Published Apr 08, 2010Apollo Ghosts are one of Vancouver, BC's most uplifting bands and their newly-released Mount Benson LP offers up 13 joyous pop gems featuring quirky jangle rock and Ramones-inspired punk. Given the album's jubilant tone, it's surprising to learn that the collection was inspired by a gruelling hike in Nanaimo that was more painful than fun.
"We climbed Mount Benson, all three of us together, in the summer," recalls drummer Amanda Panda, sitting with her band-mates at Bean Around the World on Hastings Street in Vancouver.
"We got attacked by bees, wasps - someone got stung. We swam in Witchcraft Lake, at the bottom, and almost got dragged in," adds singer/guitarist Adrian Teacher. "It's an eerie lake that's totally black and red. And when you swim it, it feels like someone is pulling you in."
Although bassist Jason Oliver admits, "I quit three times," the trio eventually finished the hike and used the experience as inspiration, incorporating Nanaimo references into several of the album's songs.
"I feel like it's a prequel to the other record," explains Teacher, referring to last year's Hastings Sunrise LP. "Where that one's focused here in Vancouver, this one is [about] growing up in Nanaimo."
Like its predecessor, Mount Benson was tracked live-off-the-floor at JC/DC Studios, the same facility that previously hosted Vancouver icons the New Pornographers and Destroyer. Working with producers John Collins and Dave Carswell, Apollo Ghosts worked at a feverish pace, recording with few overdubs and only minimal studio trickery. "I think the last one was, like, three days and this was maybe about five days," says Teacher. "We just want to capture a moment, get out, move on."
Despite this less-is-more approach, Apollo Ghosts opted to flesh out their sound on Mount Benson by recruiting several guest performers. They hired singer Rose Melberg and violinist Kim Koch to transform the folksy "Brown to Grey" into a tender duet, while thundering single "Things You Go Through" features organ leads by former They Shoot Horses, Don't They? member Chris-A-Riffic. Additionally, producer Carswell helped transform the recordings with some unexpected additions during the mixing process.
"He was doing some rough mixes and he emailed me one and it was kind of like aliens in the background," Teacher laughs. "They have this keyboard and he had put all these spaceship sounds on one of the recordings." While some of the keyboard effects were eventually removed, listeners can still hear an otherworldly synth buzzing halfway through dance-y new wave rocker "Samurai Chatter."
This summer, Apollo Ghosts hope to head out on the road for an east coast tour, although most of the dates are unconfirmed. (Scroll down to see a tentative tour schedule.) In the meantime, they have just one show booked, an LP release party at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret on April 10. With such a relaxed approach to album promotion, it's clear that Apollo Ghosts aren't chasing fame or financial success. "I constantly have to explain that to my family," confirms Oliver. "I'm happy. Wouldn't it be nice making a million dollars? I don't know if it would. I'm happy now."
4/10 Vancouver, BC - Little Mountain Studios* (LP release party)
7/23 New York, NY - TBA
7/24 Boston, MA - ProblemHouse Festival #
7/25 Rochester, NY - Flying Squirrel Community Art House
7/27 Toronto, ON - TBA
7/28 Ottawa, ON - TBA
7/29 Montreal, ON - TBA
7/30 Maritimes - TBA
7/31 Maritimes - TBA
8/1 Maritimes - TBA
8/2 Halifax - TBA
8/3 Maritimes - TBA
8/4 Quebec City - TBA
8/5 Quebec/Montreal - TBA
8/6 Montreal - TBA
* = with Shawn Mrazek Lives! and Dirty Beaches
# = with Kal Marks and Arvid Noe