Out last Friday via Joyful Noise was the new album from the Chicago based duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, aka Ohmme. Called Fantasize Your Ghost, the album was the result of the pair spending more time on the road than in Chicago, and looking at the concept of home, as well as ideas about self and the future.
Whatever it was about though, Ohmme make this sort of wonky indie rock/pop, decorating in steering guitars and beautiful harmonies, taking as much from the likes of the B-52’s and Kate Bush as Sonic Youth as Abba and Motown. More than that though, they write killer tunes that stick in your mind, and require repeated listens. If you can find a record packed with more ideas than this one in 2020 then you’re a better person than us. In fact, you can find just about everything in there Selling candy has to be one of our favourite tracks of the year so far.
We spoke to Macie from the band, who told gave us the lowdown about all of the tracks. So strap yourselves in, press the button on the album link at the bottom and find out as you go about the whole record……
Flood Your Gut– This track is one of our favorites off the record! There are some textural moments that really make it- like the tonal percussion from Matt in the beginning, and Sima’s overtone plucking on the bridge. I love playing this chorus. It sounds like a medieval chant and that kind of thing gets me every time- it might be my deep love of Lord of the Rings or baroque music but either way I am very into it. We had the body/structure of the song going into the recording process, but the song didn’t feel fully realized until we recorded it in the large open space of the barn. It feels like it surrounds you- and really sets a tone that persists on the rest of the record which is why we chose it for track one.
Selling Candy– We were both really excited when we realized we had a song on the record with “hot dog” in the lyrics. The vocals in this song were really fun to record. We were really inspired by the Bulgarian State Television Choir and Abba- and wanted to create this sound that was in your face and explosive. Recording the basic tracks for this was a great time as well, we turned our amps up for this one and let it fall apart purposefully at the end. Our friend called this our “superhero” song and it really feels like that because I imagine a little kid running up and down the street with a cape whenever I’m listening to it. We wanted to capture that invincible childhood energy.
Ghost– This song was surprisingly difficult to complete. We had almost 5 or 6 different iterations of the chorus melody and lyrics before we settled on this one. The song was such a groover that we wanted to make sure it was constantly propelled forward, and I think the chorus is able to do that. Some of the lyrics were actually inspired by a series of thoughts and events we experienced at the beginning of our first tour for “Parts” back in 2018. “Out in the desert you buried your wine” – I have a pretty vivid memory of us camping in Marfa and running around the desert very late at night. I 100% reccomend hydrating if you decide to do that. The lyrics of this song were much more collaborative between the two of us and that makes it so much more satisfying to sing. The title of the record also comes from this song-
The Limit– The Limit started out as just a few bar chords strumming up and down the guitar neck. It didn’t seem right for the attitude of the song, so we added in a bass line that suddenly amplified everything. Vocally we were thinking a lot about Kate Bush and Prince while recording this one. I love how whisper-soft, yet intense and cutting they can be! We kept the arrangements pretty sparse throughout the song, because the chords move so fast and the vocal melody winds around everything. When I heard Sima play that guitar part on the chorus I think my brain exploded, it felt like the exact right thing to place there.
Spell It Out– We wanted this one to feel cyclical and never-ending. So many of these lyrics evoke specific sounds to me, so a lot of the background in and out is directly in response to the lyrical content. The violin part is entirely improvised except for the one “Hollywood String” moment during the bridge! We wanted that to pop out as the emotional peak of the song, and adding strings enabled us to make it a touch more dramatic.
Twitch– Twitch ended up in an entirely different place than we imagined! It feels much more “Cloudbusting”, and a lot less 90’s grunge which is what was going through our head when it was in its nascent stages. The narrative aspect of the lyrics is more apparent because of that. It’s the story of a small existential crisis, ending with the “character” watching their eye twitch in the mirror. I didn’t realize how much mirror imagery we used on this record until recently, and I think it all fits with the theme of inevitable change and passively or actively watching it unfold in front of you.
3 2 4 3– There was a really amazing/horrendous bridge on this main street in Chicago that my old apartment was right on top of. It was made of concrete, and chunks of it would fall off onto unsuspecting cars (I don’t think anyone got hurt). Eventually the city decided to tear it down because it was a safety hazard, but that meant 2 years of construction beginning at 6am and ending at 6pm which was when the 4am bar below us opened for business. There was no quiet for 2 years. Deciding to move out of that apartment was the catalyst for a lot of personal change in my life, and this song came out of that reckoning. I still have a giant piece of cement from that old bridge in my new apartment.
Some Kind of Calm– I love the idea of writing lullabies, there is something so beautiful about a piece of music that can help relax or quiet a restless mind. This song was intended to do that, and was originally written to calm myself down after learning some deeply troubling news. We recorded it at night to capture that special energy that only exists when the moon is out. Our hope for it was that it would feel like a warm blanket, and comfort whoever may need it.
Sturgeon Moon– We recorded this at night underneath one of August’s full moons, which was nicknamed the “Sturgeon Moon”. The inspiration for starting this band was born out of the improvised music scene in Chicago. Improvised music is something that is endlessly fascinating to us, and lives deep in the core of who we are as a band. We felt like the songs on this record were much more straightforward and pop-y, but many of the textures and arrangements drew from our experience in that world. It requires a lot of listening and a lot of trust, which thematically made sense on the record as well. This was definitely my favorite piece to record, I hope we can do some more recorded improvising in the future.
After All – We like to think of this one as our “goodbye” song. Putting it after Sturgeon Moon was a very conscious choice, because the contrast between them gives much more meaning. We felt like we needed to find the exact place for it in the context of the record or else it wouldn’t work. This arrangement was also kept small and intimate, because it is about that internal monologue within yourself. We always need to remind ourselves that we are allowed to take breaks when we need them. At the end of the day, taking emotional care of yourself first enables you to take better care of those around you. Ending on this note feels like it sums up the record conceptually, a goodbye tip of the hat at the end of a long journey.