Straight From the Ghost’s Mouth

If you go to a show in the Twin Cities, this St. Paul band is likely to be on the bill — whether you like it or not.

Local quartet Ghostmouth has made a name for themselves by playing impromptu shows outside of Twin Cities venues. They're playing--on stage--at the Triple Rock Social Club Thursday night.

Marisa Wojcik

Local quartet Ghostmouth has made a name for themselves by playing impromptu shows outside of Twin Cities venues. They’re playing–on stage–at the Triple Rock Social Club Thursday night.

Tony

Maybe you’ve seen them: four hip-looking young men playing jangly pop-punk out of five-watt amps and makeshift PAs. They’re usually up against the wall outside of First Avenue or under an awning at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium. They’ll play for about an hour, sell a few CDs and disappear before any noise complaints start coming in. This is Ghostmouth, and they’re playing some of the biggest bills in the Twin Cities — with or without anyone’s permission.

The quartet met at McNally Smith College of Music a couple of years ago but didn’t start performing under the Ghostmouth moniker until last fall. Vocalist Sean Chaucer was impatient to get in front of an audience.

“You have to play the [7th Street] Entry for a long time and if you’re lucky, after a long time, they’ll start asking you to open in the Mainroom,” Chaucer said. “I thought, ‘[expletive] that. Why wait for a venue to invite us?’”

They originally thought about sneaking ukuleles into a Minnesota Timberwolves games by way of self-promotion but eventually devised a set up to better replicate the jangly progressive punk sound of their self-released debut, “Ghost Mouth.”

Drummer Shawn Mouacheupao plays with a sideways floor tom, a crash cymbal and a piccolo snare. Zack Warpinski, Donovan Seaberg and Sean Chaucer plug their guitars and bass into battery-powered amplifiers, and Chaucer sings into a megaphone taped to a microphone stand.

The band played their first impromptu show as Ghostmouth outside of Roy Wilkins Auditorium after The Flaming Lips show and again a few days later in the rain after Arcade Fire, but things didn’t really take off until last January, when Ghostmouth performed after the Bright Eyes show at First Avenue.

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus came out to watch, a video of the performance circulated on Vimeo and a few weeks later, the group started booking gigs around the Twin Cities — on stage this time.

“First Ave. has been really cool. Their staff loves it, and they try to find better spots for us to play. Eli [Flasher, in charge of booking for the 7th Street Entry] saw us outside of TV On The Radio, and since then, he’s asked us to play on a bunch of bills at the Entry,” Chaucer said.

In the last year, Ghostmouth has played more than 30 portable shows, including two outside of the Pitchfork Music Festival and several more outside of arenas over the summer, piling all of their equipment into Chaucer’s two-door Honda Civic and following the Black Keys on tour.

Ghostmouth’s website lists these shows as a “tour with the Black Keys” and makes no distinction between, for instance, the band’s portable show at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and their booked show at the Entry in November.

“It’s a show either way,” Warpinski said.

“We definitely like the confusion,” Chaucer said. “My hope is that they watch a video, realize that’s what we’re doing and think ‘Oh, that’s kind of clever.’”

The guys in Ghostmouth acknowledge that their guerilla tactics could be seen as obnoxious but aren’t worried.

“We’re courteous about it; we wait until the band is done. If someone asked us to stop, we’d stop,” Chaucer said. “We’re not trying to get anyone in trouble or make things difficult for venues. I’ve been surprised at the good response. I keep assuming someone’s going to kick us out, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Ghostmouth is about to release a new EP, “Toast Mouth,” and is in the process of writing and recording a second full-length. The new album takes on a darker, post-rock-influenced sound. The band isn’t concerned with performing these new tracks in their portable shows, which they say is what keeps them from crossing over into gimmicky territory.

“We don’t make our music so we can play portable. When we’re working on a song I’m not trying to figure out how I’m going to do it portable,” Mouacheupao said.

But the band points to their battery-powered performances as the catalyst for their success in the last year.

“Other bands have told us that we came out of nowhere,” Chaucer said. “We played outside a Flaming Lips show and less than a year later, we’re playing Soundtown, which they headlined.”

No matter what 2012 holds, the guys in Ghostmouth hope to continue playing their impromptu shows around the Twin Cities.

“I love playing outdoors,” Chaucer said. “It’s so different. You have that fear. Maybe the cops will come. Your body can sense that you’re doing something strange.”