Cool Ghouls Share an Early Stream of “At George’s Zoo,” Provide Fun Facts About Each Track

The Bay Area garage rockers’ latest album officially drops tomorrow via Empty Cellar Records.
Track by Track
Cool Ghouls Share an Early Stream of “At George’s Zoo,” Provide Fun Facts About Each Track

The Bay Area garage rockers’ latest album officially drops tomorrow via Empty Cellar Records.

Words: Mike LeSuer

photo by Adam Finken

March 11, 2021

While the tech industry managed to chase out—among other things—the burgeoning garage rock scene coming up in San Francisco at the beginning of the 2010s, there are still plenty of bands holding things down in the Bay Area. Among them are Cool Ghouls, who are celebrating ten years of breezy pop-rock by releasing their pre-pandemic album At George’s Zoo, cobbled together from moments when the four band members—two Pats, a Ryan, and an Alex—found time to do so in their increasingly busy schedules.

The record, however, feels cohesive, even as the band weaves in and out of familiar ’60s and ’70s rock influences ranging from The Beach Boys to The Band (Thee Headcoatees, R&B group Little Anthony and the Imperials, Nelly, and Saturday Night Live all get shout-outs in the group’s ensuing track-by-track breakdown). Rather than leaning on the pillars of heavy psych and chaotic live shows erected by forebears like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, the band merely seems to have adopted those groups’ sense of goofy playfulness, perhaps culminating in a late album track where recordings of the band members screaming their heads off get mixed in so low they’re inaudible under the cool, stoner, guitar rock of “Feel Like Getting High.”

Beneath an early stream of the record, you can read fun facts about each track on the album courtesy of the Ghouls themselves. The album officially drops tomorrow via Empty Cellar Recs, and you can pre-order it here.

1. “It’s Over”

The ambient drone that comes in at 0:12 is a manipulated sample taken from our song “Gord’s Horse.” Although the line “Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop” appears on Nelly’s “Country Grammar” (2000), it originates from the children’s clapping game “Down Down Baby.” It can also be heard in a form closely resembling that on “It’s Over” on Little Anthony & the Imperials’ “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-ko Bop” (1959).

2. “To You I’m Bound”

Pat M. spent, like, sixty bucks on a Vibraslap just for this track and then lost it pretty much immediately afterward. Arvel, who runs Empty Cellar Records, says the sax solo reminds him of SNL.

3. “Smoke & Fire” 

These rip-roaring solos were tracked live! Nice one, Ryan. The vocals on the choruses are composed of four tracks: two tracks of all four of us singing the lower harmony, and two of all four doing the upper harmony.

4. “Flying” 

This is the only song in Cool Ghouls history to have been recorded without ever having been rehearsed at a practice beforehand. We all learned it from Ryan a few minutes before laying it down. 

5. “Land Song”

This song is also a first of a kind because it was co-written by the two Pats. The line-up for the song’s live take was a little different, too, with Ryan on bass, Pat T. on acoustic guitar, and Pat M. singing in a makeshift vocal booth. The “string section” is made of many overdubs of Dylan Edrich’s violin playing.

6. “In Michoacan” 

This song is written from the perspective of a monarch butterfly. The fuzz solo rips off Thee Headcoatees. Before the lyrics were finished, its working title was “Chuggy B,” or, alternately, “Chubby B.”

7. “How Free”

Can anybody tell us what the second chord is? We never figured it out. We also didn’t try very hard to figure it out. It’s fretted (low E to high E) X13O3O.

8. “Helpless Circumstance” 

Pat M. wrote dueling guitar solos but needed lead guitarist Ryan’s coaching to be able to play it right. It took forever to get a good take.

9. “The Way I Made You Cry” 

The verses to this song are in F, but the choruses are in A. D minor functions as the gateway between the two.

10. “26th St. Blues” 

Even though the live versions of this song and “To You I’m Bound” came out last year on “Live ’19,” the studio versions on this album predate those live versions. In the background of this track there’s a Yamaha YC-25D, which is this farfisa-type organ they made in the ’70s, which we found abandoned under the stairs at our old practice space at 6th St and Jesse. 

11. “Surfboard” 

The guitar solo toward the end of this song quotes a riff from a song off Cool Ghouls’ first album. Can you identify the song?

12. “I Was Wrong” 

The chords to this song are:
Emaj7  Bmin7  Fmaj7  C
G   Am   Emaj7

three times, and then

Cmaj7   Bmin7   Cmaj7   A

13. “Feel Like Getting High” 

Really low in the mix, during the elongated last verse of the song, there are multiple tracks of us howling and screaming bloody murder, making vile retching noises, desperately pleading for mercy, etc. 

14. “Look in Your Mirror” 

Ryan sings lead on this song, but Pat T. wrote the lyrics. Ryan’s voice just seemed like the best one for this tune.

15. “Living Grateful” 

This one is just Ryan putting a poignant little capper on the album. As the reverb from the previous track fades out, the same ambient drone sample from the beginning of the album makes a brief reprise.