"...what you get when you cross defiant alter boys with disenchanted adulthood..."

If you want to accomplish anything meaningful before you die, then you must Race The Ghost. That's the ambition and the name of a new Pittsburgh rock band that recently packed venues in and around Pittsburgh after more than a decade of forging their sound at amateur shows in the working class basements, school dances and union halls of the Steel City. Race The Ghost is made up of two sets of brothers – Michael and Frank Salati and Vincent and Benjamin Bruni – a quartet representative of what you get when you cross defiant altar boys with disenchanted adulthood. The refined songwriting on their self-titled new album reflects the passions of a generation seeking fulfillment, love, respect or just a place of their own in a world permeated by melancholy and desperation. Race The Ghost is about pushing back against the pressures and expectations of everyday life. That echoes the sentiment in their CD's first track, Sitting on Rialto St., a meditation on the perils of doing what you have to, instead of what you love. The lyrics explore the fear that “If I wait around, wait around / watch the hours pass, hours pass / I could miss my last chance.” While they all share duties in the band, Michael– the album producer – mans the drums with Benjamin on bass, delivering tight, danceable beats and a steady foundation for Frank's transcendent guitar work and Vincent's smooth, aching vocals. While their lyrics lean toward introspection, their music possesses an inescapable speed and power, galvanizing audiences, crowding dance space with writhing bodies and provoking movement from even the stiffest joints of audiophiles. One thing that unites all their music is the sense of clinging to the fleeting safety of childhood and the quickly evaporating present and the precious time that is drifting away from every one of us at every moment, a celebration of fatalism and a wish for something better. It's a reflection of their own regret and the effort to erase it. Race The Ghost had been playing together, in one form or another, for more than 15 years – starting at Mt. St. Peter Catholic grade school in New Kensington, PA and continuing through high school and college until the demands of making a living did what no ruler-snapping nun could: split them up. Vincent became a teacher, Benjamin worked at a grocery store, and now they're both landscapers. Frank punched-in hours at a bookstore, and Michael put in 40 hours in an office. "We didn't play together for a couple of years," Frank says. "We'd jam a little, nothing formal, but we weren't writing songs." The old friendships, even between brothers, began to fracture. "We were starting to get to each other, because we were working like adults and not really used to the discipline and commitment that came with playing as adults," Michael says. But they discovered what any artist eventually learns about living on bread alone. The hunger to make music built up until they decided more than a year ago that they needed to find the time and energy to play together just as much as they needed to pay their bills. Anyone who's ever had a creative passion knows there's a certain point where, no matter how hard it gets, that dream must be chased. "It's something that I noticed while we were all working full time, recording the album at night – each of us had outside stress and other commitments but we were all still very willing to put up with this," Vincent says, regardless of "whether we thought we could make it or whether we were tired that night, or whatever." Michael adds, "We were forced to step up and get it done. No one is going to do it for us." Sometimes that meant helping each other not only in music, but in regular life. Instead of working on the album, they'd work together putting windows in a basement, laying carpet, or painting. That tended to get the work done in an evening or two, instead of taking one of them out of rehearsals or recording for days at a time. "We used to get together, and it would be 'are we going to paint or play?'" Michael says. Seriously, we would alternate. Wednesday we would paint, and Sunday we would play. When we got done all we did was play." What does this have to do with their music? Ultimately, all these little obstacles and interruptions feed into their passion and imagination. Race The Ghost's music is built around the idea that love, of any kind, is most fulfilling when it can be reached only through strain and hardship. The complications that deferred their music in previous years gave them a chance to grow up, Michael says: "The music grew up too." Their unpretentious approach to performing and songwriting, coupled with their nuanced musicianship, and a desire to satisfy audiences has already built them a following in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where they often played at schools and local venues as teenagers. Luckily, their friends and fans have followed, as proven by the crowds that filled bars and clubs for their return to Pittsburgh stages in 2005. - Anthony Breznican


race the ghost

Lava Lounge