Sunday, July 4, 2010

HIGH SPIRITS: An interview with Reuben Stanton and Jacob Pearce of Because of Ghosts

Friday, October 03, 2008


“We had our first rehearsal a month ago,” explains drummer Jacob Pearce, “and it felt a little bit strange, we were all a bit nervous. We recorded an album and straight away went our different ways; [half-brother] Reuben went to Japan and me to Sweden. We finished the album completely in Canada so it felt strange holding onto it and just playing it to friends.”

After a year studying in Sweden, Pearce confesses to finding the place dull. “They have great systems of government but I think it’s romanticized by people here. Sure the students study for free and get $20 000 a year to live on, but it’s a very predictable kind of lifestyle and I did get bored there. It shows in the language; everything is pleasant and moderate…all the cheese in Sweden is ‘mild’! The only time I played drums for the whole year was when I was in St Petersburg, I joined a grindcore band for some jam sessions; really lovely Russian guys. The bald-headed singer was telling my Russian-speaking girlfriend: ‘tell him that I want to share my music with him. This next song is called Fucking Shithole it’s about death to shit.’ He handed me the lyric sheet and asked me to correct his lyrics which were like ‘I want to kill your fuck / but all I am is in fucking shet’ it was all about death and destruction but with really bad spelling mistakes,” he laughs.

Pearce’s half-brother and BoG guitarist Reuben Stanton continues “It was interesting coming back and playing the songs again though. I’d been playing and writing a bit of stuff - Japanese pop, not related to anything at all. Writing pretty straight pop songs,” he laughs, “really different to Because of Ghosts. Coming back and playing loud instrumental music was nice change. I think we did pretty well for not having played for a year.”

Before recording their album the band embarked on a track-tightening Canadian tour. “In a way it felt like going back to Bar Open,” says Pearce. “It was fun, but it was tiring driving to different cities and on the right hand side of the road. From our perspective it was really badly organised, but in the end I actually thought it was cool; we’re not known over there, we haven’t had a release - nobody knows who we are. We still had people coming and buying our CDs, people who’d found us through Myspace and were excited we came. The recording session was good because we’d been playing the same set 12 nights in a row and we knew exactly how we wanted them to sound.”

Recording their new album This Culture of Background Noise in Montreal’s legendary Hotel2Tango Studios with Arcade Fire producer and Funeral drummer Howard Billeman was an exciting and productive experience. Despite admitting that with more money and time they could have worked harder and improved the album, the band describe the album as “our most ideal sounding” and one they thought through a lot harder than any before.
“We had to work pretty hard,” says Stanton. “We only had one week in the studio to mix and master. We got in there on Monday, spent two days recording and a day and a half mastering. Silver Mount Zion were recording next door and Leonard Cohen was in the building - Howard was chatting with Leonard Cohen in kitchen while we were setting up. He came back in and was like: ‘ohmygodohmygodohmygod I just talked to Leonard Cohen!’

Howard Billeman, explains Pearce “was really easy to work with. Efram Melick the lead guy from Godspeed [You Black Emperor!] and Silver Mount Zion emailed us two weeks before and asked if he could help out with the session, and we said ‘yeah that was very fine with us’. In the beginning Efram was a little bit reticent, testing the waters to see what was going on. By the afternoon we’d already set up everything and done two takes and they could see we weren’t there just to bow at their knees, we were there to record an album. We had a good relationship after that. Efrim ended up coming along every single day as the second producer, he would sit in the back of the studio listening to take after take doing Sudoku puzzles and giving advice. He would say things like ‘you can do better than that. You worked up to the crescendo too quickly on the drums didn’t you?’ And he was right.”

Stanton encapsulates “as with our earlier recordings, it does capture that moment in time of what we were doing then. It’s not something that’s been constructed over a long period, it might not be exactly what we sound like now, but it’s a very good picture of what we sounded like in Canada.”

“By the time we recorded the album we were at our peak of being competent with those songs,” Pearce carries on. “Then we left it. Because it was recorded at that time of playing together really well, it was exciting to get back into it.” Getting back into it has been a surprisingly smooth affair. Perhaps helped by the familiarity borne from spending your whole life as both friends and family.

“I have a great time playing the songs again,” Pearce enthuses. “It was really invigorating to write songs we’re happy with, record them in a way we’re really happy with and then a year later be able to play them again. It was so good to feel energy in my forearms again and think: ‘yeah, yeah! This is fun! The last track on the album is my favourite song and I think the take was just 110%; it was exactly what it was supposed to sound like. Now it sounds wrong to play it any differently; we listen back to it and say ‘what was it about those two minutes that made it much better than the last time?’ let’s recreate it.”

While not rejecting the ‘post-rock’ tag, the band has often been described as being far more than just that. “None of us are post-rockers in the sense that’s all we play and listen to – I never listen to instrumental music,” says Stanton. Pearce concludes, “I think it’s more interesting to sit in a grindcore rehearsal and say ‘wow, how different is this!’ Maybe our difference comes from us being very diverse people who go to different countries, listen to different things and then come back to the same room a year later and are excited about creating something new.”

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