FOR THE BLOCK MAGAZINE
Static on the Wire, by Holy Ghost!, is arguably one of the best combinations of deep funk, ferocious percussion and pillow-talk lyricism sure to make the most uptight of British nannies drop their panties. Loaded with satin romance driven by fat, bass-heavy disco beats, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, the mortal beings behind the music, have deep sensibilities lining their hearts. The electronic duo, hailing from Brooklyn, could easily be described as the epitome of the American dream—from two kids running amok in the streets of New York to two glowing beacons of creative prosperity.
Frankel and Millhiser met at an elementary in Manhattan, and instantly became friends. “I don’t remember exactly the first time we met, although it was in the second grade. I suspect we met somewhere in the hallway,” Millhiser says, before taking a long drag on his American Spirit cigarette. He’s quick to correct the assumption that him and Frankel were partners in juvenile tomfoolery. “We were pretty good kids. Everybody thinks it’s so crazy we grew up there, but none of my friends did crazy drugs or got pregnant or anything. We had so little time to get bored or get into trouble. I think boredom breeds serious trouble.”
Twenty minutes later, singer Frankel tells a slightly more familiar story of parental tough love. Raised in a strict Jewish household, Frankel’s early life set the bar for high expectations. “Our parents didn’t tolerate any bullshit. Especially from me as their first kid. When I got to high school I did my share of NYC hooligan antics, but growing up, school was definitely important.”
Partly planned, and partly accidental, Frankel’s conversation angled itself more and more like a therapy session. While much of their music is dirty, suggestive and infectious on the dance floor, the duo is incredibly grounded, despite having achieved huge successes early in life. With doting parents, the band’s choice to be professional musicians was not always the easiest family conversation.
“When I was in another band with Nick, we got a record deal when we were 17 years old, with Capitol Records,” Frankel says. “We got the deal during senior year, and I was like “Fuck college!” but my parents were like “What? We just spent 17 years of private school tuition for you to be in a band?” So they were a little skeptical at first, for sure.”
Now that Frankel and Millhiser have achieved critical acclaim from all over the world, their parents have mellowed out. Both of their parents come out to all their shows in New York, and even dance up storms at their DJ sets. “Now they say they supported us the whole time, that being musicians was their idea!” Frankel laughs, flicking the ashen embers off his preferred Camel brand.
Much of the Holy Ghost! sound comes from pure, unadulterated production. Abstaining from the digital-heavy equipment that has often become the recording norm, the electro group’s silken disco sound is instrumentally authentic. Millhiser even abstains from listening to music on headphones. “I hate the way modern rock records are recorded,” he says. “Everything is super compressed, every take is edited to perfection, and everything is autotuned. Everyone knows autotune and it’s like everything’s gotta be perfectly on key. To me, it sounds horrendous and it just sucks all the fun and spontenaiety out of it.”