We talked with Jesse Nolan, frontman of the excellent retro-modernist group Caught a Ghost (listen below) and one of the most stylish guys in indie music, about the benefits of dressing up for your home office and the Blossom-esque trend that is best avoided.
How do you decide what to put on the morning?
What I put on day to day is pretty arbitrary. It just happens to be what I’m feeling at a given moment. That is how fashion ought to work. I’ve actually been inclined toward uniforms. I’ll find something that I really love and then just rock the shit out of it for three weeks in a row.
Where do you shop?
Honestly, I favor Goodwill and eBay a lot. It seems that a lot of guys don’t know their sizes. If you know your sizes, you can find some pretty remarkable stuff on eBay. If you want to buy a nice suit on a budget, Topman does a pretty good job.
Nolan with musical partner Tessa Thompson
If money were no object, where would you shop?
One suit company that is really awesome that I am dying to get one made is a made to measure place in West Hollywood called Klein, Epstein & Partner. Their shit looks really sharp. Having somebody make you a suit is really the move. Of course, I really like Valentino and Gucci and stuff as well.
How would you describe the menswear moment we’re in right now?
There’s definitely a collective urge for men to want to look a sharper that was kicked into gear by Mad Men. That was a cultural turning point. Although I tuned out from Mad Men when they moved into the ’60s and the lapels got bigger. [Laughs.] For a while, it seems that looking sharp was out of fashion, because we’re in the new corporate world where people were wearing Tevas to their job, and people associate having to dress up with being a prisoner to whatever corporate institution they happen to be working for.
Where do you find inspiration?
I look at album covers from ’60s records: Atlantic Records, Stax, Motown, that kind of stuff. I just check out what James Brown was wearing. [Laughs]
What is one thing you absolutely will not wear?
At this point, flower print. So many dudes jumped on that train all at once. I have seen it look great, it is just not for me. I saw a really sharp looking dude with a nice fade wearing a hat that looked like it belonged on Blossom. I was like, “You look great, man, but that is just not something I am going to do.”
How does your style affect your sound?
There is something about dressing up for work. Anybody can identify with the fact that you don’t do your best work in your pajamas, usually. I work from home, and I like to put on a suit or something that looks sharp. It puts you into a different headspace. Being a musician is about playing characters, in a sense. David Bowie really understood that—you can transform yourself with what you’re wearing.
Your music is really distinctive—a great hybrid of old soul and modern electronics.
We got our name because making music feels like things of death sometimes—at any time there’s the ghost of Muddy Waters and Otis Redding floating around in your head, but also Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G, and whatever contemporary music you happen to be listening to. Finding new and exciting combinations of sounds is really the main interest for me. It’s a lot like cooking—you never know what two ingredients are going to taste great standing next to each other and bring out each other’s flavors. And sometimes it just doesn’t work and it’s grotesque. [Laughs.]
Caught a Ghost’s album Human Nature is out now. The new single “Relentless” will be released on iTunes July 29.
(Top photo: Shelby Duncan)