Northwest Attitude

Local trio Coastal Ghost play heavy pop with a hint of Nirvana

Sometimes, Tucker Alley even scares his girlfriend with his lyrics.

“Weren’t you writing a song about drowning children?” she asks as Alley flips through his notebook. “It sounds really bad when I say it, but …”

He finds the song. It’s called “I Win” with the lyric: “Give me daughter, give me son, I want to drown them all.”

Alley, who was born in the tiny Washington County town of Bank and currently fronts Eugene’s Coastal Ghost, writes with what he calls a “Northwest attitude.” Inspired by Modest Mouse and especially Elliott Smith, he writes in such a way that “even our upbeat songs have that attitude of nine months of rain.”

“Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith, I think there’s a special reason they’re so popular around the Northwest,” Alley says. “I think people would appreciate our sound here for that reason.”

But the funny thing is: Coastal Ghost doesn’t sound all that much like either. The band is tighter than Mouse, rockier than Smith, and certainly a lot less depressing than either. They sound a bit more like early Nirvana — who, of course, is probably the most famous Northwest band of all time.

Don’t call Alley’s music “grunge,” though; he hates the term. “It’s a way to completely reduce a band and its dynamics into one word,” he explains. “Also, ‘grunge,’ it just sounds stupid.” 

He prefers “heavy pop” (“both in music and lyrical content”) as a pigeonhole. But he’d rather sell his band through good, old-fashioned music rather than through conforming to a preordained aesthetic. 

Since forming in January, the band’s developed a repertoire of more than 20 songs, many of which Alley premiered as a solo acoustic singer-songwriter before he started jamming with drummer Taylor Jones (also of Eugene bands Trucks Go Easy and Pancho + The Factory) and bassist Sam Aplin. 

Six of those songs made it to their debut EP, entitled Failures, which is due out Halloween on SoundCloud and Bandcamp — though physical copies will be available at any of the numerous gigs they’ve racked up around the Northwest since forming in January.

Failures was recorded at Roadrunner Studios in Eugene in barely six hours, mostly live — though Alley couldn’t resist going back to multi-track his vocals and get that “Elliott Smith, John Lennon doing-your-own-backing-vocals sound.” 

“I think it gives it that ‘ghost’ element,” Jones says.

The song that scared his girlfriend so much won’t be on it, alas — it might wind up on the full-length they plan on recording next, which is just a whisper on the wind as of right now. But there’s a song called “Failures,” and another one called “Piece of Freak,” so expect plenty of that Northwest attitude when they release it. ν

For more info, find Coastal Ghost on Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Facebook.