on the smaller venues,” Jewell said.

When the venues are smaller, the crowd gets “an under-the-hood look,” Paul said.

This dynamic is less present in larger locations.

“Very small venues, you get to see us interact,” Paul said. “There’s a lot of back and forth that’s not rehearsed. There’s a lot of making fun of each other. There’s a lot of assaulting each other in fun ways. It’s more than involved in the sounds that we’re playing. There’s an involvement in how we’re interacting on stage and when you can see that, when you can hear that we’re talking during a section just to know where we’re going. It adds a different dynamic.”

Hearing the band live is better than listening to their recordings, Jewell said.

“If someone’s never heard us before, I think that they should hear us live as opposed to just listening to the CD,” Jewell said.

Though improvisation is part of The Alpine Ghost’s essence, the songs the band plays and the way it plays them are thought out.

“You’re never feeling like people are just throwing this down,” Menkedick said.

The Alpine Ghost is scheduled to perform alongside Miracles of Modern Science 9 p.m. March 7 at the Brother’s Drake Meadery. Admission is free.

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