Ghost Piss

Ghost Piss by Daniel Caplan

Meet River Allen otherwise known as Ghost Piss. Equipped with an MC505 they create dreampop music. In 2021 they released their debut EP Blushing. Now they are back with Dream Girl on Sockhead Records this Friday May 3.

Dream Girl

The album includes singles “Worry”, “Hardcore”, “Rude Dudes” and “See Ya!!!!”

Dream Girl is an ethereal electronic journey. One moment the listener is drawn from a repetitive club beat to songs full of depths and lyrics that are mysterious and compelling. FEMMUSIC had the opportunity to email with River Allen about their creative process and the new album.

FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique?

RA: Working with my drum machine feels a lot like working with clay on a wheel. The loop goes round and round, and I throw different sounds at it until I build something I’m proud of. I usually write a poem to the beat of my bike pedals or my feet while walking around. If I stumble on something catchy enough, I’ll scroll through the beats I’ve been working on, and see if any of them work together. I don’t move forward until I feel like they’re meant to be. I have a lot of unfinished beats and poems without music because of this disjointed writing process lol!!

FEMMUSIC: What was the biggest challenge making the Dream Girl album?

RA: During Covid, I left New York City to work for the Forest Service and National Park. Noah and I had to long distance mix this album together while I had very little cell service. Communication was difficult, and it was difficult for me to not be super hands on and present in the studio.

I had to completely let go and put trust in my producer Noah Prebish. I’m known for being really stubborn and stuck on having things sound “my way.”  He would send me mixes and I would get so stressed when they didn’t sound EXACTLY as I imagined in my head. So we came up with a plan, before sending notes I would sit with a mix for a week and see how I felt. Turns out, after a week, all the decisions he made grew on me, and they became our songs, not just mine. Working with Noah has helped me grow so much as a person and has made me easier to work with. Music videos, album art, cassette design.. all the details of this release became fun when I just let go and let other people bless me with their ideas, talent and input. I am a control freak in remission <3

FEMMUSIC: You made your EP Blushing with Styles Upon Styles and made Dream Girl with Sockhead Records. What did Sockhead Records bring to the project?

RA: Gideon from Sockhead is a dear friend of mine, and was very insistent that Dream Girl was worth putting out at a time where I had given up on the album entirely. As a solo artist, things get really lonely and it’s hard to stay stoked on yourself during hard times. With Sockhead, I feel like I have a family.

I need humanity and teamwork when dealing with putting an album out, but I also need to feel like a priority to the people I’m working with. Sockhead is invested in the details and lore, in the little hidden meanings in my cassette design, and is very excited to make something special for me. They know that this album is my baby, and are treating it like it’s sacred, and I really really needed that. If it wasn’t for them, this album would still be sitting in a folder on my computer.

FEMMUSIC:  I see you worked with Noah Prebish again on this album. What does he bring to the studio that you decided to work with him again?

RA: Some backstory, I started Ghost Piss after years of being in other boy’s bands and having my ideas rejected time and time again. I created a fortress of solitude. I didn’t want ANY MALE INPUT. Any help. I wanted to see what would happen if I had a safe space to believe in myself. A couple of times, I made attempts to let people in, but multiple male producers made moves on me under the guise of “collaborating” which moved me even further into my fortress of solitude.

Noah and I were friends for years before I asked him to collaborate on an album with me. He patiently earned my trust. There’s something so beautiful about the way we work together. I bring a real maniacal energy into the studio, trying to describe the sounds I’m hearing in my head with metaphors and hand gestures. It’s like playing charades. People in the past would take this opportunity to be super condescending, but Noah worked with it and expanded on my ideas. Even though I’m not the most technical musician, he always took the opportunity to gas up my musical intuition. I had so much room to be myself in the studio with him. He let my songs live and breathe and found little nooks and crannies where his sound would add to what I had going on. I can’t wait to work with him again.

FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “This Will Hurt.” How did that song develop?

RA: I was going through a breakup and went on a solo trip to ground myself. I was seeing the most beautiful sites by myself, swimming in gorgeous lakes and sunbathing in the grass, but my heart was aching for the person I was trying to get away from. I wanted him there, and to share these experiences. We played with the idea of him coming out and visiting me on my travels, but we both knew it wouldn’t be good for us. In the end, it would only hurt!! I had these sounds on my 505 for a long time, but they were so dark, and I couldn’t find any words to fit with them until this breakup.

I decided to keep it simple and wrote about exactly what I was doing without him. Swimming in the water, lying in the dirt, alone, without the person I thought was my other half. I was going to expand on it, but decided it was enough. Noah challenged me to let him have more creative freedom on this album, so I handed this song over entirely to him. It felt painful and too personal to really dig into. It didn’t have much direction or build. It was just four lines, drums, and all the looped synth parts you hear. The structure, the modular synths you hear, and that iconic breakdown in the middle was all Noah genius. He sent it to me and to my surprise I was just like, yep. No notes. It’s perfect (which is very unlike me)

FEMMUSIC:  Tell me about “Placeholder.” How did that song develop?

RA: “Placeholder: is an interpolation of the song ‘#19’ by Aphex Twin. I had his album on CD and would play this song over and over. It felt like an Erik Satie song in its simpleness. I was surrounded by such harsh, masculine techno at the time. The sweetness and softness of this song affirmed that I could make electronic music that was something warm and intimate. It meant everything to me.

I was in love with a man 10 years older than me. We dated for awhile, but he never let me get close to him because he told me he wanted a wife and kids, and I was so young that I couldn’t be that for him. I would reach out for intimate moments in our temporary relationship, and was often rejected because of our different timelines. It really hurt. At the height of this confusion, I went on a trip to New Hampshire to clear my head. I slipped and fell into the base of a waterfall while on a hike by myself. It was a near death experience. Time slowed down as I fought against the water and tried to make it to safety. The feeling of the rhythmic water of the waterfall pushing against me while in a panicked state gave me everything I needed for this song.

My phone was waterlogged and all I had to get me home was a paper map, and Aphex Twin’s CD in my car stereo. I began lamenting about this relationship over top of “#19,”, but slowed it down and changed the drums, cymbals and bass to feel like the slow rhythmic water of the waterfall. I took my time with this song and let it unfold like a flower, and applied that same thinking to the rushed relationship that this man was trying to manipulate me into.

FEMMUSIC:  What artists would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with?

RA: In my wildest of dreams: Blue Hawaii, Magdalena Bay, Tirzah, Coco and ClairClair, Steve Lacey and Chappell Roan and Grace Ivesand Grace Ives (we both used the MC505 and were in the Brooklyn scene at the same time but never crossed paths). These are my modern pop heroes. It’d also be so cool to make something weird with They Are Gutting a Body of Water and Sextile. I wanna get out of my pretty pop bubble one day. These are my absolute biggest collaboration dreams and it’s kind of embarrassing to say them out loud. But maybe the universe is listening.

FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?

RA: I was learning Piano at a young age and as soon as I started playing Erik Satie everything fell into place for me. Gnossienne No. 1 put me in a trance. Simple, effective, to the point, hooks that stab you right in the heart. That’s where my love of minimalism was born.

Hearing Missy Elliot’s “Pass That Dutch” in my babysitter’s car changed my brain chemistry. The production was so fascinating to me. The beat Timbaland made for that song was like a puzzle, and I my mind couldn’t get enough of it so I’d just start it over and over trying to figure it out. Not all pop songs have a beat that outshines the performer, but every song he touches is an earworm. I became a sort of Timbaland student. He got me interested in how Pop songs are made, and taught me about SHAPE. His hooks have a shape in my mind. His singing on Nelly Furtado’s album showed me you can both be the man behind the curtain and the performer.

FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?

RA: What I would change about this industry is what I would change about this country. The classism, racism, and blatant exclusion that crushes real talent, voices, and lives. The playing field is inequitable, and many talented people slip through the cracks this way. It is expensive to be seen.


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