For the past couple of months, I've been listening to Former Ghosts' intricate and quietly devastating record New Love on pretty much a daily basis. Just before the album's release, I talked to the frontman Freddy Ruppert about facials, rap music and dipping things in peanut butter. An edited version of the article below appeared in the November issue of Attitude.
When a photo flashed up in my inbox of Freddy Ruppert with a face full of spunk, I couldn't quite believe our eyes. "It's not a reference to having sex in bushes!" he insists, laughing. "It's more of a metaphor for being caught up in that insane post-relationship sexual stuff, and how i'm kind of crazy with jealousy issues regarding that."
Freddy could easily pass muster as an indie pin-up with his handsome looks, but that was never part of the plan. He's the frontman of Former Ghosts, a synth supergroup of sorts which also includes Jamie Stewart of post-punk experimentalists Xiu Xiu and Nika Roza Danilova, a.k.a. noise-popstar Zola Jesus. Hot on the heels of last year's critically-lauded debut Fleurs now comes the trio's latest release New Love, which Freddy admits is "a lot darker of a record, but kind of poppier." Album highlight 'Chin Up' is a synth-led paean to self-effacing love, with vocalist Nika's plea of 'I need you right now' coming with the admission 'this will bury me', her operatic vocals driving the song to its desperate crescendo.
In person, Freddy is warm and easily tickled, and effuses self-deprecating charm. "I listen to a lot of American Top 40 R'n'B, where the lyrics are about real straightforward, universal themes," he explains in his LA twang. "I think that influences the way I write lyrics - I don't consider myself a good lyricist, I just want to sing exactly what I feel."
When he's not covering himself in fake semen for photoshotos,or drinking himself into vomit-inducing oblivion (see Former Ghosts' 'Hold On' music video), Freddy's adding to his burgeoning tattoo collection. He's a man who wears his heart on his sleeve - really - it's a 50s-style design with a 'Mom' scroll. "My Mom passed away when I was 19 so me and my brother went and got that. It was the first tattoo I'd ever gotten, and I thought it would be a nice tribute to my Mom - but also funny that I had a tattoo that was so sailor-tough or biker-tough!"
So what makes Freddy Ruppert happy? "Peanut butter!" He lights up: "I feel like it's one of the top five reasons I actually stay alive. It's so good to just open up a jar of peanut butter and just dip chocolate items into the peanut butter jar. That's just, like, perfect."
When I went to see Former Ghosts play with Zola Jesus and Xiu Xiu earlier this month, I couldn't help myself popping into Sainburys and picking up a Kit Kat and jar of Skippy for Freddy. When I presented it to him he creased up laughing: 'You know I'm gonna dip this into the peanut butter!' Well, yes. Unfortunately I didn't get to see him eat the confection in person, but luckily Upset The Rhythm TV immortalised the moment at the end of the charming video below.