The group is set to release Soft Edge on Sept. 24, a debut album years in the making. Although Hastings had the concepts for the songs in mind for years, it wasn’t until he brought his friends into the studio with him that he was able to put his writings into audible form.
Hastings had been friends with keyboarder Kevin Layne since high school, and Hastings and drummer Matthew Morin had been longtime studio partners long before the forming of Fresh Ghosts. They'd also played in other Denton bands together.
Hastings later met guitarists and bassists Mike Flores and Blake Vaughn across various venues in Denton, and the band of ghosts was formed in summer 2018.
“I've always wanted to be a songwriter and a frontman,” Hastings says. “Finding them really, really helped make that possible. It filled out the sound, for sure.”
Hastings came up with the band name after hearing the phrase “fresh ghosts” in a Brad Neely cartoon.
“The line just stuck with me,” Hastings says. “It's a strange phrase, and it was in my head for a long time individually. The line ‘fresh ghosts’ found its way into a song, and then I just felt like it needed to be something more than that.”
Ahead of the release of Soft Edge, Fresh Ghosts will host an album release party at Dan’s Silverleaf on Sept. 18. The spot is one of their favorite venues, and Hastings generally loves the camaraderie of Denton’s music scene and says the community has supported them since the beginning.
But he objects to the term “music scene.” Hastings prefers to say “music circles,” because he believes the term better encompasses the different types of music in the city.
“You have people here doing totally different things,” Hastings says. “You have bands playing weirdo music at house shows. And you have the jazz kids, you have folk and country stuff, rock-and-roll. I mean, it's all here.”
The influence comes through in the band's sound: a folksy indie-rock that's often haunting in its dark turns.
Much of Soft Edge was recorded in Mockingbird Sound Recording Studio, where Hastings does a lot of audio engineering. The people he's met over the years helped contribute to the album’s sound. On the record's lead single “Better,” the Ghosts try to move on from mourning losses and past traumas.
“I don't feel the pressure to go out and play as much as possible, and grind away ... There's so much that’s out of our control. And I think there's something about a loss of control that I am gaining or learning from.” –Alex Hastings
Hastings wrote the song years ago, but says that the pandemic has made it more timely. Like many, he's reevaluated his priorities over the past 18 months.
“I don't feel the pressure to go out and play as much as possible, and grind away,” Hastings says. “There's so much that’s out of our control. And I think there's something about a loss of control that I am gaining or learning from.”
Having learned to let go of total control, Hastings sought feedback from other local musicians and incorporated new sounds into his music, creating a body of work symbolizing the band’s love for Denton's "music circles."
“A way that I found to get friends to come out to the studio was to just invite them to come play on a track,” Hastings says. “That was a fun way to explore the album and to have different voices on it. That helped me eventually find the sound that I think I was looking for the whole time, I just didn't know how to get there. There was a lot of giving myself permission with this album.”