Clockwise from bottom left: George Ford, Lacy Smith, Josh Skoudis and Henry Ricatto. Photo by Emma Murphy

Gabba Ghoul is:

Lacy Smith – Vocals
Josh Skoudis – Bass
Henry Ricatto – Guitar
George Ford – Drums

Formed in 2021, Gabba Ghoul quickly became a favorite in the New Brunswick music scene and beyond for its distinct blend of math rock riffs with pop and emo song structures. They captured audience attention at spirited live shows and delivered a serving of Jersey humor as seen in their name, song titles and artwork.

In late November, Gabba Ghoul suffered the tragic loss of its lead singer, Lacy Smith, at the age of twenty-two.

On December 17, a memorial concert for Lacy was held at Pino’s in Highland Park. Our music reporter Bennett Kelly caught up with Henry Ricatto, Josh Skoudis and George Ford by phone on December 27.

BK: Thank you just for wanting to even speak and tell this story a little bit. I know it’s a tough conversation. We’ll talk about the band’s history, we’ll talk about Lacy, and we’ll talk about some music. But obviously, starting out, your band was met by a terrible tragedy with Lacy’s passing. And I did get to see you briefly at the tribute show ten days ago. Just wondering how you guys are all doing and how you’re managing right now. How are you doing?

Henry Ricatto: Every day is certainly different, but at this point, I think we’re all still just trying to look out for each other, keeping as much contact as we can with each other and with the family. It’s still been a lot of memorializing and doing tribute shows and things. I’ve been going through all my old photos, and sending stuff to Lacy’s mom, and going through basically all the memorabilia and all the stuff we have just to sort through it at this point. But, yeah, it still feels kind of weird. It still feels really fresh, at least for me.

Gabba Ghoul performing live in studio in 2022

Josh Skoudis: Yeah, I’m in the same boat, and just kind of go through phases and spirals. Looking through my old camera roll, going through old demos and things that we had recorded, little live recordings and videos and stuff. And it’s hard. But I feel like, especially lately, we’ve gotten so much support from so many people, so many friends that we’ve met, it kind of helps make all this go down easier.

George Ford: For me, just taking each day by day. It’s still surreal for what happened ten days ago [at Pino’s], everyone coming together for such a beautiful occasion in memory of such a great person. And like Josh and Henry are saying, just checking in on everyone, seeing if they’re all okay, just going through it.

That show was the first time I personally listened to any of our songs since everything happened. And it was strange, but cathartic. I was glad I was able to do it with people I love. And overall, just, again, trying to get through day by day, checking in with everyone. Every day is a new thing.

BK: Josh and Henry, what were your takeaways from that whole event? And I think Lacy’s parents were there, too, right?

Henry Ricatto: Lacy’s mom and grandfather were there. I mean, it was really nice. That was a really happy, joyous event. I really have to thank Beck again, seriously, because Beck went out of their way to make sure everything would run smoothly for that event right when we really needed it. So that was really a huge help. And Maddy [James], too. And David [Ramos], everybody at Pino’s. It was really great. Skullboy, who donated some of the earnings from the pizza sales that night. It was great.

But I even told Franklin [Savulich] this a couple days later, Alright, now it’s really starting to sink in. Because that’s what happens, you have all this stuff where it’s like, this is all positive, this is a celebration, we’re going to play the music, we’re going to all have fun, we’re all going to get to smile and cry together. But then it’s the times when you’re all alone after that, after the party is over, when you really have to face it.

Josh Skoudis: I think that’s especially, the when-the-party-is-over thing rings pretty true. I did feel though, especially with that show, just a kind of big feeling of relief. I don’t know. For the longest time, I’ve been just so burdened down. For like a week, I wasn’t really able to open my phone. Just all of these messages. And a lot of support from a lot of people. You kind of forget when you’re kind of caught up in everything, how many people you’ve met and how many connections and friends that you’ve made just from doing this. And especially just getting texts from people, that, I don’t know, maybe for some people that helps, but for me it’s just kind of noise.

But when I was able to see all of those people under one roof celebrating and crying and laughing, and doing what we all love doing together, I feel like that’s when that really clicked with me. Like, Oh, damn. People actually do support, people actually do care. And I didn’t really have that feeling, honestly, until then.

So as much as it kind of made everything feel a little bit more real, it also made all the support and all the love feel a lot more real, too. So it kind of balanced itself out for me.

BK: Good. Yeah. Speaking of catharsis, I know playing music can be that as well. Have any of you had a chance to play your instruments or practice together since this happened?

Josh Skoudis: Me and George jammed a bit ago, with one of our other friends. I don’t think I’ve played with you yet, Henry. Honestly, I’ve just kind of started playing bass again. I took like a two week hiatus from actually sitting down with it. But I’m playing it again. I even started playing some of the old songs, because that was just a very hard thing to do for a while.

But I want to get back into the swing of just playing with friends and making stuff. Because I feel like it’s so easy to get scared of that, or to even associate that with more negative things and just run away from it entirely. When honestly, at least lately for me, it’s been a really good tool of helping me regulate and manage my emotions around everything.

Henry Ricatto: Right. And our whole friend group was always just different incarnations of different bands. It would be these people playing together with this, and then you switch a couple of members out, switch everybody around. So that’s always how it was, that’s always how it’s gonna be. So we have other bands and gigs and stuff that we’re working on, so that’s been nice.

But I felt the same way. It was really hard for me to pick up my guitar for at least the first week afterwards. But I had one song that I was still working on with Lacy when they passed. So I just kept playing that song and adding stuff to it and whatever. And that made me feel like I was still connected to them and still working with them in some context, some capacity.

George Ford: For me personally, it took a while to start drumming. I tried playing like the first night just to distract myself, and I was just like, This doesn’t feel fucking right, it felt weird. And I think it was a few weeks later, you can correct me if I’m wrong, Henry, but me and Henry had a show, and we played the Lacy song there. And even working on it too, it felt right, you know, like trying to make it perfect. It was very cathartic.

Even after the show, people were coming up talking to me or talking to us, saying how cool it was and everything. And I don’t know if it was for you, Henry, but a few people came up to me after we were outside, and were just giving me their condolences and stuff, and just trying to be nice about it and respectful. And I really appreciate it. Because they didn’t need to do that, you know what I mean? But they felt obligated, not obligated, but it was a respectful thing to do. I really appreciated it.

Henry Ricatto: They were paying their respects, for sure.

George Ford: Yeah. They weren’t trying to pry into it, too. Not like, “So what happened?” They were just, I’m sorry for what happened, it’s awful overall, and I wish you the best. And that’s all I needed to hear. That’s all I wanted to hear.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, that’s something people definitely need to understand at this point is, yeah, you don’t need to know literally everything about what happened. All you need to know is just pay your respects, listen to the music, still communicate with Lacy any way you can, talk to them, however. But you only need to know what you need to know.

George Ford: Exactly.

BK: And then if you don’t mind, we can get into a little Gabba Ghoul history. Just some questions for you. I think it started in 2021. How did you all meet? I think, George, you shared a funny story at the show of how you and Lacy knew each other, but you both looked really different and then didn’t recognize each other later.

George Ford: Yeah, that’s a wild story, man. I met Lacy technically when I was 19, 20. I had just started college, and I met this guy Evan. I think Lacy and Evan dated for a short time during that period, and we were just looking to jam. I got introduced to Lacy through Evan, and we had this Google Drive shared folder with the demos and stuff, and we only had, like, one jam and never did anything after that again.

Fast forward years later, four, five years later, and Lacy hit me up one day, hit us up one day in the group chat. It’s like, George, have we met before? [Henry laughs] And I’m like, I don’t think so. And then they shared the document. I’m like, Oh my God, you were that person who was singing in that thing! That didn’t really work out. And that’s how I first technically met Lacy, but we didn’t really, I mean, I looked very different than I did in college. Lacy looked very different during that time as well. I don’t think they had curly hair even during that time, it was straightened.

Released November 10, 2023

Henry Ricatto: That’s crazy.

George Ford: Yeah. They looked like they just came out of Hot Topic, [Henry and Josh laugh], low-key. But that’s how I initially met Lacy. And then I met Lacy again through Josh when we were trying out Lacy.

Josh Skoudis: I met Lacy, I think we were in… I was in sophomore year of high school, and one of my bands had just broken up and I wanted to start a new one. And I was looking through Facebook in the New Jersey local music thing or whatever, and Lacy had put an ad up, and they were the only person that wasn’t like “Looking for a 40 plus year old man to play bass in a Black Sabbath cover band.” It was just like, Hey, I want to make music with somebody, whatever.

So I hit them up and I met Lacy and their friend Dan. And that was really, really cool for me. We made neo-soul. We had a bari sax player in our band. It was kinda awesome [laughs]. We only ended up playing at one show, but I have a lot of memories of Lacy and Dan, especially, just getting absurdly caffeined up. They would drink like three or four Nitro Boosts, come into my basement and just work like crazy. They were insane [laughs].

And then I met George at a party or at a show I think he was playing.

George Ford: It was a show, yeah.

Josh Skoudis: He was playing with a mutual friend of ours, and he asked me to join the band. Or not join the band, at least try out for it. And I did. And then I recommended Lacy for singer because I knew that they were really good.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, I remember Josh, when they sent me, first they just sent me videos of Lacy singing. And I was like, Oh, my God, I was so impressed. And then the first time we had Lacy at practice, we tried them out, they sang, they literally already wrote a bunch of stuff for “Shark Week” [the band’s first single]. That night, I think we wrote basically that whole song.

And it just felt so natural. They were such a perfect fit. They had such an incredible voice, just right off the bat, they knew exactly what to do.

BK: Musically I think you described it as kind of math rock, but fit into some more conventional structures. I’m curious for the last couple years, what kind of heights did you attain? I know there were some shows in New York and places like House of Independents in Asbury Park. So how were the last two years musically for the four of you?

Josh Skoudis: It was kind of awesome.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, it was fun.

Josh Skoudis: We had a lot of milestones as a band. We all had bands that we really liked and looked up to. Floral was one of them. Rob Ford Explorer, Invalids, bands like these. And it was incredible because they were asking us to play shows with them. It got us the opportunity to play with all those three and some other really amazing bands we met along the way. We kind of did everything we set out to do [laughs], honestly, at least for me.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, that is true. It all came together very very quickly and we got a lot of really cool opportunities right off the bat, because everything gelled so nicely. It was definitely better than I expected it to be. Even off the rip, people started offering us really cool shows, and we really started getting good opportunities. It was really nice.

That’s the thing, everything about the band was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, like trying to hold on to a cloud. Alright, the ship’s set sail, everything’s going and we’re just going to ride this out till it’s done, see how much we can do.

That’s the crazy thing. Two years ago today [December 27], Lacy wasn’t even in the band yet. Lacy joined the band December 29, 2021. So two years ago today, Lacy was not even in the band yet. We did all that in less than two years. Pretty amazing.

BK: Creatively, from the outside, it looks like this was a really fulfilling band. Because one, I think your album art was really cool, you know, dating back to the James Gandolfini cover.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah shout out, Lynn [Occhiogrosso], shout out Pat Hickey. We had a lot of great people work on album covers. Kyle [Simmons].

Gabba Ghoul’s debut single, released April 2022, featured the songs “Live Every Week Like it’s Shark Week” and “Doomscrollin’.” Art by Lynn Occhiogrosso

Josh Skoudis: Kyle, bro.

George Ford: Big love for Kyle.

BK: And the band name itself is pretty hilarious. And then the song titles, there’s a lot of whimsical, fun song titles. So creatively this must have been a very fulfilling couple of years.

Henry Ricatto: Definitely.

George Ford: Oh absolutely.

Josh Skoudis. Especially cause, we had a very democratic process when it came to things. We all took turns naming the songs. We were all super involved with each other when it came to writing them. The band couldn’t have worked without any of us, you know what I mean? We were all integral in what we did. And we did it pretty great.

BK: Did you have any funny interactions with people who were like, What’s all this gabagool, Jersey humor going on? People that didn’t get it?

Henry Ricatto: [Laughs] People usually typically understood. I mean, I’m the only one in the band who’s even like partially Italian, so we really are kind of stealing valor a little bit. I’m only half Italian, but, yeah, no, people thought it was funny for the most part.

We played one show at Philamoca where they had a screen behind us and they said, Oh, you could just put out whatever you want on the screen. We had like five minutes to decide so I said, Josh, just tell them, Sopranos highlights. So now there’s all these pictures of us on stage playing in front of like, Carmine Lupertazzi and stuff like that [laughs].

Josh Skoudis: Yeah, I’m trying to think, I don’t think I’ve had any particularly super funny interactions. I’ve had a lot of people just think I’m Italian.

George Ford: Oh yeah.

Josh Skoudis: Because I again, I don’t want stolen valor any more than I already have [laughs].

George Ford: I got questioned a lot for the song titles. That was pretty much it. And I’m like, It’s late 2000s metal-core titles, dude, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re bringing it back.

BK: We’ll do a last couple here. So Henry, you mentioned that there was a song that you were working on, and there was new Gabba Ghoul music that got released in early November too. So I’m just curious, if the band is over, are there any elements like that still to come? A possible future release or anything like that?

Henry Ricatto: There’s a couple more songs that we have. When Lacy passed, they really didn’t leave us with that much. We had some more songs fleshed out instrumentally, that I don’t know what’s going to happen to those ones. But we definitely have one that’s finished, and then one that’s finished live, and we’re gonna try to get those out for Lacy’s birthday in the spring. But that’s basically all we have left.

BK: There’s a lot of good live recordings too, on Bandcamp and YouTube.

Henry Ricatto: That, I’m very thankful for, yeah. We were a good live band. Everything always came together live. So there’s nice live videos that are definitely always gonna be there.

“Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week” from 2022

Josh Skoudis: Yeah, we’ve got the hotstuff video, the Cart video [at top of article], we have a lot.

Henry Ricatto: Yeah there’s a lot. There’s one that Henry from Dummy Pass took. There’s some good stuff.

BK: Nice. And just kind of wrapping up. Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you’d like to, or any message that you would want to leave the audience with?

Henry Ricatto: Personally, I just want to make sure that everybody who maybe didn’t know Lacy who’s going to read this, really knows that they were a very special person. Really, truly one of a kind, incredible. Incredibly talented. But even above that, they were just so caring. They cared about everybody around them. They really did. They always were looking out for people and looking after people, even amid their own extremely tragic struggles.

So yeah, if anybody didn’t know Lacy, that really was them. They were just a great, great person, a great friend, a great person to spend time with. And everybody who did know Lacy, like, I know. I mean, it’s really hard. It’s been so hard to live without them. But you guys can always reach out to us if you ever want to talk about Lacy, we’re always around. That’s basically all I want to say.

Josh Skoudis: I mean, tell your friends you love them.

I think Lacy was so instrumentally important in all of our lives. There’s a lot of other people out there that are making amazing music, that are making amazing art, that are just wonderful, amazing people. Just, support them. Lacy really cared about the community that they were a part of, and they did so much for it. I think everyone should, if anyone has an interest in the communities Lacy was a part of, do what you can to make them as awesome as you can. That’s all you can do.

Henry Ricatto: Everybody really owes it to themselves to go out to these shows and to see people play. Because it’s like, look, you never knew when the last time Lacy was going to play was, you know? And now, if you missed it, you missed it. It’s gone. So really get out there. Go to shows, meet people, do stuff, get out of your house. All that stuff is important. It’s cliché, but it’s important, because you literally never know when somebody’s going to be gone.

George Ford: Hmm. Y’all really took the words out of my mouth for the most part, for everything [Henry laughs]. Now I gotta think. Brush your teeth, kids. I guess overall, check in with your loved ones. Cherish the memories you have with everyone close to you.

I know we’re all gonna miss Lacy. They were such a cherished soul. Like Henry said, they always cared about everyone around them, always checked in, stuff like that. And they were just so talented, so very talented. And it sucks. It really just sucks. But I’ll never forget the memories I got to create with them and everyone during this time. So overall, just cherish the memories you have with people you love, and check in on your loved ones.

Photos by Emma Murphy

BK: Thanks. Well, thank you guys for even just taking the time. I know it’s tough and I can’t imagine having to answer questions this whole past month and get out there and even perform. So just props to all of you for doing what you’ve done. And then, if people want to stay in touch with Gabba Ghoul, should I point them to your Instagram?

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, point them to the Instagram. Or our email, which I think is also on the Instagram. We’re going to keep that stuff going, you know, if people want to follow. And we’ll do more information about the stuff we’re going to release in a little bit. And we’ll announce Lacy’s birthday show and stuff through the Instagram.

BK: Okay, great. Alright well, again, I’m so sorry for your loss. But thanks for speaking with me.

Henry Ricatto: Of course. Thanks so much for doing this. It means a lot.

Josh Skoudis: Yeah.

George Ford: Yeah. Thank you so much and take care.

Henry Ricatto: Take care. Bye, guys.

To stay up to date with Gabba Ghoul, follow their Instagram or find their music on Bandcamp.

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He has twice won the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the music scene in 2022 and 2023.