Electric Breakfast: An interview with Toaster Ghost guitarist, Jeff Sherin
The band Toaster Ghost is a sci-fi/psychedelic flavored indie rock band from the Driftless Area of western Wisconsin. They released their debut album “Electric Breakfast” this Summer, and Jeff Sherin, the guitarist, is here to introduce you to the new sounds and lots of other fun facts.
Make sure you don’t miss this band, and the joy their music can give you.
Tell us about yourself, Jeff…
Jeff: I am a lefty lead guitarist, amp enthusiast (Divided By 13 and Vox in particular), mystery box maker, and am known to multi-task during gigs by creating feedback and adjusting knobs during solos while also making burnt toast onstage that I toss out to the hungry audience. It makes people happy.
I have been in countless bands since I started playing out at age 16, in La Crosse, Wisconsin in bars. A highlight, if I had to pick one, was creating songs with my friend, Casey Virock (of Porcupine).
I was in Dream 13 with Casey, Lonnie Oines, Jason Knox, and Craig Millie/Jim Vogt from 1989 to about 1992. Coffee’s On, Bill’s Sweater Collection, and Wah Wah Meow are some of my favorites from that era.
I had met Casey earlier in a band called Disorient Express, or another band before that…I am not sure…sometime in the late 80s. We were also co-workers at the Guitar Shop for many years, and we always had the same kind of weird humor and love for music.
And, so…Toaster Ghost is the kind of band I have wanted to create for a long time, ever since Dream 13. I loved playing in cover bands too, but I have always most enjoyed creating original music…ever since I wrote my first song when I was 15, “Mr. Gross,” with fellow high school rocker, Larry Olson.
Besides your first song, Mr. Gross, what is something that most people don’t know about you?
I don’t like to talk about it, but I have dyslexia, so it is really hard for me to deal with technology, and to organize all my thoughts in a moment in order to communicate enough or in the right way. Music is so much easier for me. Because of being left-handed and the dyslexia, I think differently, and it can be hard to explain that. And I don’t usually, I avoid it most of the time, and compensate by working hard to make people laugh…and to be thoughtful in other ways.
Other than that, most people may not know that I had a novelty shop with one of my best friends in high school. We had novelty products and put out a newsletter, old school style, to our classmates. I have always been into novelty items, oddities, 60s and 70s designs and marketing, and B movies. The mystery box that I give away at gigs is a combination of the art I do (surreal photo montage) and the weirdness I like to share that usually makes people smile.
How did Toaster Ghost come about?
Jeff: I’ve worked at Dave’s Guitar Shop (in La Crosse) for decades, and have met some of the best people there…who have been incredible friends and band mates…not to mention, Dave, the owner, who is a great guy, musician, friend and boss. His shop is the largest privately owned shop in the country, but he has always stayed grounded and honest. That is why he does so well.
Anyway, I met Chris Sveen several years ago at the Guitar Shop. He and I worked together in the back, where I ship out the goods from the magic rock factory…and we listened to a lot of music together — and really had a shared appreciation for certain bands and sounds. Over two years ago, we started experimenting with recording music together in Candles Light Themselves — where we first described ourselves as an “untamed viking-noise rock duo.” We were goofing around with sounds and recording willy-nilly. Chris got a crash course in recording that way…ha ha. He’s really gotten good at it too!
It was fun, but we wanted more. So, we created Toaster Ghost with local guys, Jerry Miller and Corey Minor. We wanted a full band with bass and drums…so our brains could rock out even harder.
How do you know the other guys in the band?
Jeff: I have known Jerry for at least 3 decades, and we don’t know how we met, but we always connect on movies, music, and amps. Jerry always buys my amps when I must get a new one. I love Jerry’s alien mind, which compliments my own.
I met Moops (Corey) in a South Side basement during a jam some years ago. I really have fun talking with him about obscure movie trivia and various bands we listen to. I admire his drum ideas. He makes songs more interesting.
We are lucky because we all get along so well, and there really isn’t any drama or issues that can come up in bands sometimes. The only challenge we’ve had is dealing with the pandemic and the desire to get together to practice and to play out…
How do you write songs?
Jeff: The majority of the time I come up with chords for a song, bring them to the band, and everyone creates their own parts, including Chris writing lyrics — though maybe we all contribute some words/ideas here and there. It is really a lot of fun throwing things together with them.
Tell us about Toaster Ghost’s first album, Electric Breakfast….
Jeff: Breakfast is the most…and toast. It has been a favorite for me in life and on stage. Thinking of our band name, a co-worker (Raina) came up with the title. We all came to the same conclusion…electric breakfast makes sense.
On the 1st track “Dayglo Teens vs A Dose of Snowfrog”, sci-fi vibes emerge…with the theremin, played by Chris, and the big rock build-up at the end. And, Corey’s drum-fills really make this our mini rock anthem. Track 2, “Uno-Scoopo” is an early instrumental jam that we did.
The 3rd track, “Afraid of Bats” is therapy for my intense phobia of bats (probably from watching too many Dracula movies as a kid…). The guitar solo attacks the fear, putting it into a bat house that hangs near the side door of my mind.
The 4th track, “Personal Space Invader” is a title that our co-worker Brandon gave us. He has good word play and is generous to share.
On the 5th track, “Parking Lot Showdown”, it was Jerry who decided it would be cool to slow the song way down, and it all came together… Chris put down some scary-good feedback that puts the track in focus, and great bass lines by Jerry. In the middle of the guitar solo I especially enjoy the bonus voice over we put in. There is also a kind of a droning trance-like feel to the ending.
The 6th track, “Alien Bangs” is one of our early songs. It is an instrumental with strong bass lines and layers of guitar…it may someday be a soundtrack to a low-budget B-movie…hopefully one that will make it into a future edition of The Psychotronic Encylopedia of Film!
Two songs that are the exception to our usual way of writing songs are tracks 7 (“VCR Teeth”) and 9 (“Atomic Nerves”). These two are written by Chris. And, I did complain to him, jokingly, that there are too many chords in VCR Teeth…ha ha.
VCR Teeth also features back up vocals by our good buddy, Hugh Fuchsen, an Australian super rocker, with some great music out himself. (I met Hugh at the Guitar Shop about 7 years ago when he was working there, and we became rock blood brothers.) Brandon named this song too, by the way, after months of meditating on the right words.
The 8th track, “Fong Darla” is an instrumental with lots of half step chords that we secretly like to do. There are some wah wah and feedback experiments in this one, and synthesizer galore. Track 10, “Zero Charisma”, is all of us jamming…experimenting over a two chord progression, up above the Guitar Shop. The title is a fun little mention from the movie ET, which is a movie I watched a million times with my daughter when she was young. Lots of effects pedals were used on this song!
Track 11 is a combination of two songs…The first part is “Wrapping Paper Beard,” which is sped up (the part of the song we didn’t like) and then leads into the better part of that song, and then it phases into “Spaceship Secrets,” a more up-tempo song…and the topic turns to aliens, with springy back up vocals by Hugh F, and ending with some backwards-sound fun.
Track 12 , “Satellite Villains” was the last song we made for this album. It is 59 seconds of beauty.
Track 13, “Understellar” is about aliens (again) and made in a Beatles-esque style via the Yellow Submarine psychedelic era sounds. Chris had the idea to create this song in a certain way. It was created around a drum beat — that Corey came up with — and we built our parts around that. It was really fun to record that way!
What is Toaster Ghost up to during the pandemic?
Jeff: Like lots of musicians and artists, we have new music out and would love to perform live, but can’t, so we are hoping people will buy the album on bandcamp and spread the word.
It is hard to not play out, and kind of frustrating, since it is such a big part of my life. But, we are making the best of it. We meet up, observing social distancing and mask use, of course, and are recording new tracks when we can. Actually, it is sounding better and better. Some of us have been getting together and recording songs. The topics have been monster trucks, ghosts, and aliens. We will have an EP/album thing (we aren’t sure what it is!) coming out in the near future.
I do hope to play out someday soon with the band, and I hope everyone digs Electric Breakfast!
We are on Spotify now too.
Our old project, Candles Light Themselves is also on Spotify if you want to check that out too.
We hope Electric Breakfast lifts people’s spirits, and brings them some fun and good feelings during these stressful, strange times. Music is good like that. Music has always helped me, and so many other people I know. We are thankful to be able to share something creative right now, and to keep going with it.
Correction: Track 8 “Fong Darla” was mistakenly listed as Track 5, the comments and the track mentions were corrected.
Full disclosure: Due to the interviewee being my spouse, I limited my personal commentary to the short introduction. Some editing was applied for readability, and was approved by the interviewee. :)