What first drew me to see Roadkill Ghost Choir perform live was actually a Buckhead Theatre headline for a totally different band – Futurebirds, out of Athens, Georgia. It was late 2013, and I was a broke college student spending winter break at home in Atlanta. Quick to embrace any excuse for boozing in the nightlight of the Buckhead bar district, I snagged my ticket. I made it to the concert, and Roadkill Ghost Choir’s opening set etched a scraggly mark into my youthfully impressionable temporal lobe. To this day, I’ll never forget my first exposure to “Beggar’s Guild” live. The moment I heard the folk-like acoustics clasp hands with the gravelly, “Hell, yeah” of lead singer and guitarist Andrew Shepard, I knew I wanted more. My fandom increased rapidly over the next few days, and I realized it wasn’t just the booze from that night I saw them live – these guys were good. Really good. Best of all, they were different.
Now, it’s four and a half years later, and I’m still ordering their merch. After forming in 2011 down in Deland, Florida, Roadkill Ghost Choir endured a significant stint in Athens, where it recorded its first full-length album. This made frontman Andrew Shepard and the rest of the band all the more visible during my college years at the University of Georgia. But lately, the band seems to be catching major traction – especially out west. With big things surely on the horizon, I reached out to Andrew Shepard to ask him some questions about Roadkill Ghost Choir’s latest tour and the steps the band has taken along its path to achieving musical success.
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Richard Tulis: Roadkill Ghost Choir toured the West Coast recently. What’s it like to take your music so far away from Georgia and Florida? How do the crowds out there respond?
Andrew Shepard: “For us, just to travel and see the West Coast, and to have that opportunity is fun for us. [But] being able to actually play shows makes things, you know, better. I mean, we’ve had so many good shows out there. At our size, sometimes it can be kind of strange if you’re playing at a small town in like Arizona… but there are so many pockets of good music towns out on the West Coast. From L.A. to Seattle, you can always have a good show, and it always makes it worth it to head out there as a band our size. People are into it.”
RT: What’s the band’s favorite city to visit when touring? Favorite venue?
AS: “Oh, man. I feel like I have so many. I mean just in Georgia, one of my favorite places to play is the EARL. Caledonia, and Georgia Theatre – I love those venues. I’m trying to think what we did recently that was cool. Actually on our last run up the West Coast … you know, I was telling one of my family members about this town. It’s in Oregon. I think the venue is called Brickroom. It was like a restaurant up until ten o’clock, and then it kind of became like a bar-slash-venue type of deal. Oh, it’s Ashland – Ashland, Oregon. We’ve played there twice. I think we were the first band to ever play it when it opened up. It was a great crowd the first time around, and I think it was a couple years later – well, we played it like a couple of months ago, and it was just an awesome, awesome fuckin’ show. It’s just that people are out there and they give a shit about music, and they want to go out and watch it, so. Yeah it’s a great, great town.”
RT: You guys have been touring a lot over the past two years. Who’s been your favorite accompanying act? Does anyone in particular come to mind?
AS: “Yeah, actually, on this last run that we just did. When we go on tour it’s usually by ourselves, and this last time we played with a band called the Artisanals. And they’re a great band, but they’re just like, the nicest dudes. When you go out on a tour by yourself, you’re playing with bands that you don’t know. Usually they’re good bands and cool dudes, but… you know, there’s no kind of friendship or bond being made as when you’re playing with a band for multiple for weeks out on the road. Those guys are just really great dudes and they’re a great band, so it was great watching them play every night and hanging out with them.”
RT: It seems like you guys are heating up. What’s next for Roadkill Ghost Choir?
AS: “We’re gonna be on tour. We play in Phoenix, I think on the tenth, and then after that I think I’m just gonna lay low for a while and write new music. That’s the thing right now. After this tour, we’re gonna focus on new stuff.”
RT: If you had to give one piece of advice to younger, aspiring musicians, what would you tell them?
AS: “Don’t trust 95% of anyone in the music business. Try to do everything yourself. Lotta shady characters out there.”
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Maybe Shepard’s weariness of shady music industry characters is part of his recipe for success. When it comes to “[doing] everything yourself,” he and the rest of the band seem to have things figured out. Roadkill’s core members are brothers Zach and Andrew, plus their friend Rhett Fuller. Even more of the Shepard clan can be spotted in the audience at their live performances. In fact, a fellow concertgoer once pointed out to me that Andrew Shepard’s parents were standing front and center at none other than the divey Caledonia Lounge. With authentic support like that, Roadkill Ghost Choir shows no signs of fading any time soon. And by touring the West Coast – along with other new geographical territories – the Choir is making waves outside of the comfortable Southeast. Highway varmints be warned: it sounds like there’s a lot more roadkill in store.