Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Apollo Ghosts

Apollo Ghosts remember the things you went through

In a time when bands are increasingly expected to distribute their music internationally, through MySpace players, hungry torrent downloads, Japanese tours and continental blogs, one might timidly expect that within this reality, both musical and thematic content would reflect a more internationally minded attitude, culture, and audience. A listen to any ‘mainstream’ billboard topping rock band will, in general, confirm this observation. When’s the last time Greenday sang about Berkley and not the totalizing idea of “America”? When’s the last time U2 penned a tune with the resonance of Sunday Bloody Sunday? While some rock bands can leave home and manage to produce imaginative and intriguing musical and lyrical narratives of travel, distance, and ‘voyeur’ for their future works, a local flavour can be lost to too much tourism.

This is the tension and contradictory state of the rock band experience, but Apollo Ghosts, a self described ‘rocal’ Vancouver three piece, have travelled to both core and periphery to explore this creative quandary, triumphantly returning to their westcoast roots on their newest release, Mt Benson. It is a fiercely local offering, bringing the narratives of so many island punk kids into a seamless, 25 minute, adolescent retrospective, featuring cars, cokes, lakeside swims and quests for lovers gone afar. Somewhere, between the lo-fi sunny cheer of the Vaselines and the naïveté of Jonathan Richman, Apollo Ghosts resurrect local histories in a time when they need to be heard the most.

“With our first record, Hastings Sunrise,” reflects guitarist/singer Adrian Teacher, “Amanda and I had just came back from living in Asia, and we felt really inspired. I wanted to blend my traveling experience in Asia with the Asian influence in Vancouver.” And while the synthesis of experiences abroad and experiences at home provided enough excitement to pack rooms full of sweaty dancing kids, and sell 500 copies of their first pressed lp, their latest offering draws experiences from life in Nanaimo, and it’s iconic Mt.Benson, home to Witchcraft lake and Wolf Mountain.

“It’s where it all started musically,” insist Jay and Adrian, who have been playing bass and guitar together for the last six or so years. “Our intro to punk started with bands like AK47 and the Crusties, all these really weird punk bands.” From there, participation in various projects and international adventures brought them together in 2007, and the three punk-rooted friends came together to form their current “groove machine.” Playing mostly in art spaces and grungy basements, the trio is decidedly content to continue their adventure as a local band playing, accessible and fun shows.

“In the day’s of Hoko’s, we loved putting on two dollar punk shows, and our favorite to play are all ages or house parties, that kind of stuff. We like the Biltmore, except our drummer is to small for the stage, we have to put her up front on a riser.” When asked about why they don’t play many bar shows, the Ghosts insist “ It’s not really a choice that we have to make, because we don’t really get offered to play at bars…Well sometimes we get offered shows, but they’re always with buttrock bands. “

Not playing bars and sticking to all ages shows is a choice that many punk bands attempt to stick to, but for a band living in Vacouver, paying for jam spaces, equipment, and recording, can seduce the most earnest and principled musicians into hopping in bed with the bars. But the general resistance to tour too often, play too many bar shows, or quit their day jobs sees Apollo Ghosts creating a buzz born from writing catchy as hell songs, and playing fun shows.

“As we get older and understand how it actually works and talk to people of different strata’s, we really realize what we have. We work our jobs, then play a really wicked punk show. In the summer, we go play some more. We’re not opposed to more people listening to us, but we’re not going to push ourselves in that way. We’re just lazy and would rather concentrate on writing good songs.”

It’s just that lack of grand colonial ambition that make Apollo Ghosts such a great band to see and hear. It’s punk rock: something new, exciting, yet rooted in the traditions and communities of people who actually give a shit and care. In summarizing their general attitude to the “do you want to make it” question, drummer Amanda weighs in with some of the greats:

“Adrian sent me an interview with Cary Mercer (Frog Eyes) who just finished teaching, and he talks about how having a day job can really help you focus on your music in a different and new way, because it isn’t your job anymore. It becomes a lot more relaxed and fun, and the pressure for x number of songs sort of dissappears. Ian Mcaye talks about that too, the point where you start mass producing your artwork, then it fails to become art.”

So climb that mountain, dig your garden, and find a day job you enjoy. Things are good in Vancouver, and they’re even better with bands like Apollo Ghosts.

Apollo Ghosts release their album, Mt Benson, with Sean Mrazek Lives and Dirty beaches, April 10th@ Little Mountain Studios.

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