Ghösh, the Philadelphia duo comprising Symphony Spell and Zachary Fairbrother, came together in 2018 when they both worked at the same pizza joint. The two bonded during a company meeting regarding a two-star review left by a customer disgruntled by Zach’s habit of playing Korn at an ungodly volume to chase customers out at closing time. Pizza, petulant noise, the customer being wrong as hell: the holy trinity of rock ’n’ roll, and everything in between. Ghösh are a band so genre-fluid/genre-fucked/post-genre that there’s a variety of jokes to be made about replacing gender and genre—and they are all accurate and annoying. Still, to call them “digital nü-jungle cybernetic hardcore future punk” could be adequate, but also of little importance. What matters is that the music they make—fast and angry anthems for victory and defeat, love and loss, potentially all in the same night—is part of a vital wave of vintage-viewing, fate-seeking cyberpunk. (Imagine if the video for Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” had been about doing hot girl shit as opposed to, you know, being an abusive creep.) Ghösh are, in many ways, a ’90s conception of the future from a time when everything—from the first three Busta Rhymes albums to the hardly necessary Aerosmith-composed Revolution X arcade game—came to predict that some post-Y2K AI authoritarian regime would overthrow the analog authoritarian Clinton administration, outlawing freedom. Or at least the X Games.

When I meet Ghösh at a nightclub in NYC, I’m relieved to learn that Symphony describes her band’s vibe as “a videogame about, like, a delivery roller skater.” Kismet, because the only thing I’ve managed to write in my pre-interview notes is “Jet Grind Radio,” a Sega Dreamcast game from the year 2000 about roller-skating vandals.

The duo are in their street clothes (tie-dye, ’90s baggy accoutrements, bright yellows, layers), before they’ll change into their stage outfits of overalls, mixed patterns, and circus-spirit madness. It’s my first time meeting Zach, and it’s been years since I last hung out with Symphony. We both came up in mid-2010s New York City punk, tangential to the nightlife scene, a space not known for prioritizing any kind of individualism that risked seeming uncool. Then and now, she’s always stood out as blissfully unapologetic for her passions.

Since I last saw her, there’s been a pandemic. Ghösh played a few stadium shows with My Chemical Romance and signed to Ramp Local (their debut LP is out this year). I’ve gotten facial feminization surgery, and everyone’s wearing Tripp pants again. This moment is the closest I will get to feeling like we’re in the future. Aside from the next moment, as that’s how the future works.

The duo are preparing to open for freaky breakcore artist (and CREEM Issue 2 star) LustSickPuppy. The other opener is digital hardcore act posterboy2000, whose logo has been mysteriously sprayed across walls throughout the city. No word on who is responsible, or if they were on roller skates, but either way, Ghösh seem relieved to fit in. At least, as much as two people who are about to don glow-in-the-dark costumes and assault the crowd—Zach alternating between his laptop and distorted guitar, while Symphony raps a personal invitation to embrace their chaos—can reasonably expect to fit in anywhere.

“We play with Sheer Mag and Screaming Females and they’re, like, our friends. They’re sick [rock] bands, but they make music that’s nothing like ours. So then when that fan base is being introduced to us, it’s [viewed] like a novelty,” Symphony admits, reclining on the club’s greenroom couch.

They consider the unexpected trajectories of some of their musical influences. “We went to this party recently with [Limp Bizkit singer] Fred Durst that he’s hosting on a boat in Philly. And it was like a Halloween costume party. This guy was the biggest rock star in the world, or one of them at one point,” Zach shrugs.

Ghösh first gained attention with their cover of “Break Stuff,” Limp Bizkit’s answer to “What if ‘White Riot’ had more of a ‘punching a wall cuz you’re mad at your dad’ vibe to it?” The original version was transformed by Zach’s 808s kicking along to Symphony’s distorted shouts of “If my day keeps goin’ this way I just might/Break your fuckin’ face tonight.” All of a sudden the soundtrack to a crowd of bros ripping plywood from the makeshift walls that made up Woodstock ’99 became something more useful for our times: an aiming of fists upward, in defense of ladies and plywood.

Ghösh performing live.
Ghösh will eat itself. Photo by David Siffert

We move from the club’s greenroom to the privacy of Zach’s Prius. I think about those early days with Symphony, when she threw parties at an (allegedly) criminal-owned dive bar in South Williamsburg, one that once employed a 19-year-old me over the summer, booking DJ nights. (It reopened a few years later under new ownership—also allegedly criminals.) She’d play a medley of legit bangers and whatever she felt like hearing at the moment to a mostly of-age crowd. It was her party, and she could play Sublime if she wanted to.

“I’m already different. I’m never going to be, like, the ideal punk because I’m Black. I’m from Connecticut,” she says. “Like, I’m weird regardless. I also like 311. I can’t help it. Like, I would never deny them publicly. Like, my love was stronger than ever wanting to be cool or anything.”

This is the same woman who, moments later, on stage, will blaze through Ghösh’s second single, “Dear Daddy”—where the personal becomes mosh material. Symphony’s vocals move from cheerleading to rallying cry over Zach’s ear-assaulting loops and bit-crushed beats. In its lyrics, she reconciles her hatred of cops with her family values.

“My dad. That’s a cop. Like, a cop cop. You know, he’s like...all his homies are cops, you know? He wears cop sunglasses. He looks like a cop. Yeah, and I love my dad. I fucking hate cops,” she tells me with the familiar, cheerful tone she has when sharing, well, anything, including Ghösh’s dedication to nü-metal, the most popular form of rock in America–turned–Skellington in the closet.

“There’s only, like, a few good, like, a couple really good nü-metal bands, I would say. And even then, not all their albums are very solid,” Zach says. “Nü-metal really had a moment and sort of felt like glam metal in the ’80s. It’s not this moment that gets reinvented, like punk in the ’70s or ’60s rock, or something else that seems like it’s eternally always in vogue. But the fashion of it does.”

Another aspect they embrace, with no safety net of irony, is their allegiance to Juggalo culture—the Day- Glo/Faygo, working/wasted-class fan base of rap metal group Insane Clown Posse, once a critical punching bag, now admired in the same way a roomful of ex–theater kids throwing a sportsball is. In 2022, I heard rumors of Ghösh playing the Gathering of the Juggalos (a.k.a. Juggalo Woodstock, spearheaded by ICP), and I was genuinely psyched for them. It turned out to be more complicated than that. The festival was billed as an assembly of dreams, described in the official Psychopathic Records announcement as “a place where imagination will unfurl, and nightmares will take form and walk among us,” promising Juggalos a chance to design their own events at the Gathering by pitching via an Outlook email address. Symphony reached out, proposing a rave as an alternative to the fest’s usual black-light parties.

“I wanted to rave because there’s not a lot of dancing at the Gathering of the Juggalos, because Juggalos are mostly white guys from the Midwest who don’t really dance,” she explains. The Don of Psychopathic himself, Robert “Jumpsteady” Bruce, called and offered them a slot, only to explain that bands who reached out to play would be relegated to the aptly named “Nightmare Stage,” essentially a sideshow before the signed acts perform that night, and “none of them get paid, at all,” as Symphony explains.

“They offered us a spot at the festival, but they were like, ‘You would get two water bottles. Oh, and also only one ticket for the festival per act.... If you don’t want it, someone else wants it.’ But then he tried to be like, ‘But we’re only asking the best of the best,’ like, all right.”

And so we decided to end the interview. I mean, we just started talking about Juggalo shit. Do we really want to start pontificating on the future of DIY? What’s left? Ghösh are a love letter to not giving a fuck. They’re not here to recruit for the Juggalo army or sell you on nü-metal, and they sure as hell don’t care what you think of their taste. Symphony put it best: “Oh yeah, you think it’s stupid? You just need to love your inner child.”

In the third decade of the 21st century, more than 20 years post-Y2K and no apocalypses later, Ghösh hit the stage to a crowd drastically more multicultural and gayer than anyone could imagine screaming the lyrics to Limp Bizkit. The Matrix is apparently an allegory for my transition, and San Francisco is still up in the air about unleashing law-enforcing murder robots. So maybe the idea that consuming subculture is a form of resistance, or that the tattooed are an oppressed demographic, is not exactly infographic material. Maybe Ghösh aren’t time travelers here to save us. Maybe they’re here to rock, to fuck shit up, or even just to answer the age-old question: What if the Spawn soundtrack didn’t suck?

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Spring 2023 issue. If you prefer to read in print, grab a copy here and subscribe to never miss another issue.



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