The rising band made their debut at the annual Band Lotto, which involves a lottery of musicians interested in joining a band to diversify the Champaign-Urbana music scene. After the lottery, the selected groups have two months to create 10 to 15 original songs to perform at the event, which also serves as a charity fundraiser. For most bands, their first setlist was their final one, but for Ghoul Jr. — it was the spark that got the band moving forward.
Frontman and guitarist Keegan Gulick said his experience so far has felt a blur. But, without the support from his friends in the local scene, none of their success would be possible.
"It doesn't feel like it's been that long since we've put out our EP, but it's been cool," Gulick said. "I think the best part is how supportive everyone in this scene is and how supportive our friends are. I think that's what made this really easy and really doable."
C-U's scene is what made bassist Veronica Mullen stick around after graduating from the University of Illinois in 2015. After being exposed to the music industry through working at record store and music venue Error Records (RIP), her eyes were opened to the opportunities the C-U area offered, such as the afforementioned lotto.
During the charity fundraiser, Ghoul Jr. performed their set under the moniker Jan Michael & The Vincents, but after realizing they would continue to produce as a band, Gulick said they wanted a unique name that would stand out.
"I kind of just came up with it randomly, but I think it was some lyric that I heard," Mullen said. "It reminded me of a ghost in training and I just thought it was cute."
Despite their edgy name, Ghoul Jr. tries to stray from sticking to a cemented sound. Gulick said trying new genres is one of the new band's ways to discover their sound, which they haven't found yet.
"Yeah, I think we're still looking," Gulick said. "I think we kind of like to stick with the indie rock type of sound, but I don't know. I think in all of our songs we have, we try to do something a little different. I hope that when we keep writing more music, we keep trying new things and keep trying to mix it up."
Being musically fluid has brought success to Ghoul Jr. with their self-titled debut EP released in October 2017, proving that sometimes a change of pace can make all the difference.
At least that is the case when the group shrunk from a four-man-band to a three-piece. Mullen said guitarist Dylan Decker will be leaving the band due to personal reasons. With the support from Gulick and drummer Elliott Ross, the band will continue to produce music after their new makeover. Decker's absence will open new doors and opportunities for the up and coming band, Mullen said.
"Keegan, Elliott, and I are going to continue as a three-piece," Mullen said. "I think this kind of opened up a lot of potential to write new, more unique and different stuff from what we've written so far. There's no bad blood or anything."
Instead of letting the loss defeat them, Ghoul Jr. will continue to experiment with their new group to produce their punk-pop tunes.
"We totally support Dylan, and we love him,"
Decker Gullick said. "But, Veronica, Elliott, and I are going to keep going maybe try new things with this new set up."
Mullen said the group’s new makeover will result in new content and more shows in the foreseeable future. The group has three shows coming up, with other plans to play at venues this summer, but nothing is set in stone yet, she said.
“We just wanna play some cool houses around the country," Mullen said. "Our plans this summer is to write an EP and hopefully release new music before the year is over."
Ghoul Jr.'s next show is Tuesday, May 29th at Blips and Chitz with Kayak Jones, Stars Hollow, Winder, and Bottom Bracket.
Top photo by an employee at Little Caesar's Pizza. Live photo by BJ Pearce.