And so it began...
At first there was no band, just a laptop. Songwriter and lead singer Matthew Hill recorded a few ideas and put out two solo EPs under the Ghyti name. Choker Chain featured three songs with sparse production values, recorded in the gaps between work and study that have to be filled somehow. “That first EP was just for kicks, really. It is fairly vintage, 60s sounding, but I liked how it turned out, so thought I’d do another.”
Matthew sat down at his kitchen table (armed with a few acoustic instruments and a selection of drum loops) to spend three months writing and recording new songs. The resulting EP Know Your Place was a larger effort than Choker Chain, featuring 8 tracks, a music video, and an innovative origami sleeve. Writing songs on a laptop was a fresh approach for Matthew, and the mechanical quality of the music complemented the cold and alienated lyrical themes: “I wrote a lot of songs about being alone behind net curtains in the suburbs, because that’s what I was doing while making that EP.”
Know Your Place found favour with the local scene in Adelaide, making the top 20+1 chart on Three D Radio (the leading indie radio station in South Australia), and garnering positive reviews on popular blogs FiveThousand, play/pause/play and fourwords. The interest encouraged Matthew to take Ghyti out of his kitchen and into the world. “I thought it would be good to give the EP a proper launch, since people seemed to like it,” he explains. “And that required a band. So I just thought about who I knew that might be free and keen to be involved.”
Soon Sam Henderson (guitars), Travis Duke (drums) and Amr Zaid (bass) were on board. Each brought their own influences to the Britpop-based songs, from Sam’s love of Pavement, to Travis’ punk roots, to Amr’s past as bassist for 90s alt-rock band Ratcat. The combination gelled into a mix that sounded fuller and more urgent than the solo material, and after a year playing club and pub dates around the city, Ghyti set about recording their first EP as a band – Life Is Cheap.
The sessions for the 6-track EP were quick and productive, and the resulting release has a garage rattle that gives the songs a gritty edge. The new songs quickly became crowd favourites, such as ‘Journal of the King’, ‘To Gideon, All the Best, God’ and ‘Eighty Five’. Ghyti released two videos, and played regularly to promote the EP, including live-to-air performances on Three D Radio and Radio Adelaide. The new guys soon moved beyond a backing band, to become a cohesive unit.
However, following the promotion for Life Is Cheap, Amr left the band to focus on a blues project. What might have been a stumbling block to Ghyti’s career became an opportunity. Unable to find a regular bassist, Ghyti put Matthew on bass and called on a rotating cast of fill-in rhythm guitarists from some of Adelaide’s best bands – Tony Marshall (The Honey Pies), Lucy Campbell (The Aves) and Frank Boulden (The Blind Herd). The reconfigured line-up played to new and bigger audiences, while the core band took unused tracks from the Life Is Cheap sessions and recorded overdubs for a new EP titled Fluorescent Lights.
Fluorescent Lights turned out to be the band’s most successful release to date, supported by gigs in Adelaide and Melbourne, feature articles in Rip It Up and B Side magazines, chart placing in the 20+1, and favourable reviews on Australian and international blogs. Key to the interest generated by the EP, was a band-produced 20-minute film featuring all six tracks from Fluorescent Lights. The film itself was a happy accident, as Matthew says:
“At first, we wanted the launch to be more of a listening party than a gig, but realised we couldn’t make a hundred people sit down and listen to a whole EP. We decided to make videos for each song, and link them together. We ran around filming the city in the middle of the night, getting stopped by the police. Then we started downloading stock footage… I guess we got a little carried away. But it turned out great, and the crowd loved it. Then we played a gig anyway!”
At the launch party was Nicholas Pipe, a fan who had seen the band several times. It turned out Nick played guitar, and was keen to play with Ghyti if the opportunity arose. Following a performance at Hillside Fest 4.0, the band once again found themselves without a fourth member, and Nick was in. Bringing with him a love of angular art-rock and sonic textures, Nick has been the final piece in the Ghyti puzzle.
The band took their new live sound to an international audience in Toronto for Canadian Music Week 2015, before committing it to record with the double single, Give Us Your Money / Eyes On You. The band's recent shows have been their best, and off the back of interstate gigs Ghyti were invited to support both Custard and Regurgitator on their respective national album tours, before recording their latest 4-track release, Commodities.
The songs have been described by fourwords as "stupidly infectious", by Spoz's Rant as "like watching 5 seasons of Breaking Bad, condensed into 45 minutes of musical theatre", and by Triple J as "pretty sturdy and enjoyable power pop stuff [with] a nice basement rattle to it that sits well with the overall charm..."
Commodities, Give Us Your Money, Fluorescent Lights, Life Is Cheap, Know Your Place and Choker Chain are all available in the Ghyti Record Store.
Matthew Hill – vocals, bass, keyboards
Sam Henderson – lead guitar
Nick Pipe - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Travis Duke – drums