photos courtesty of shotmonster.com
Steve Juliano doesn’t just sing I Am Ghost’s songs; he performs them. He prowls the stage, from north to south, from east to west. His head bangs like a stamping press; his face twists into a tragic mask; his arms strike a dancer’s poses; his voice ranges from a whisper to a scream.
Ironically, Juliano, lead vocalist/frontman for the L.A.-based band I Am Ghost, and a man who seems like he was born for the stage, joined his first rock band almost by accident. His career as an animator for film and TV was well under way when he found himself at a party one night. The band that was playing the party was minus a singer, so Juliano filled in by singing a Sublime cover. “After the party, they were like, ‘Man you sang that song really good. We’re looking for a singer for our band...Do you wanna try out?’” Juliano turned down the offer that night. “I never thought I would be in a band. I was just doing it like karaoke, with a few beers in me.” He happened to run into a guy from the band a few weeks later, and they still hadn’t found a singer. Juliano agreed to give it another shot. “I tried out and the rest is history. I loved it.”
It’s only fitting that Juliano is an exuberant showman. Most of I Am Ghost’s songs tell tales of romance, tragedy and death. “We don’t sing about the government. We don’t sing about ex-girlfriends,” Juliano explains. Matched to the dramatic lyrical content is a musical blend of elements of hardcore, metal, pop-punk and screamo that produces a sound that is distinctly I Am Ghost’s. Juliano and his bandmates, Timoteo Rosales (lead guitar), Ron Ficarro (bass/vocals), Chadd Kulengasky (rhythm guitar/vocals) and Justin McCarthy (drums), have even coined a new term to describe their music: “epic-core.”
Juliano assumes all the duties of lyricist for the band, but doesn’t make his contribution until after the music has been composed. Guitarist Rosales and bassist Ficarro wrote all the music for IAG’s most recent album Those We Leave Behind, released in October of 2008. Juliano seems to trust his bandmates implicitly. “The band knows the idea of I Am Ghost, the image and the vision. They’re not gonna write a poppy song.”
The stories told on Those We Leave Behind seem like they must have come from Juliano’s vivid imagination, such as this excerpt from Bone Garden.
I am the man they couldn’t hang,
A force-fed son of romance dressed in hooks,
who kissed your head, killed twelve dead, baby.
I am an addict burning winter, a closed-door annihilator
Motherf*cker burned who was married in your bone garden.
However, Juliano reveals that every song is based a real person who was connected to Juliano’s life somehow, and who ended up dying. Hence the album’s title.
Contrast Those We Leave Behind’s roots in reality with the total fantasy that was the group’s first LP, Lover’s Requiem. Released in late 2006, this work is what Juliano considers a “rock opera.” Inspired by The Who’s Tommy, Juliano, who, as a child, had acted in the musical, and his fellow bandmates at the time set out to produce an album on a similarly grand scale. Juliano describes the story told on the album this way: “A vampire meets a girl; they both die at the same time. He goes to hell; she goes to heaven. And it’s this big epic battle in the afterlife trying to be with each other.” Each song on the album represents a new chapter in the story. The production on the album complements the concept of the opera, incorporating a full orchestra and latin choir.
Apart from Juliano and Rosales, I Am Ghost had a different lineup at the time Lover’s Requiem was released, including female vocalist/violinist, Kerith Telestai. As Juliano tells it, after touring with the band in 2007 and surviving the rigors of Warped Tour, Kerith and bassist Brian Telestai decided that life on the road was not for them. The husband and wife team relocated to Utah where they work as schoolteachers.
Juliano weathered a number of personnel changes to arrive at the crew he plays with now. In assembling the current lineup for the band, Juliano searched for potential bandmates who were not only good musicians, but were also committed to the business of being in a professional touring band. While there’s something to be said for the chemistry of bands made up of guys who’ve known each other since high school, Juliano thinks that can also work to a band’s disadvantage, the attitude being, “I’m on tour with my best friends; we’re just gonna have fun.”
Juliano says he and his bandmates have fun and get along great. But when it comes to making I Am Ghost a success, like Juliano, Rosales, Ficarro, Kulengasky, and McCarthy take their jobs very seriously.
Three Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Juliano
- Steve took tap dancing lessons when he was a kid.
- As an animator, Steve worked on the highly popular HBO series “Tales from the Crypt.”
- In his spare time Steve is writing and illustrating an original graphic novel.
Special Buzznet Addendum
While Steve Juliano can be considered a pretty serious guy, his eyes did light up once, toward the end of our talk when I mentioned that the interview would appear on Buzznet. “Buzznet?” he said. “I love Buzznet!” (Don’t we all.)
photos courtesy of shotmonster.com