Straight out of the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Ghost of Wrights are a manifestation of the spirits of a time and place forgotten by many. “We tend to write about the late 1800s—we’re big storytellers,” says Nate Nauseda, vocalist and guitarist for the band. “We both live a stone’s throw away from Wrights Station, which is an old train depot in the Santa Cruz mountains,” adds banjo and dulcimer player Cody Franks. “Some of those people—and their ghosts—are still around … we are trying to embody the spirit of [that] area.” Informed by a wide range of influences, The Ghost of Wrights balance the twang of plucked banjo against Andrew Martin’s thumping, jazzy bass and the mellow driving drums of Brandon Otto.
Their sound captures a rawness that Nauseda has always loved. “I think that pretty much all the music I’ve listened to in my whole life goes off [the] same kind of ethos,” he explains. “Raw with a musical heaviness—not like heavy metal is heavy—it’s emotionally heavy. The musicians are feeling what they’re doing.” Audiences connect with this feeling too. Moments before our interview, the band played a few of their songs, including “Lady and the Gambler” and “Wisdom Gained” on borrowed acoustic instruments, while surrounded by a small crowd in Downtown Santa Cruz. Among those affected by their music was a baby in a stroller—too young to walk, but not to rock—that bobbed its head and snapped its fingers in time with the band. “Being up on stage and watching people dance to something that you wrote is a mind trip is what it is,” says Franks. “You’re like, ‘I made that; I caused a bunch of joy and happiness and that’s really cool’ … I mean, there was just a baby rocking out to our music … It’s great to be part of that now.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.