ALEX FRANKEL AND Nick Millhiser of Holy Ghost! fit the profile of your typical Brooklyn musicians. They have a practice space off of the Montrose L stop, enjoy a good American Spirit or 12 and take pride in their hefty collection of instruments. They do have one small quirk though: These two are honest-to-God, by-way-of-nowhere, born-and-raised New Yorkers. But this doesn’t mean that they judge transplants. In fact, Millhiser and Frankel agree that outof-towners absolutely have the potential to call themselves New Yorkers, too—as long as they follow certain guidelines. “You’re allowed to complain a lot,” Frankel says. “You’re just not allowed to complain about bullshit,” Millhiser adds, like the summer heat, the winter cold and how much it costs to live here. It also helps if you get mugged at least once. As Millhiser advises, “You just need to embrace the glory that is New York.”
Millhiser and Frankel grew up in Manhattan and met as second graders at a small school on the Upper West Side. Like a lot of kids, they both took music lessons— piano for Frankel and drums for Millhiser— and played in bands from an early age. But being a young musician in New York City in the early ’90s as opposed to anywhere else in the United States had its distinct advantages. Many of the area’s music venues hosted all ages events and Sunday matinees, which meant that “you could really be in a band at 13 and play shows,” Millhiser says.
By the time they were 14, Millhiser, Frankel and friends had started a hiphop outfit called Automato, which signed to Capitol Records while the group’s members were still in high school. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Tim Goldsworthy, co-founders of the DFA label, were brought in to produce Automato’s debut album, released in 2004. Although the band eventually fizzled, Frankel and Millhiser maintained a strong relationship with DFA. The guys, then in their early twenties, started practicing as a keyboard-and-drums duo and were invited to record and play live with the label’s other bands. “They kept us involved,” Frankel says. “And encouraged us to sort of keep working on music,” adds Millhiser.
Murphy, Goldsworthy and the other musicians at DFA also introduced Frankel and Millhiser to more dance- and discobased music that heavily influenced the shape of the Holy Ghost! sound. With the green light from Murphy, the group released its debut single, “Hold On,” in late 2007 on DFA. The single led Frankel and Millhiser to rack up gigs as DJs and remixers, while they plotted out their debut album. They did these DJ sets for almost two years, but during that time, they never once performed their own music as a live band. But now, with the debut EP Static on the Wire out just this week, Holy Ghost! is finally taking its songs to the stage when the band opens for LCD Soundsystem for four shows at Terminal 5. Frankel and Millhiser did manage to sneak in a warm-up show this weekend, but this does not remove the pressure that comes with playing some of your first live shows in front of a 3,000-person crowd. “I can deal with me personally being embarrassed,” Frankel says. “It’s more we don’t want to fucking embarrass James and Nancy and Pat [of LCD Soundsystem].”
Frankel predicts that after the first show at Terminal 5, instead of swigging champagne, he and Millhiser “will be very upset and, you know, probably talking very soberly about what went wrong.” He admits that their seriousness in preparing for these shows might make them seem a tad neurotic. But what else would you expect from a couple of New Yorkers?
>>HOLY GHOST! May 20 through 23, Terminal 5, 610 W. 56th St. (at 11th Ave.), 212-260-4700; 8, $35.
Don’t fuck it up: Holy Ghost!