Olivia Jean - Raving Ghost
The third full-length from Olivia Jean, Raving Ghost is an album populated by mysterious characters in various states of danger: cursed lovers, doomed souls, women deliriously haunted by unseen forces. Over the course of its 11 spellbinding tracks, the Detroit-born singer/songwriter/multi- instrumentalist amplifies that drama with her wildly melodic take on garage-rock, handling each riff with the power and precision she’s previously shown as a member of the Black Belles (and as an in- demand session/ touring musician). A stunning evolution of the retro-surf sound of her past solo work, Raving Ghost ultimately makes for the most magnificently heavy and mesmerizing output yet from an endlessly fascinating artist.
Mainly recorded at the famed Valentine Recording Studios in L.A., Raving Ghost finds Olivia Jean back in the producer’s chair and working with musicians like My Morning Jacket keyboardist Bo Koster and drummers Carla Azar (T-Bone Burnett, Nikki Lane) and Patrick Keeler (The Raconteurs, The Afghan Whigs). “Valentine is like a time capsule that’s been perfectly preserved since the ’60s, so aesthetically and sonically it was right up my alley,” says Olivia Jean, who recorded parts of Raving Ghost at Third Man Recording Studio in her homebase of Nashville. “We had so much at our disposal and experimented with different amps and sounds, and the songs slowly transformed into something I never imagined. On my previous albums I played most of the instruments myself, so it felt good to let go and trust the process of working with these extremely creative musicians.” Engineered by Bill Skibbe (The Kills, Blonde Redhead), the result is a feverish collision of goth- punk and power-pop and classic garage, charged with an energy so intense that the speakers to several of Valentine’s vintage amps ended up blowing out during the recording sessions.
Mostly made up of songs written alone late at night, Raving Ghost opens on the brooding rhythms and serpentine guitar lines of its title track, a powerful introduction to the album’s lavishly detailed storytelling (“The scratch that crawls across my neck is starting to give me the chills/I slip slowly into a trance and suddenly a void’s been filled”). “A lot of these songs started with me coming up with scenarios and characters and then free-writing to see what developed,” says Olivia Jean. “‘Raving Ghost’ came to me very naturally, and steered the direction for the entire album.” A prime showcase for her explosive guitar work, “Trouble” puts a dizzyingly fun twist on losing all sense of control (“Let the madness begin/The claws dig in”). And on “Spider,” Olivia Jean spins a shadowy portrait of obsession and destruction, setting her seductive vocals against a hypnotic backdrop of brutal riffs and sinister synth tones (courtesy of Jellyfish co-founder Roger Joseph Manning Jr.).
Naming the Go-Go’s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Babes in Toyland among her inspirations for Raving Ghost, Olivia Jean also graced the album’s tracklist with such unexpected moments as her frenetic cover of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow.” But growing up on the outskirts of Detroit, the near- lifelong guitarist found her first musical love in 1960’s instrumental surf bands. “I fell in love with the guitar tones and earworm melodies, which is what drew me into the world of surf music,” says Olivia Jean, who got her start playing guitar at a young age. Olivia was enamored by Detroit’s thriving garage rock scene and was heavily inspired by its unique rawness. Olivia began recording instrumental surf music as a teenager. After years of self-recording, Olivia Jean put together a demo that soon led to the co-founding of the Black Belles and the band’s signing to Third Man Records. Following the release of their 2011 self- titled debut, Olivia Jean went on to deliver her first solo album (2014’s Bathtub Love Killings), then returned in 2019 with her self-produced sophomore album, Night Owl.With her past touring experience, Olivia Jean constructed Raving Ghost’s formidable sound with her captivating live show in mind. And as she gears up for her next tour (and for appearances at major festivals like Shaky Knees), her number-one intention is to infuse each performance with the unparalleled thrill she finds in creating music. "Ever since I was a kid, writing songs and playing guitar has been an addiction that nothing else can touch,” she says. “My guitar is an appendage. I could never put my guitar down even if I tried.”