A ghost to get down with

Local jam-band Haunted House entrances more than it terrifies.

Bass player Jon Davis warms up late Saturday night before his band Haunted House played at the Turf club.

Erin Westover

Bass player Jon Davis warms up late Saturday night before his band Haunted House played at the Turf club.

by Stephanie Nusser

Imagine swimming through uncharted waters to a distant, unknown island and, finally, crawling through a massive jungle that seems to have no end. That is the feeling summoned from within when listening to Haunted House.

With Mike Watton‘s intense key-banging and reverberated vocals, Jon Davis constantly changing and elaborating his bass lines and Adam Patterson’s crazy drumming that requires him to frequently stand up, Haunted House is quite the musical experience.

Watton started Haunted House in 2003 as a solo project. Davis and Cole Claerhout joined in 2005, and over the past seven years various drummers have played with the band — including Freddy Votel from Skoal Kodiak, Karl TeBeest from Sarah Johnson and Dosh and Colin Johnson from Vampire Hands. With years of Watton’s own musical talent and a variety of brilliant musicians backing him, Haunted House has established a strong presence on stage and in their albums.

Influenced by The Germs and compared to, strangely enough, everyone from Enya, Andrew W.K., Van Halen and Modest Mouse, Haunted House can (perhaps more precisely) be described as an experimental jam-band from outer space.

“[Watton] always sounds like Ian Curtis, but kind of harder to understand,” said Davis.

Haunted House has released four albums to date with a fifth in the works, though no release date has been set as of yet.

Each album has its own sound because of the rotating musical lineup. Although each is diverse, there is a consistency throughout the entire collection.

“We were definitely a different band. Obviously, [Watton’s] solo stuff was one thing and ‘Upper Class Red White Living’ was a totally different band where the dude who played guitar now plays drums and it was just the three of us,” Davis said. “Then we brought in a bunch of drummers.”

With no intermission between the songs, parts of the set are completely improvised.

“We went through a phase where we didn’t really play songs at all for awhile,” Davis said. “And now we have all these songs that we kind of learned to mix, improvising in with the songs.”

At the end of their set Sept. 18 at the Turf Club all hell broke loose.

Davis and Patterson improvised nonstop until Davis appeared to be having some sort of mild seizure on the floor. While Davis rolled around, Patterson’s drum kit went from a six-piece to a four-piece as his cymbals were intentionally knocked over.

He was reduced to using only his fists, because he threw his drumsticks to the side. When the music finally stopped, Davis was lying limp on the floor atop his bass and Patterson was slowly walking away from his kit. He was now down to just a single tom, limply tapping on that lowly drum. The audience didn’t know if this was a musical act turned into a comedy or if they had entered a different dimension that lacked any connection to the real world.

Whatever the case, Haunted House inscribes in their listeners a state of wonder and mistrust in the world. Their previously unexplored world sounds much more habitable.