Before they kicked off their headlining tour in support of latest album, Welcome Back, Handsome Ghost dropped their ethereal, acoustic rendition of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps.” We caught up with the duo and to talk about how they took a now 15-year-old song and made it their own.
Why did you choose this song to cover? Is it more about the song or inspiration from the original artist?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the meanings of songs can be fluid and be so affected by what’s going on in your life at the time. “Maps” has always been an important song for me, but the meaning of the song has always been tied to the moment when I first heard it. Now, over 15 years later so much has changed. Though I like going back and listening to songs to relive the memories they’re tied to, I wanted to cover “Maps” and see if we could make it relevant for where I’m at today… a happier and (hopefully) more mature person.
How did you make this song unique and fit your band and sound?
“Maps” is such a powerful song and so tastefully arranged. So much of the emotion comes from Karen O’s incredible vocals. Just the places she chooses to add melodic variations or jump octaves. Some songs are so well performed and arranged that it’s hard to imagine the songs any differently. I think in order to cover “Maps,” we just had to go in a really different direction. Otherwise it’s hard to resist inserting parts from the original. Our cover is a lot less subtle. We used a lot of the same blending of sounds as we did on our record, Welcome Back.
Can you explain the difference between putting a cover on a streaming platform (ie. YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify) vs. a live show?
This is a good question! Covers are really fun to do and put online. If people listen to it and like it, that’s great. But if they don’t like it, it’s fine too. They’re fun to do when we’re messing with new sounds or ideas because when they’re released, they live in isolation. You don’t really need to worry about the context, if that makes sense.
When we’re putting together live sets, it’s really important to get the dynamics right. We think a lot about the flow of the set. In that way, sometimes it’s just hard to add songs into a set. We considered playing our cover of “Maps” on our current tour, but we just couldn’t find a way to make it fit into the set.
Covers are also just a fun way for people to find our music. Sometimes it takes something familiar to dive into something new. In that way, covers make a little bit more sense when we’re supporting as opposed to headlining a show when we might be playing to a lot more people who don’t know us.