Founded and led by composer, arranger and producer Seth Applebaum, the New York-based psych rock/psych soul act Ghost Funk Orchestra initially began as a lo-fi recording project in 2014. And since their formation, the project has grown into an 10 member unit that has become a forceful and up-and-coming presence in the city’s psych rock and soul scenes as a result of unique sound that draws from salsa, surf rock, Afrobeat and several others.
Last year, the act released their full-length debut A Song for Paul last year. Conceived as a tribute for Seth Applebaum’s late grandfather Paul Anish, a figure, who who played an immense role in the Ghost Funk Orchestra’s founder and bandleader’s life. And although the song don’t address Paul Anish directly, the album’s creative direction were meant to convey what Anish’s presence felt like for Seth — a tough but kind, old-school, native New Yorker. For Applebaum, accurately capturing what his grandfather’s essence meant to him, forced him to expand the band’s arrangements and overall sound much further than anything he had done up to that point, including writing more comprehensive horn lines and working with a string section.
The New York-based psych soul act’s sophomore album An Ode to Escapism is slated for a Friday release through Karma Chief Records, an imprint of Colemine Records. Sonically, An Ode to Escapism continues and further expands upon the sound they’ve developed on their full-length debut: the arrangements are more intricate and centered around odd time signatures, the drums are heavier and vocal harmonies soar over it all. Thematically, the album touches upon isolation, fear of the unknown and the fabrication of the self-image — and is specifically meant to invite to listener to close their eyes, while listening and delve into their subconscious, if they’re not too afraid to do so.
An Ode to Escapism‘s first single is the cinematic and expansive “Queen Bee.” Featuring a looping, bluesy guitar line, a soaring string arrangement, the song is centered around an unusual song structure that finds the band defy maneuvering three wildly different time signatures to convey someone digging themselves out of a self-flagellating pit and finding their swagger.
“‘Queen Bee’ is a song about finding strength in not caring what people think of you,” the band’s Seth Applebaum explains. “It’s about digging yourself out of a pit of self-consciousness and strutting your stuff however it may come across. Led by Megan Mancini, this tune has been a staple in the live repertoire for a while, but it was also one of the most difficult songs to conquer in the studio. As the first song that was written and recorded for An Ode To Escapism, ‘Queen Bee’ set a high bar for difficulty as its challenge was to find a way to move seamlessly between three very different feeling time signatures (3/4, 10/8, and 4/4). On the surface it feels like a pop song, but in true GFO fashion, there’s a lot to be discovered beneath the surface.”
Directed by the band’s Seth Applebaum, the recently released video for “Queen Bee” was shot on 16mm film and follows the various folks, who worked on Ghost Funk Orchestra’s An Ode to Escape into their homes,. where they’ve been riding out the pandemic, like most of us. There’s also some more over-the-top sequences that features the album’s three vocalists performing on an old-fashion stage, complete with a choreographed movements and handclaps. It’s playfully old-fashioned and a bit of a reminder of the things I miss so much — and hope that we can get back soon.
“The concept for this video was simple: run around with a 16mm camera and visit the folks who worked on the record at their homes where they’ve been riding out the pandemic,” Ghost Funk Orchestra’s Seth Applebaum explains in press notes. “For the more specialized shots we had the pleasure of taking over the back room at The Footlight, a Ridgewood venue that GFO spent a lot of time playing early on. We sought to juxtapose the dryness of everyone’s current living situations with the over-the-top production value of the live music experience we’re all missing so dearly right now.“