Montreal based reflective and groove crafting muso Graham Van Pelt, explodes his solo production project of Miracle Fortress into a bolder, groove inducing and happy-go-lucky parade in a live environment. Graham is joined by family members, including the personable guitarist Jessie S, adding buoyancy and speed to his searching and reflective, electronic base;
“Yeah, the live sound is louder, faster and heavier. There’s not as much of an electronic slant as there is on the album (‘Five Roses’ out now on through Rough Trade Records), either. We do plan to record as a group, very soon so that should give a complete picture of us.”
These words are spoken with relaxed honesty by Graham, as he unwinds on a wooden chair at the Music Box in Manchester. After a bubbly and melodious set warming up for the New Mexican instrumental experimenters of A Hawk And A Hacksaw. An enquiry into the Montreal scene that is now their base brings about the following response;
“I dunno, most musicians are friendly by nature, I find. It is not a big city, so you do get to know the people you there and they are very supportive. There’s a lot to be gained from mixing and matching with other musicians. There is a community spirit in Montreal and there are a lot of quality musicians. It is important to someone young like me to be around talented people, as it gives me a reality check. I like playing in front of people are not overly impressed by what you’re doing. It gives you the drive to be even better.”
As if, what is in essence two projects going under one name, with the live aspect of Miracle Fortress being so different to the production side of things, wasn’t enough. Graham also provides the swirl to dance friendly outfit Think About Life;
“It has been difficult working two projects, but I’m managing it better and better these days. Both of the bands are going to be spending the rest of the winter recording and I spread my time pretty much evenly between both bands. I did try playing a gig in both bands at the same venue one night, but it was too hectic, a bad idea.”
Yeah, leave that sort of stuff up to Paul McCartney, eh? For many who have had the opportunity to check out Miracle Fortress. The Tunng skirting, simple pop and groove indie moulding ‘This Thing About You’, seems to stand out as a favourite and it was chosen to open tonight’s set;
“It’s a simple song about a girlfriend, but I find its meaning gets more universal with time.”
Always a good thing that is, especially for radio stations;
“I have gotten more used to singing about personal things nowadays. I used to find performing songs like that difficult at first.”
A brief interlude ensues whilst Graham is congratulated on producing a “great set” by the A Hack And A Hacksaw’s violin impresario Heather Trost. Anyway, back to their fuzzy, tingling material, ‘Hold Your Secrets To Your Heart’, moulds together a shoe-gazing accompaniment with musing poetic lyrics and is delivered with heart and a dabble of grit;
“That song was a basic sentiment that loses its meaning each time I play it. I like that concept that songs can change.”
You can’t beat a bit of dynamism. Regarding the relationship between music and poetry in the day and age?
“It means something to a lot of musos. It’s not going anywhere and I think it will always be a source of influence to song-writers.”
His manner remains friendly and focused, appearing more than comfortable unravelling his influences and excitement towards producing music. These influences are changing all the time;
“I have recently written a new song that doesn’t have a title yet. This is more in keeping with what I am listening to nowadays; old punk. The album contains old influences.”
That is the constant battle of the dynamic, wide-ranging song-writer. It is practically impossible to keep your releases up to date with your changing influences, even in this cyber-time. Whilst this cyber music age has its obvious advantages, will it be the death of music scenes or communities like Graham’s beloved Montreal one?
“I don’t think the live music scene is ever going to suffer though, it will always be the first place to develop whatever you do. As a result, local scenes won’t disappear, I don’t think. It just means that there’s going to be more diversity around because of the easier access to a range of music. It’s still super important to have a live music community.”
A hundred and seventy or so, refreshed gathers out the front will certainly not be quick to argue with this point. Given the changing nature of our beloved music industry, is it getting harder and harder to gauge success?
“I dunno, it’s not like we’re a band that turns up on the charts anyway, so the demise of that aspect doesn’t really matter to us. I don’t really try and measure success. As long as I can afford to keep doing this then I will do so.”
It is time to delve deeper into this honest Canadian’s perspective on institutions that dictate whether or not someone or some band, is successful in the career path they have chosen;
“Well, that whole thing has become an industry in itself. How your music fits into that can be under your control, but there are many who don’t fit into that mould and do just fine.”
Indeed, such as person just made that last statement. It is fitting to end with a comment about Graham’s live vibe and the impact he wants this to have on his audience;
“We’re performing in a way that has energy and were not miserable. We’re making music that’s fun, it can be different on any given night. It depends a lot on the crowd you’re playing to.”
With this Graham heads off to soak up the bracing atmosphere that A Hawk And A Hacksaw are creating. Whatever is said about the UK music business, honest and buzzing artists who love music like Graham Van Pelt does are always made welcome.