The four acting members of Tiny Blue Ghost are huddled up on the couch of guitarist and third-year English major Dylan Fader’s tiny upstairs apartment. They’re just about to go to soundcheck for their second show of the semester and first time playing at Snug Harbor Bar & Grill—aka Snugs—as a unit.
“Rock and roll!” Fader announces. “Nothing’s gonna matter for a half hour [of performing]. Trust me, guys.”
Lead singer and fourth-year graphic design major Marissa Carroll is equally excited about the now-nearing performance, only slightly nervous that the rain will drive people away on the mostly quiet Tuesday night, Sept. 5.
Carroll started Tiny Blue Ghost two years ago during her sophomore year in 2015. Then, it was a solo project that the bubbly, ambitious musician and songwriter conceived through GarageBand. What is she most proud of regarding the project’s evolution?
“Having these guys play,” she laughs. “We started getting really serious and learning parts [in fall 2016] and people were really into it.”
Early on, Carroll made friends with drummer Joey Wright, a 2017 alumnus, and bassist Otto Kratky, fourth-year journalism major. Wright and Kratky each joined Tiny Blue Ghost when it first kicked off as a full band in 2016.
Fader played in Wright’s band, Sleepwalking, and Carroll quickly asked if he’d like to play for Tiny Blue Ghost, too. Fader insists he “mysteriously appeared” in the band, and Carroll comments that when he showed up, he was “ready to rock and then we became friends,” much to the agreement of the rest of the band.
“[Fader] showed up and knocked everyone’s socks off,” Kratky says.
Wright, who moved to Philadelphia after graduating from SUNY New Paltz, now visits occasionally to play with the band. On this particular night, however, fourth-year music major Jared Nelson fills in on drums.
“[Wright] plays drums on all the songs on the [upcoming] record, so I’m playing all his parts and I’m modeling off how he played,” Nelson says. “So I still very much consider him more in the band than me.”
He adds: “[Fader] and [Wright] were two of the first non-music major musicians that seriously caught my eyes and ears coming from not really having a lot of experience playing and going to house shows.”
Making connections within the local scene not only scored Tiny Blue Ghost dedicated bandmates, but got the band playing elsewhere in New York. The band has played in Oneonta, Albany and Purchase.
The group knows how to share laughs while taking their work as a band seriously. Oftentimes they struggle with transportation to shows, which also entails loading and unloading equipment, and coordinating schedules. For them, though, it’s worth the struggle—even when two of their cars broke down last week. Being in a band (and in the case of most members, they play in even two or more) is fun enough to add another responsibility onto the life of these busy college students.
They practice at Kratky’s “cramped, dirty, smelly” basement—aka music venue Mom’s. Though they have fun “noodling around,” they also get a lot done.
“It gets you in the headspace if you’re playing a lot of house shows,” Nelson only slightly jokes. “And I’ve learned seven songs at practice.”
The hard work shows at the Snugs performance that night. So far, the band’s discography consists of “The Road – EP” and a few singles that are light and soft, inspired by bands like Petal, Now Now and Tigers Jaw. Tonight, however, rock and roll is on full display.
Carroll’s vocals are stronger than ever, carrying the band’s intense but playful energy. They incorporate bright-sounding, yet sometimes sad songs with a definitive indie rock edge. Anyone could tell that the band has been riding a high‚ each member setting into their own groove but often coming together as a unit to acknowledge and smile at one another. The crowd may not be as large as they hoped, but it’s still a good time.
The band will release their first full length album in early fall, with details coming soon.