Known for their 2008 hit "Hold On" and Moby, MGMT and Cut Copy remixes, critically-heralded Brooklyn duo Holy Ghost! features electro magicians Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel. Protégées of Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy (founders of DFA Records), Holy Ghost! bring their melodic, throwback style and love for old-school synthesizers to their infectious new single, "I Will Come Back," out on Green Label Sound.
Friends since childhood, the pair met in second grade and grew up just blocks apart on New York City's Upper West Side. Frankel's father was a long-time USA Today!> crime reporter who used to bring him along to mafia hangouts, while Millhiser's parents developed real estate and held down various other posts. "When I was born, my dad was an audio engineer for ABC Sports," he says, "and he also had his own barge ship in France."
In high school Frankel played keyboards and Millhiser played drums in rap act Automato, which performed everywhere from CBGB to Coney Island High. As seniors they signed to Capital Records. Soon thereafter, they met producers Goldsworthy and Murphy during the making of Automato's 2004 self-titled debut album, which The Guardian called: "The first essential hip hop album of the year."
Automato splintered the following year, but Millhiser and Frankel forged on together. "We originally thought we were going to keep making rap stuff," Millhiser says, "but, not knowing any rappers, we had to figure something else out. Alex stepped up to the plate and started singing."
They collaborated on the disco-tinged "Hold On" and presented it to Goldsworthy and Murphy, who immediately fell for it. Ready to sign the duo to juggernaut DFA Records label -- alongside buzz acts like LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy and The Juan Maclean -- they first demanded a moniker. Holy Ghost! comes from a cut by the Bar-Kays of the same title, Millhiser explains. "I was looking up its lyrics on-line, and the first line of the song is, 'Your love, it's got the Holy Ghost!" he says. "The line had an exclamation point, so that's where the exclamation point in our name comes from."
Millhiser and Frankel add that the collaboration indulges their love for analog sounds and passions for old-time Roland organs and Wurlitzer electronic pianos. "We're big gearheads, and have been since we were in high school," Frankel says. "We make our music before our lyrics, and we usually start with sound and drums. When we're both nodding our heads, it's like, 'Now, let's make it into a song.'"
"We've both tried to make music with the computer," Millhiser says. "We just can't do it. I wish we could! I'd be a much richer man."
The act has already earned rave reviews on the strength of their remixes and "Hold On," which caused taste-making blog Hipster Runoff to speculate they could have a hit as big as Justice's smash "D.A.N.C.E." "I feel like they have the preceding reputation, bubbling cauldron of hype, and the skills and resources necessary to write a transcendent electro-hit," the site enthused.
Expect a similar response to Green Label Sound single "I Will Come Back," which will also be featured on Holy Ghost!'s highly-anticipated debut album due out early next year. A surging, five and a half-minute dance floor epic, it's a space journey that features the angelic voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The track pays homage to pioneering dance group New Order through its "Bizarre Love Triangle"-like drum fills. The video, too, is a tribute to New Order; it's a remake of the English group's 1983 song "Confusion." Getting legendary producer Arthur Baker to reprise his role was their biggest coup, says Millhiser.
"We were going to have James [Murphy] play the Arthur Baker character," he remembers, "but one night we were out at a bar and we ran into Baker. Alex told him about the video, and he said, 'I want to play myself.' We couldn't really say no!"
Already filling venues across the world and backed by Green Label Sound, the time is right for Holy Ghost! to take over dance floors worldwide. "I Will Come Back" will have listeners doing exactly that.