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The Grinning Ghosts relish and run from youth

A sloppy haunting

"When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake / Spooks come out for a screaming wake." Photo courtesy of Facebook

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For anyone out there with children, I know it can be tempting to bring them to Disneyland when their soft, young brains are still forming. This, after all, is the moment in their lives when they would be most excited to meet Mickey and ride the teacups, but taking them to the Magic Kingdom would be a mistake. I went to Disneyland when I was 6 years old, and I only have two memories of the trip: beating The Simpsons arcade game in the lobby of our hotel, and getting yelled at for getting out on the wrong side of the cars at the Haunted Mansion.

Granted, I don't remember much of my childhood, which is understandably troublesome. As far as I know, I wasn't abducted by aliens, so all of this missing time is rather strange, to put it mildly. In any case, as a result, I remember almost nothing about Disneyland, with the exception of the Haunted Mansion (and, even then, my memory has little to nothing to do with the actual ride). It was an odd experience, then, to discover the California band the Grinning Ghosts, and to have a sense memory of where their name comes from: "Grim Grinning Ghosts," the theme song of the Haunted Mansion.

Though the members of the Grinning Ghosts acknowledge that they have an affection for Disneyland, there is very little thematically to link them to that theme park. Mostly, the Grinning Ghosts' style and ambitions seems to start and end at music for music's sake, of having a sloppy fun time without worrying too much about getting from point A to point B, and of relishing in and running from youth.

"I believe my friend Daryl called me to a Del Taco parking lot and asked me to be in his band, and I said OK," laughs bassist Thomas, who goes by one name presumably for brevity purposes. "We didn't even go inside the Del Taco. I think we just hung out outside it. ... He was honestly the last person I would expect to want to start a band."

This clandestine, Deep Throat-esque meeting in a parking lot resulted in the formation of the Grinning Ghosts. Thomas, Daryl Blake and Andrew Albright specialize in melodic garage-punk that has a way of sliding into modestly anthemic territory, as on tracks like the defiant "Losers For Free," which is an exploration of life post-college, where the young adult's mind is full of impressive facts but with little idea of what to do in this big scary world. In other instances, the Grinning Ghosts turn their attentions to odd detours like covering "Great Big Kiss" by '60s girl group the Shangri-Las.

"I really like '60s music, and girl groups in particular," says Thomas. "Songs that have the big, Phil Specter sound, Joe Meek - the epitome of the way that music should sound. I've always taken a lot of inspiration from that huge sound, with all that reverb on the vocals. There were a lot of cool things happening in the '60s. I think that we take those general ideas and try to put our spin on it."

Even with their lo-fi sound, the Grinning Ghosts do an admirable job of affecting the Specter sound, at least when they're thrashing about, letting their guitars drag them through song after blazing song. After their tour up the west coast, the Grinning Ghosts will apparently be playing a laser tag arena in Dublin, which sounds just about right for a band named after the haunting of the happiest place on Earth.

THE GRINNING GHOSTS, w/ Brightside, Mythological Horses, Melted, 8 p.m., Sunday, March 8, Deadbeat Olympia, 226 N. Division St., Olympia, $5, 360.943.0662

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