Shine Light & Inspire: An interview with Chicago metalcore band Speaking With Ghosts

By Victoria Goodman

Speaking With Ghosts formed in Chicago in 2014 and has had many accomplishments since then. After signing to Famined Records, the group released a full-length album, Illuminate; played an impressive variety of shows, including Knotfest in 2015; and toured the United States multiple times. The band is currently preparing to begin recording new music this fall and took the time to do an exclusive interview with Locals Only.  

Photo by Jeremy Garza

How did you all meet, and what was your first impression of each other?

SWG: We all met through mutual friends or worked at the same retail store. To this day we still hate each other.

You’ve been a band for a few years now; what originally inspired you to begin writing music and to form a band? Has your reason for writing music evolved since then?

SWG: All of us came from different musical backgrounds but we all felt a lack of contentedness with where we were in life. We needed to express ourselves creatively and in doing so found ways to try and help people. This gave us the kind of drive we needed to be proud of the work we’re putting in. Since then, we’ve just tried to continue self-growth both on a personal level and musically, experimenting with stylistic choices we’ve not yet used in our writing.

Speaking With Ghosts is definitely one of the more well-known metalcore bands in Chicago. Has being a part of this music scene impacted or influenced you in any way?

SWG: Being a part of the Chicago music scene has impacted and influenced us in multiple ways, all of which are insanely positive. Being closely involved with so many talented bands really pushes us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. There is a friendly type of competition that exists within the Chicago music scene and we’re honestly lucky as hell to be a part of it.

The band has done a couple short tours over the course of this year. Do you have any favorite memories or any other significant memories that happened on tour?

SWG: One of our favorite memories was when we went west for the first time. Exploring Colorado, meeting up with old friends and traveling through the scenic routes stand out the most. Some of the most fun we’ve had were on off-days, running through trails and climbing to see over mountain passes. I think it’s important to know that while on tour it’s not all just about the shows, it’s about how you connect with each other in between them. Throughout each tour we develop new things to reference, as well as different bits of culture to bring back home with us.

You’ve mentioned that you’re going to be recording new music at some point this year. How does the writing process work for you, and do you have any specific producers that you would like to work with for this release?

SWG: For us, the writing process is always a lot of trial & error. Usually, it’ll start with me [Tyler] or Craig coming up with a riff on guitar and taking it to the rest of the band to see what they think and if we can build off of it to create a full song.

For this release, we’re returning to San Antonio, Texas to record with Cory Brunnemann. Cory is vital to our process; he’s not just the guy who makes us sound way better than we are, but we consider him an unofficial sixth member of the band. He’s integral to the process and our go-to guy. Shout out CORY B.

Drummer Bryce Tollner // Photo courtesy of Jeremy Garza

Your lyrical content definitely stands out compared to other bands within the genre. Is it just one of you that writes the lyrics, or is it more of a collaborative effort?

SWG: When a song is presented to me, I [vocalist Ryan Wilmot] take full control of the lyrical content. At times, the song has a specific angle in mind and when that happens the other members will come to me with topics they want to express. I will channel my own experiences and reference the things they were going through either during the time of writing or whatever pertains to the topic. I always encourage input from the other members and value their interpretations on how the song should go. In the end, we always weigh what’s best and move from there. In my opinion, however, it’s less about what you say than it is how you say it. It’s my job to make sure the execution is impactful, the words are irreplaceable.

I’m pretty sure that every time I have seen you play, you cover “Faint” by Linkin Park; there’s no doubt that the band and Chester Bennington were influential to you. Following his death by suicide last year, you also played a show in support of Hope For The Day (a Chicago-based non-profit focusing on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education). Has music impacted your mental health in any way? Does it play a role in your music and the lyrics that you write?

SWG: Music is definitely our best outlet for expressing ourselves truthfully. When we write, we talk about sensitive topics or things we go through. It’s important to reference who we are and where we come from to reflect on ourselves and continue to grow. You can see the strain in our mental health as we push through but that’s what being in a band is all about. I don’t think I would be as positive a person as I am if not for these guys. The writing is surface level, performing it and helping others is what keeps me going.

“Shine Light & Inspire” has been a long-standing, distinguished motto for the band. What does it mean to you personally? Will this theme continue to be a part of your upcoming release?

SWG: Shine Light & Inspire is and always will be what we stand for. To us, it is a reminder to be humble and help people with our music. When growing up, music helped us through all of our troubled times, and this is us returning the favor. For me personally, I [Wilmot] push progress. It’s important for me lyrically to front perseverance and show how much one person can endure. I believe that brands hope. I’ve met many people who struggle with the idea of something to hold on to and sometimes what they needed most was someone to share the experience with. Through this next release, we’ve reached out to our closest friends and brought in experiences that needed outlets. While the material is darker, it’s us reaching out a hand and creating ways for our friends to vent. Many of us have experienced great loss recently and this is a coming together to continue to Shine Light & Inspire.

If you could have any artist or musician featured on your upcoming release, who would it be and why?

SWG: There are three main artists that we have our hearts set on.

1. Jonathan Vigil: The Ghost Inside has been a beacon of inspiration for us since the beginning of our band. We played the Chicago Locals Only date and now more than ever they are a true story of perseverance. Together, I would love to tell a tale of endurance and progress.

2. Lukas Magyar: We were blessed with the opportunity to provide direct support for Veil of Maya. We’re all fans of Veil and for this next release, we believe he would compliment the material extremely well.

3. Garrett Russell: Garrett is one of the best personable vocalists out there. He’s no stranger to pushing positive messages and being upfront lyrically. His style is extremely articulate and captures what I love about “how you say it > what you say” while still making clear lyrical decisions. He would be able to help us bring topics to attention in our next release.

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know that I might have missed?

SWG: All of us in Speaking With Ghosts want to take the time to thank everyone for continuing to support us. Together in the course of just a few short years we’ve been able to push our message of Shine Light & Inspire across seas and into hearts of hundreds of thousands. We would not be the people we are without you, and we would not be the band we are without you. We love and appreciate you all.

As always, Shine Light & Inspire

Cover photo by Jeremy Garza

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