Going Home with Pride
By Paul Rogers
By For Jonathan Vigil, vocalist with L.A. metalcore meteors The Ghost Inside, headlining Pomona’s Glass House on March 8 feels like a homecoming.
“Two of the best shows of my life happened at The Glass House: One being Hatebreed, Poison the Well and Bane; the other being American Nightmare, Throwdown and Bleeding Through,” said Vigil, speaking from a tour-stop in Russia. “I’ll never forget those nights … So to go up on that stage and have a real ‘hometown’ vibe to it after seeing it from the crowd’s perspective for so long is an incredible feeling.”
Having steadily built up steam with a brace of albums for Mediaskare Records (2008’s Fury and the Fallen Ones and 2010’s Returners), The Ghost Inside signed to Epitaph Records early last year and released Get What You Give in June. This collection of earnest, energized and heartfelt melodic hardcore has propelled TGI (which is completed by guitarists Aaron Brooks and Zach Johnson, bassist Jim Riley and drummer Andrew Tkaczyk) towards the top of their genre.
“[Signing to Epitaph] breathed a whole new life into our band,” Vigil enthused. “Not that our first two albums were insignificant but that this was the next level for us. I think it also legitimized our band in the eyes of some critics.”
Amid Get What You Give’s ominously turbulent guitars, busy beats and Vigil’s tortured screeching, The Ghost Inside incorporate more actual melody than ever before. It’s a development that the singer seems sensitive about.
“I think when bands try to incorporate new singing into their bands it feels forced and planned. These parts to me feel like they belong,” he insisted. “We didn’t add these parts to be number one on the Billboard charts; we have them because we feel they are the best possible things we could have written.”
Vigil’s defensiveness is understandable given that, as with most bands on a steeply upward career curve, The Ghost Inside is already the target of “sell-out” sniping. In an onstage rant in the U.K. last fall, Scott Vogel, vocalist with Los Angeles hardcore crew (and former TGI tourmates) Terror, described The Ghost Inside as a “bullshit band” that “don’t even know what hardcore is.”
Vigil responded to Vogel’s tirade with a level-headed, self-effacing statement that was frankly more mature than such mudslinging deserved. But judgmental, high school-ish bitching is a growing blight on L.A. hardcore.
“When I say this, I want it known that it has nothing to do with what happened between Terror and us. I mean this for the whole of the Los Angeles ‘underground’ scene,” Vigil lamented. “It does kinda feel like a competition. Which is a shame, because that’s not what drew me to this scene in the first place.
“Instead of feeling welcomed and embraced for individuality, it feels very judgmental and elitist. It seems like people want to horde this intangible thing for themselves and it’s really heartbreaking.”
Straight-edge for over a decade (a life-change he attributes to the influence of hardcore), Vigil’s recent life experience has also been sobering. The tragic passing of his brother Ryan in 2010 has left marks all over both his music and his being.
“Writing [Get What You Give], especially the song ‘White Light’ was a huge therapy for me,” Vigil explained. “I always wrote songs with outward messages … With ‘White Light’ though, I got a bit selfish and wrote a song that was so personal to me and my life that it was huge in helping me deal with my loss.
“It seems to be people’s favorite song off the album and it’s really awesome that a song that means so much to me personally means a lot to other people as well.”
The death of his sibling also seems to have put the petty gossip about his band’s perceived hardcore credibility into perspective for Vigil.
“For me, hardcore has never really been a sound but much more a mentality. Hardcore is about solidarity; it’s about substance and realism in a world that likes to be fake and superficial,” he concluded. “If music is driving, passionate and means something, I’ll always consider it hardcore.”
The Ghost Inside at The Glass House 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Sat, Mar. 8, 6PM. $12-$15. All ages.