August 26, 2014


We the Ghost on Tulsa's Music Boom

Beau Tyler of We the Ghost is pretty effusive in his praise of his hometown of Tulsa, OK. Built on oil money and religious values, this mid-sized Midwestern city now boasts one of the best—and most eclectic—music communities in America. As the band gets ready to release their album The Kids Can't Dance, Beau explains why Tulsa has become more melting pot than dust bowl.

What have you been up to recently?

We’ve been in the studio for the last two or three months, but not just for this record. We recorded some songs for film and TV shows, plus some cool covers that we’re going to put out that are totally different from the original. Then we have the album that we just wrapped—it’s being mastered right now—called The Kids Can’t Dance. I think it’s our best album yet.

Tell us a little bit about The Kids Can’t Dance. First off, what does the title mean?

It came from the first music video off the record. We always have a really hard time naming our albums. We’re pretty foolish—we have six people in our band but are committed to having a unanimous decision, if we can.

I believe you need an odd number of people for voting to work.

We really do. But a unanimous decision for us is three people weigh in, and three people are like “Man, I don’t care.” It’s like half of our band is like the [Almost Famous] bass player who says, “I just want to get some barbecue.” The Kids Can’t Dance is a simple performance video with a lot of our favorite people around our hometown: Our favorite musicians and some of our biggest fans. A lot of them can’t dance at all. Some of them dance with glow-in-the-dark hula hoops, and they’re amazing. And we’ve got our friends, The Outsiders, who are an incredible local hip hop group. They can all breakdance like nobody’s business. When we came up with that idea, the album title came easy.

You mentioned the Outsiders from Tulsa. Let’s talk about the Tulsa music scene a little bit, because not a lot of people outside Oklahoma know much about it.

Well, it’s up-and-coming fast. I was just reading a list that called us one of ten best music scenes in American... and they’re right. I would say it most closely resembles a smaller Austin. Tulsa by no means is small; it’s really boomed in the last ten years. The metroplex is a million people. We have some awesome venues. The really cool thing here is there’s a lot of camaraderie. Tulsa is very different from the rest of Oklahoma. It’s kind of like there’s Tulsa, and then there’s everything else.

We do have a lot of folk music here, but that doesn’t drive our music scene anymore.

For a lot of people Tulsa is synonymous with Woody Guthrie and folk music.

We do have a lot of folk music here, but that doesn’t drive our music scene anymore. It’s a lot of rock bands, a lot of hip hop and a lot of upbeat, groovy bands kind of like us. But mostly it’s just a lot of bands that support each other. Half of our friends are rappers and metal bands. They come out to the shows and get down.

What are people’s attitudes towards Woody? Is it reverential? Is it just for tourism?

It’s both. I think within the music community there’s a lot of reverence. And there’s a lot of thanks—not just to Woody, but to the people who preserve his legacy. When you grow up here, you have a predisposition to him and that type of music. Even though folk isn’t always my thing, there’s so much good folk around here—I probably end up watching a folk band at least once a month. I live within about two blocks of the Colony, where there’s a lot of music like that. It’s a place where the Beatles would stop by or Cream would come through, and they’d use the bar as a rehearsal space. And the Woody Guthrie Green is a huge, beautiful outdoor amphitheater. It’s the greatest place you can play in town if you want to play an all-ages, family crowd.

What are some of Tulsa’s other great venues to play at?

Well Cain’s Ballroom, as far as club venues, is the Holy Grail. That’s where bands, who sometimes do arenas, pass up the arena to play Cain’s. If Jack White comes through, he’s not going to play the BOK Center for 20,000 people. He’s going to play Cain’s for 2,500. One of its big claims to musical fame is there’s a spot where Sid Vicious kicked a hole in the wall, and they framed it.

Where’s the first place you’d take an out-of-towner to show them the fun Tulsa?

It depends on what you want to do. If you want to go out to bars and not see bands, Brookside is the area to go. There’s really good sushi and high end food. Really, anytime I’m home and not on the road, I’m downtown. There’s two sides to downtown, and both of them are alive. Whether you want to eat great food, go see a band, go to a comedy club, see sketch comedy or go see a play, it’s all downtown.

Do you have a favorite spot that you’ll frequent at least once a week to eat or drink?

The Hunt Club. It’s not trying to be cool. They’ve got animal heads on the walls, fish on the walls. And they’ve got totally Tulsa, Midwest food. You can get Frito chili pie and mac and cheese mixed in one bowl. They’re the place that gave us our start and actually paid us to play when we started and developed our sound.

Any other favorite places We the Ghost like to frequent?

We love IDL Ballroom. More great owners. The Dust Bowl is really awesome. It’s an old school bowling alley with a massive bar with astroturf grass and seating. Man, it really doesn’t matter. You go downtown, and you can’t miss. The Max Retropub is awesome. It’s a huge bar with 80s arcade games, and it looks like it’s out of Saved By the Bell.

Where do you go out in the city to watch sports?

The Oklahoma Sooners reign supreme in Tulsa. Of course there are also OSU fans, because that’s a huge rivalry. The Oklahoma City Thunder may be bigger now, but in a state like Oklahoma you don’t think of the Sooners as a college team. We think of them as a pro sports team—for some people it’s their entire life. It’s a lot like what the Texas Longhorns are to Texas.

Are you a Sooner fan?

Well, my family is a house divided. Seventy-five percent are OU and 25% are OSU. I don’t worry too much about it. I spend most of my time writing songs.

Find more locally crafted interviews on Fuse or Tumblr.