Pain in the neck 

Sub-genres and their stigmas have sucked the life out of bands since rock’s inception, limiting listenership, prejudicing reviews, even killing careers.

Which may explain why Steve Juliano, frontman for Long Beach, California’s don’t-call-us-goth rockers I Am Ghost, seems so eager to pry his band from the fangs of pop-culture’s recent vampire fixation.

Along with a revolving cast of bandmates (that once, of course, included a violinist), Juliano has spent five years skillfully channeling the same synthy screamo perfected by baroque dandies AFI and My Chemical Romance (the cover of the band’s 2008 record Those We Leave Behind might as well be a screen cap from My Chemical Romance’s 2006 “Helena” video), yet he distances himself from their ilk when bemoaning “bands that were huge four years ago,” bands that are “done.”

“People see we’re a dark band onstage and think we’re all just vampires and ‘goth’,” Juliano says. “We’re nothing like that.”

Maybe not, but it’s certainly easy to see why the fans who bake cakes shaped like coffins and ghosts might make that mistake; a copiously guy-linered cross between Adam Lambert and Gene Simmons, Juliano — who is probably joking when he lists his age as 101 — would be perfectly cast as “rock ’n’ roll Dracula” if HBO ever decides to take True Blood to Broadway.

There’s also the issue of the spooky band name, not to mention his once-upon-a-time description of the story told in I Am Ghost’s veritable rock opera of an album, Lovers Requiem: “A vampire meets a girl; they both die at the same time.”

But these days? Juliano says the media’s thirst for blood hasn’t affected the band one way or the other and claims not to even read Stephanie Meyers.

“I never got into Twilight,” he says. “I don’t care for those books or movies, to be quite honest.”

Goth he protest too much? If so, it’s understandable; Juliano has been burned before by categorization. He regularly dismisses rumors that I Am Ghost is — of all things — a Christian band, thanks to statements made in interviews by Kerith Telestai, the aforementioned violinist who helped define the band’s early sound.

“We had members in the past that were very devout Christians, which is maybe why we got that stigma as a Christian band,” Juliano says. “But, no, we never were a ‘Christian band.’ We all have our own beliefs. ... I never wanted religion to be in our music. That’s just too heavy for me.”

Though maybe not as heavy as a wooden stake.

“We are definitely not a goth band,” Juliano says. “We never in the history of our band stated we were goth. The press has put that stigma on us, which we don’t care for… once you state you’re a hardcore band, or a screamo band, or punk band, you just put the final nail in your coffin.”

… not that he would know anything about coffins. •


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