Tiny Ghosts on their Unbreakable Bond, Creative Chemistry, and Defying Expectations
Friends have an infamous reputation for being less than ideal business partners. Indie pop duo Tiny Ghosts, comprised of guitarist Eric Morgan and lead singer Dayan Marquina, are a testament to the fact that one size does not fit all. Defying expectations by creating music on their own terms, the forever kindred spirits entered the music scene as a duo in 2020 and have since continued to win over audiences with their dreamy, mesmerizing sound and free spirited energy.
Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross, as she learns more about Tiny Ghosts’ journey, including the curious story behind the duo’s name, how the band’s broad musical influences inspire their sound, and the impact of Marquina’s Hispanic heritage on her songwriting.
In 1996, Marquina moved from her hometown of Peru to the United States, specifically North Carolina. During her first stateside concert, seeing Days of the Phoenix era AFI in a packed night club, she had a serendipitous encounter in the form of Morgan. The two self-described “dorks” connected instantly over a shared love of emo music, and a powerful bond was born.
It would be a number of years, however, before Marquina and Morgan united in their musical chemistry to form Tiny Ghosts. Morgan, who was on the heels of extended stints in the hardcore and metal circuit with A Hero A Fake and Brigades, sent a spontaneous text to Marquina in response to a song he was composing: “Would you want to put vocals on this?” And in that moment, what was always meant to be became a reality.
Morgan and Marquina note that Tiny Ghosts’ name was established fairly late in the process after the duo had already penned several songs and honed in on their sound. “Coming up with the actual phrase, I had added it to our shortlist after seeing a pair of pins my wife had left on our dresser and thought to myself, ‘aww, tiny ghosts,’” said Morgan. The real tiny ghosts have become a permanent fixture, as well as a muse, on Morgan’s desk in his music workspace.
On October 14, Tiny Ghosts released their latest single, “What For?” The captivating track envelops listeners with warmth and a dose of melancholy. Listening to the song produces such a vivid sensation that it feels as if you’re viewing a visual work of art as opposed to listening to a track. The instrumentation and accompanying vocals are effervescent, bursting with color, depth, and dimension.
Lyrically, “What For?” is suggestive rather than exacting, and audiences gather that the broad strokes are intentional, adding to the alluring effect of Tiny Ghosts’ appeal. This approach provides an opportunity for audiences to overlay their own experiences into the song.
“What For?” oscillates between two perspectives: the “cautious” expectations of those who lead measured lives, avoiding “conflict” at all costs, and the independent spirit of the narrator that refuses to be tamed, choosing instead to “jump right into the fire” in order to stand their ground. The rousing anthem invites audiences to question, challenge, and ultimately, act.
“It’s time for you to decide / Will you run or will you hide? / You thought the rules won’t apply / Someone told you a bold-face lie,” Marquina sings. The accompanying music video produced by Hudson Hower features Morgan and Marquina enjoying each other’s company in several settings, including at a railroad track, symbolic of the crossroads of a journey. The genuine nature of Morgan and Marquina’s friendship is palpable in their interplay, and viewers cannot help but to feel nostalgia.
Tiny Ghosts’ collective influences center around punk, emo, and alternative, including Further Seems Forever, Taking Back Sunday, Snail Mail, Barrie, Dizzy, Elliott Smith, Japanese Breakfast, Ice Choir, and The Breeders. In response to my comparison of Tiny Ghosts’ sound in “What For?” to The Cranberries, Morgan was originally taken aback, replying, “What an odd reference.” After revisiting The Cranberries’ collection, he later returned, noting that the reference is “surprisingly spot-on.”
Marquina’s Hispanic heritage also has a “huge influence” on her songwriting for Tiny Ghosts. “The music I grew up with, the music I was raised with, was mostly Latinx music such as old-school ballads or salsa and cumbia, but when I was introduced to Spanish rock, my life was turned upside-down, and my little head exploded (in a good way),” she explained. She credits Los Enanitos Verdes, Los Prisioneros, Vilma Palma e Vampiros, and Maná for sparking this awakening.
Since Tiny Ghosts’ formed during the height of the pandemic, “What For?” represents the first time Eric Morgan and Dayan Marquina have recorded together in person as a duo. When asked for one thing that surprised her about recording in the studio with her creative partner, Marquina shared that she was impressed with seeing Morgan’s musicianship from such an intimate vantage point.
“I knew Eric was a talented guitarist and musician when he was in his band A Hero A Fake, and also Brigades, but when he started composing our songs, I was blown away,” she said. “I am so comfortable with Eric, and I consider him a brother who gives me honest feedback, which I appreciate.”
Unsurprisingly, Morgan has nothing but love for Marquina in return. “It’s really nice because we’ve grown up together and had each other’s back through so much over the years that our bond is already so strong. So we already have this foundation of trust and can be really honest and ambitious, and all the things that typically stress band relationships without the insecurity.”
Theirs is a relationship that has stood the test of time and continues to grow sweeter with each passing year. “Sharing demos, lyric ideas, raw vocals can be a vulnerable feeling, but doing that with someone that already knows more about you than you do yourself is very freeing,” Morgan added. “And if one of us decided we didn’t want to do Tiny Ghosts anymore, we’d still be best friends full stop.”
In a saturated market, the rising talent’s music cuts through the clutter and noise, offering something fresh, sun-kissed, and irresistible. Learn more about Tiny Ghosts by visiting their website, and stay tuned for their upcoming projects, including a Spanish version of one of their current songs set for release later this year.
Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.
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