July 28th, 2010
In this day and age, you don’t need a record deal in order to thrive or even just survive as an artist. Just ask Vancouver’s Apollo Ghosts. The trio released their second album, Mount Benson, earlier this year with no distribution and no label. Glowing reviews from Canada’s most reputable music publications and blogs soon followed and then in June the band heard their name called out as one of the 40 artists to earn a spot on the highly coveted Polaris Music Prize long list.
So, how does a band only people in the city of Vancouver really know of get chosen for having one of the year’s best Canadian made albums? Well, that question answers itself. Music may be subjective, but when enough critics agree that your album is worth nominating for a $20,000 prize, well, you must be doing something right. Apollo Ghosts definitely are.
Mount Benson may strike some as just another indie rock album, but that kind of genre classification doesn’t prepare you for the thrills, twists and turns Adrian Teacher, Jay Oliver and Amanda Panda insert carefully into their ragtag arrangements. Evoking visions of everything from Pavement’s lo-fi rumblings and shrewd interplay, to Jerk With A Bomb’s raw, bent, expansive scope, to the crooked pop style of Jonathan Richman and/or The Modern Lovers, Apollo Ghosts turned in a succinct and multifarious gem that is bound to pick up more steam when year-end picks come rolling in.
As they cross Canada on their first national tour, we found out a little more about the band from their fabulously named drummer Amanda Panda.
How did it feel to make the Polaris long list?
Honestly, it was a surprise. As far as we know, we were the only band on there without a label. We were happy that the judges enjoyed our music.
Your album, Mount Benson, never received a proper release, despite the Polaris recognition. Did that change much for you?
We really enjoy self-releasing our own music and will continue to do so in the future. We have had some great labels put out some music, such as as Geographing Records, Catbird Records and Scotch Tapes.
Would you say the Polaris nod has brought the band wider exposure?
Not really sure. In terms of record sales, I would say no. I think outside of Vancouver (our hometown) we’ve maybe sold 20 or 30 records in Canada.
What was the original plan in releasing the album?
We released the album on March 31st, my grandfather’s birthday. We pressed 500 copies on vinyl. The release show in Vancouver was really fun: it was a cryptozoology themed party.
I’ve read that the album has been pirated, which is how a lot of people actually heard it. You must feel a bit flattered that people have fallen in love with record illegally.
Yes, very flatteed. All our albums are on the torrents. If people don’t want to buy the record, that’s fine. We just want them to like the music. We’re not in this for money.
Mount Benson is said to be about Nanaimo, BC. What was it about that place that inspired you to write an album about it? And where does a claw-foot tub fit into things?
The album is based around Nanaimo, B.C. which is Adrian Teacher’s hometown. It’s an inspiring place because of all the colourful characters that live there. We had a mayor that dressed up in a pirate suit. The opening lines featuring the claw-foot tub line connects to our first record if you listen carefully.
Apollo Ghosts have a new split EP with Divine Prophet. What made you decide to record covers? How did you choose what songs to record?
Jay’s favourite band is the Minutemen, so that’s why we did that one. We all love the Monks and the Vaselines as well. We bought a four-track, drank some beers and recorded them in a couple of hours. It was lots of fun!
You’re doing a proper Canadian tour. What can people expect from an Apollo Ghosts show?
We’ll play our hearts out and make lots of mistakes!
Apollo Ghosts’ remaining tour dates:
July 28 - Quebec City, QC @ L’Agitee
July 29 - Halifax, NS @ Gus’ Pub
July 31 - Sackville, NB @ SappyFest
August 2 - Charlottetown, PE @ Baba’s Lounge
August 3 - Fredericton, NB @ Renu Boutique
August 4 - Montreal, QC @ Bar St Laurent II
August 5 - Ottawa, ON @ Raw Sugar
August 6 - Toronto, ON @ Sneaky Dee’s
Download “Coka-Cola Admen” from Mount Benson by clicking here.