Pretty Ghouls come equipped with their own horror story

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

For a band influenced by classic horror movies, it’s fitting that Pretty Ghouls’ origin story plays out like the beginning of one.

A few years ago, Detroit drummer/songwriter TJ Ghoul discovered late night that blues legend Son House was buried in Mt. Hazel Cemetery. He got so excited he immediately set out in search of House’s grave.

“I’m a huge fan of the Delta blues stuff, like the original stuff from the ’20s,” he says. “I was like, ‘I have to go find the grave right now.’ It was 1 a.m. and I’m fumbling around in a cemetery. It was totally stupid.”

A lifetime spent watching monster movies couldn’t have prepared him for what he encountered among the tombstones that night.

“These two banshees came howling and attacking me. But as soon as I thought I was going to die they were laughing their asses off,” Ghoul says. The “banshees” turned out to be two other mischievous humans: his future bandmates, Asia Mock and Sarah Stawski.

“At that point it was like either these ladies are super cool or they’re going to murder me,” he says. “We ended up hanging out all night, and it sort of took off from there. I’m still not sure whether they want to murder me or not.”

Ghoul had previously played in a Halloween cover band that paid tribute to garage rock heroes like The Sonics, The Monks and The Troggs, but he’d long wanted to form his own band that would reference the movies and the music he loves in equal measure. When he later found out one of his new graveyard prowling friends was a musician, he knew he finally had his chance.

“He heard I played guitar and asked me to play for him, which I think was ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on my pawn shop acoustic,” Stawski says. “After that, he convinced me to get an electric guitar, and I suppose that was the start of it all.”

Stawski’s musical experience prior to playing in Pretty Ghouls was limited to teaching herself folk songs from a hand-me-down songbook, so Ghoul introduced her to garage rock via the classic “Nuggets” compilation to show her the sound he was looking for.

Ghoul convinced Mock to sing in the band, but her only previous vocal experience was in a choir setting. Ghoul had to give her some reference points to get the snarl he wanted in his lead singer’s voice.

On Saturday, the trio plays the UFO Factory in support of a new 45 featuring two songs — “Mask of Satan (aka Black Sunday)” backed with “Can You Do the Ghoul” — the band recorded two years ago with producer Jim Diamond. Both tracks are crunchy, high-energy bursts of vintage rock, and if the Mario Bava-referencing A-side doesn’t give it away, Ghoul’s love of horror movies is splattered over every groove.

“Movies and music are all the same thing to me. It’s all pop culture telling a story,” Ghoul says, explaining how he blends his love for the two mediums into his songs. “I mainly want to evoke specific moods. Generally I want an upbeat, fun, permissive atmosphere that people can feel good about and really let loose to.”

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Pretty Ghouls

with Prude Boys

and Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss

9 p.m. Fri.

UFO Factory

2110 Trumbull, Detroit