Paul Duncan has always been moved by visions. Like the one he had early last year about the kind of music he wanted to be making. The east Texas native found his clearest picture after endless hours walking the streets of Brooklyn with headphones blaring the pieces of a synthed-out study in New Wave that he’d been working on.
"I had finally found a palette that I enjoyed working with, which has always been important for me, because I tend to think about music and words very visually," Duncan remembers of his time mentally putting together last May’s Claws Overhead EP.
"I went to art school and spent way more time painting and making visual art throughout my early twenties than I did playing any instruments or recording music. I’ve always been fascinated with small worlds, creating environments and metamorphic interpretations of things, and I seem to get that from certain music the same way I do from painting."
Paul Duncan is always seeing something. And to fully bring his vision into focus, he knew he couldn’t go it alone. Fortunately, he had a friend in Roberto Lange, and one night he went to see Lange’s band, Helado Negro, perform at The Knitting Factory. Playing with Lange that night was Oliver Chapoy, a guitarist who Duncan envisioned would fit into his Claws Overhead aesthetic quite well.
Duncan remembers expressing interest in collaborating with Chapoy immediately after the show. "He was doing all this textural stuff that I really enjoyed and responded to," says Duncan. "It was a lot like what I was working on with Claws Overhead, so it just really clicked when I saw him perform. I also knew that we’d get along famously and had a lot of common musical ground—that combo is where it’s at!" The two got to work immediately under the moniker Warm Ghost, remastering three tracks on Claws Overheard and writing three more for a new EP set to drop Feb. 15 on Partisan Records. Called Uncut Diamond, the EP offers a new take on an old vision that’s been augmented by Chapoy’s presence.
"There are habits you get into when you’re writing by yourself," admits Duncan, who still handles the brunt of the songwriting load. "Writing electronic music, I got into the habit of just staring at the computer screen way too much. [Chapoy] being here creates an atmosphere that feels more like songwriting, especially in the collaborative sense."
That sense of songwriting shows up even more boldfaced on the duo’s upcoming full-length debut, set to be released in August. Currently only four songs into the writing of the album, Warm Ghost has set out to piece together a narrative far more eclectic and emotionally wide-ranging than anything found on its earlier works. And it goes without saying that Duncan has adopted an appropriately intricate vision for the album’s overarching message.
"I feel like it’ll be more upbeat than Claws Overhead, though there will still be some darker, moodier songs in the mix," he says of the unnamed LP. "My idea for it is that there’ll be this character, and all the lyrics come from him thinking to himself inside his head. And then it’s sort of up and down. Certain days for him are good and certain ones are bad. The darker songs would be the bad days and the brighter ones would obviously reflect the good ones. So there’ll be that variation, whereas Claws Overhead was just consistently made in the same mood."
Like Duncan’s previous projects, he’s found his muse for the LP in another creative discipline.
"I’m really into story writing these days," he says, " and I thought it would be cool to write an album in the firstperson. I really like the idea of embedding a concept into something and giving the listener a chance to pick up on what we’re doing without directly telling them."
Evidence that, like its namesake spirit, Warm Ghost exists—at least conceptually—in the abstract.
Feb. 12, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (betw. S. 1st & S. 2nd Sts.), Brooklyn, 718- 599-1450; 8:30, $10.