When you read the “story” of the pop-punk band Sorry Ghost on their Facebook page, it begins with band member Daniel watching the (admittedly iconic and arguably underrated) Naked Brothers Band perform on the Today Show in 2008. “The idea of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll was all too appealing to a young lad so he enlisted the help of drummer friend Tyler Hernandez and guitar failure Matthew Polito,” it reads. Finally, it closes out saying, “They were previously Sari, but that name was stupid, so now they’re Sorry Ghost which is still pretty stupid.”
It sets the tone almost perfectly for the band: self-deprecating with a big sound, honest while witty, and disillusioned yet optimistic. If you add in the fact that their band name is technically also an apology to the band Ghost for not being able to emulate their sound, you’ve maybe figured the band out, at least on a surface level.
Coming from Baton Rouge, Louisana, Sorry Ghost is made up of Matt (on guitar and occasional backing vocals), Tyler (on drums), and Daniel (as lead singer and bassist). As Daniel describes it, Sorry Ghost is the trio’s “band and love child.”
So then how did their individual journey’s into music begin? Obviously aside from Naked Brothers Band, it appears that we owe thanks to Blink-182 and Green Day. “I’ll forever owe a debt to Green Day for making me want to learn guitar in the first place. Learning ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Dookie’ front to back was one of my first attempts at a guitar and I haven’t put it down since,” Matt starts after citing Blink-182 as the biggest influence on the band.
Tyler recalls his musical awakening involving Green Day too. “There I was, 10-years-old, jumping with both arms flailing about in the air,” he sets the scene. “Green Day had just finished playing ‘American Idiot’ as an encore and just as we were leaving, my dad spotted Tré Cool walking toward the backstage area. My dad managed to get his attention and he threw me the drumsticks he was using for the show. Drumming instantly became the coolest thing in the world to me.”
“I saw Blink-182 for the first time in 2011 when I was 14,” Daniel tells his story. “I was in the front row and I just remember tears streaming down my face as I stood there in disbelief watching my favorite band of all-time in the flesh. That was formative for me and inspired me to pick up the bass a couple of years later and start my first band in high school,” he shares adding, “Nine years later and I still struggle to imagine doing anything besides music.”
The three did all end up majoring in different fields with Matt studying psychology and philosophy, Daniel studying international studies and anthropology, and Tyler studying biology. When I ask them about it later on in the interview, in some ways there’s a direct translation and in others, there’s not. With Matt, for example, he says that while he doesn’t write the lyrics for the band, he’d love to, “incorporate that background into songs and try to create something that people can really identify with and find themselves in.”
Daniel looks at his studies as hopefully giving him the tools to think, question the world, and write about it. “I love writing and expressing my thoughts through words. It’s always been my medium of choice,” he explains.
Meanwhile, with Tyler who chose the path of music over medical school, an outlet was greatly needed to release the stress. “That’s probably why I always hit the drums so hard,” he muses.
The origins of Sorry Ghost (somewhat) go back to their high school days, although Daniel shares in his interview with MoshPit Mag that the band really came together in the second half of 2018. Daniel and Matt linked up after being in separate bands during that time and then meeting back up when they shared a class in college. Under a different lineup, Sorry Ghost was formed. Then Daniel met Tyler later on when the two volunteered for the Special Olympics, he found out he was a drummer, got in contact with him from there, and here we all are.
“When we first started out, I was hugely into this band PEARS from New Orleans and was convinced I wanted to be in a real, hardcore punk band. The more songs we wrote in that high tempo, galloping beat, skate punk style, the more we realized it just wasn’t who we are,” Matt recalls the early days. “So even though I’m still a huge fan of PEARS (shouts out to them by the way for their great new album), we’ve now shifted gears more to our roots in something that we know–polished, upbeat pop-punk.”
Daniel quips, “I couldn’t play bass or sing when we started out, and now I can kinda do both separately. But still, questionably when done simultaneously.”
A number of songs I’ve written reference this idea of not becoming complacent and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s when the growth happens both personally and creatively I’ve found. – Daniel
When it comes to making their music and finding inspiration, you can tell it comes a lot from feeling: how the sounds the instruments make feel, what the lyrics make them feel, how it feels when they’re put together all through volume and meaning. Matt gives a shoutout to Red Hot Chili Peppers and their guitarist John Frusciante in that regard. “When I really started learning how to play guitar, I was totally enamored by his balance of rhythmic and melodic playing, so I try to incorporate that whenever I can. Occasionally, you can catch hints of that style in songs like ‘Nosedive’ with the more rhythmic verses and melodic, driving choruses.”
“Throughout high school, I was really into hardcore music: namely Slipknot. The crazy drum fills and blistering fast double bass captivated me,” Tyler responds. “Although we’re a pop-punk band, I think The Morning After is full of moments where that inner ‘metal’ Tyler comes out,” he adds.
As the lyricist, Daniel’s hope is finding and incorporating relatability. “I want our fans to hear the lyrics and think, ‘This is exactly how I feel in XYZ situation.’ It’s my hope they can use whatever experience I’ve been through to remind themselves they’re never alone,” he shares. Along with his personal experiences, Daniel also says that Baton Rouge–while not having a huge music scene–plays a role in the lyrics as well. “It’ll always be home, but it was time to move on. A number of songs I’ve written reference this idea of not becoming complacent and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s when the growth happens both personally and creatively I’ve found.”
The guys released their debut album, The Morning After last month featuring eleven pop-punk emo filled tracks that confirm what the three seem to hint at in terms of finding their footing and musical voice. “While The Morning After is definitely a bit of a departure from the sound that’s largely found on Win By Default,” Matt references their heavier 2017 EP, “we made sure that we still sound like ourselves, even if the music is a bit different. Our goal is always to create music that is authentic to us and our hope is that authenticity connects to the listener whether they’ve been listening to us since Win By Default or this is their first experience with Sorry Ghost at all.”
Sonically, there are some connecting threads between the two bodies of work: the obvious one being their song ‘Triangles’ making the cross over from the EP to the album. “Of all the songs on Win By Default, ‘Triangles’ was always the one that stood out–it felt like we had finally figured out our sound. We’d then spend the next couple of years honing that sound writing the songs that would eventually become The Morning After (including quite a few that didn’t make the cut),” Matt explains. “Once we had these songs completed, we still felt that ‘Triangles’ deserved to be included in the tracklisting as sort of the original Sorry Ghost song.” With the decision to bring ‘Triangles’ to the record, they also decided to give it a revamp from bedroom recording to, as Matt appropriately describes it, “polished masterpiece of teen angst.”
“The songs truly act like time capsules. I wrote ‘Triangles’ when I was 17, and I remember so vividly the unique set of problems I was dealing with at the time,” Daniel looks back. “Or another example: about half the songs on The Morning After deals with the turmoil I felt after a bad break up about three years ago now. The pain has long-since subsided, but I’m taken back to those nights I stayed up till 3 AM scribbling down lyrics in an attempt to make sense of it all. Now, the songs act as bittersweet nuggets that both deliver an initial wave of nostalgia but then an overwhelming wave of gratitude as I remember all the people and places have come in and out of my life to teach me something invaluable,” he shares in hindsight.
Making the album began with the album cover. Combining the font ever identifiable font of a Waffle House with a ghost pancake decked out with sunny-side-up egg eyes and a bacon mouth, Matt discusses the way the visual was created, thus creating the title. “I love cooking, it’s one of my absolute favorite things to do, so food always sort of frames my thinking. Food presentation as a visual medium is also something that I find super interesting, so it’s often the first place my mind goes when thinking about visuals and artwork in general. So whenever we had the idea to go with a breakfast theme, I jumped at the opportunity to combine two of my favorite things–food and music.”
“And if you were wondering, after taking the photo for the cover, I did, in fact, eat the ghost pancake,” Matt calms any potential worries while offering what’s maybe the most important exclusive, “We don’t waste food here at Sorry Ghost.”
Whether you’re having a blast with your friends or dealing with some personal hardships, we want you to know that Sorry Ghost is rooting for you. – Tyler
So then comes the songwriting and creating. For Matt, the easiest one to write he says is ‘Nosedive.’ “Structurally, it’s simple, but it still leaves a lot of room to keep the guitar interesting and let the vocals shine. It’s one of those songs that just come together naturally in one sitting,” he explains. With Daniel, he goes with the song ‘Ampersands’ which he says was written in about 15 minutes with the guitar being “pretty simple” and the lyrics easily flowing.
“On the other hand, ‘Morning Glory’ was probably the most structurally frustrating and difficult song to write on the whole album,” Matt continues. “On top of it being the last song we wrote for the album, it must have undergone four or five complete iterations before we landed on the version that’s found on the album, which we finished in the studio the day it was being recorded. Talk about cutting it close.”
“[The] hardest had to be ‘Foundation’ from a personal standpoint. The lyrics center around the death of my mom about a year and a half ago,” Daniel opens up. “That’s the kind of song I still struggle to get through live without choking up. But it gives me immense joy to know it’s now being heard by our fans and the memory can live on. That makes it easier for sure.”
The support that their fans offer to them, the band is dedicated to reciprocating back be it fans that formed from hometown shows to those that discovered them through online platforms. “Although it seems that rock music, in general, has been fading from the mainstream for the past decade, the dedication of pop-punk fans is unwavering. We’re so lucky to have fans as awesome as ours and they’ve proven to us that the pop-punk scene is the strongest there is,” Tyler says. “I think (and hope) that rock music is finally beginning to make a strong comeback. Between Post Malone’s recent tribute concert to Nirvana, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker’s new pop-punk album, and the ‘rockstar lifestyle’ being glorified in tons of modern media, rock’s rise to the forefront again is hopefully imminent,” he continues about the genre and how it’s evolving.
“I’d say our intention with Sorry Ghost is to connect with our listeners in both the good times and the bad. With concepts ranging from heartbreak and losing a loved one to finding inspiration and taking action represented on The Morning After, we want our listeners to know that we’re there for them throughout the inevitable ups and downs on this rollercoaster called life. Whether you’re having a blast with your friends or dealing with some personal hardships, we want you to know that Sorry Ghost is rooting for you,” Tyler says about Sorry Ghost’s place in the music world.
So then, what’s (maybe) next for the band? Well, a confirmed next is a fan-featured lyric video for ‘Nosedive.’ A hopeful next could be a concept album. “Ever since listening to American Idiot as a kid, I’ve always wanted to write a concept album. Using an album as a medium to tell one cohesive story through several individual songs has always been super interesting to me and I’d love to try to make that happen one day. Who knows, maybe we’ll even turn it into a Broadway musical one day, too,” Matt says.
Dan agrees, chiming in, “This idea of telling an entire story through an album is so intriguing to me. American Idiot was a huge influence on me as well.”
One of the most important things in any kind of group effort, whether it be a band, a business, or just a friendship, is learning how to listen to one another and keep an open mind. – Matt
Winding down the interview, I ask the three what they’ve learned from working together which immediately turns an appreciation fest.
“I’ve learned that if Tyler and Daniel have the patience to put up with my stubbornness and perfectionism with every little detail, then we’ve really got a solid partnership after all,” Matt begins. “One of the most important things in any kind of group effort, whether it be a band, a business, or just a friendship, is learning how to listen to one another and keep an open mind. If we didn’t feel safe suggesting ten terrible ideas without fear of judgment, then we’d never feel safe enough to suggest the one golden idea that we can run with.”
Tyler begins saying, “I’ve learned that Matthew and Daniel are both outstanding gentlemen and incredible musicians. It’s commonplace for people in the music industry to put their own self-interest before others, but these two never did. Their transparency was such a breath of fresh air. To me, the fans are the most important part of Sorry Ghost, and having them share the same sentiment is what allows us to thrive.” Along with the care that goes into the art and the audience, Tyler shares that it’s also the genuine excitement that makes this experience worthwhile. “Although we take our collective dream of pursuing music seriously, every practice is full of laughs and that same charismatic charm is manifested on stage at our live shows. It’s like Matt and Dan are stand-up comedians in addition to being some of the most talented musicians I know. We’re all great friends, and I think that the harmonious balance between our personalities is what allows Sorry Ghost to have such a strong identity. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he concludes.
“I couldn’t do this with anyone else,” Daniel wraps up. “Matt and Tyler are both amazing musicians, but more importantly, they’re two of my best friends. They cheer me up when I’m down, they celebrate all of our victories big and small with me, and they continue to provide first-rate ideas creatively. We’ve played some shows to literally zero people and still had a blast thanks to their attitudes and demeanor. The way they treat everyone with kindness and respect continues to inspire me. I’m proud to be in a band with them.”
Sorry Ghost’s Mini-Playlist for Readers [Listen Here]:
Matt- Okay if you’ve decided to get into Sorry Ghost after this interview, I’ve got a playlist for you:
Sorry Ghost Playlist – Nosedive, Best Intentions, Condescending, New Hampshire, Ampersands
This is the perfect Sorry Ghost smorgasbord, a lil bit of everything.
Daniel- And if you hate Sorry Ghost, here’s my mini-playlist:
Non-Sorry Ghost Playlist – Rocks Tonic Juice Magic (Saves the Day), You’re So Last Summer (Taking Back Sunday), Adam’s Song (blink-182), Voldemort (With Confidence), Blonde (Waterparks)
The Morning After is available wherever you stream music.
(photo cred: Malarie Zaunbrecher)