From silence to deliverance

Justin Brake
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Halifax’s Kestrels land in St. John’s this weekend to share the fruit of their gruelling efforts

Halifax-based Kestrels will perform in St. John’s at The Rose and Thistle Friday night and The Ship Saturday night. — Submitted photo

“We’ve kind of accepted at this point that it just takes us a long time to make records, for whatever reason.”

Chad Peck’s comment and the ensuing laugh reveal his comfort with his band’s formula for making records.

Kestrels is the name of that band, and they land in St. John’s this weekend for a pair of gigs to showcase tunes from their latest effort, “A Ghost History.”

Since the indie-pop trio assembled to play a charity show in Halifax five years ago, they’ve released a few seven-inch vinyl records and a full-length recording.

They’ve also undergone some lineup changes to arrive at their present form.

In late 2010 things began to slowly come together for Peck and his bandmates, brother Devin Peck (bass) and friend Paul Brown (drums), in a way they hadn’t with previous incarnations.

With the intent to lay down some tracks for a side project, Chad — the band’s guitarist, songwriter and lead singer — and crew spontaneously “started morphing these songs that were intended to be low-fi, scrappy recordings into something that was album-worthy and something that would be good to play live,” he recalls.

The new music involved a more complex layering of sounds than previous efforts, he says, and was partly inspired by The Beach Boys’ “Smile Sessions” and My Bloody Valentine.

It incorporated “these subtle things that maybe you don’t get on first listen, which I think makes records stand up in the long run, at least from my personal (perspective),” Peck explains.

Months of musical exploration and recording sessions left the band with a handful of instrumental numbers, but few accompanying lyrics.

Peck hit a rough patch of road in his life too, he says, and couldn’t confront the creative block that stood in his way.

As it happened, his friend Tim Wheeler — frontman for popular alternative-rock band Ash — was looking for someone to sublet his Manhattan apartment while he toured last summer, so Peck found himself in the Big Apple for a few months.

“And I guess it was there that I figured out lyrically what the record was going to be about,” he says. “I think that period was really important for the band because we were pretty tied up in what was going on, so to step away and stop completely for two months — it sort of gave us the space to finish off the record the way we needed to.

“I wanted the lyrics to represent where I was at the time,” he continues. “And being close to the picture and staring at one detail — I kind of moved back and could see the whole picture.”

Peck ironically found solace in a city that never sleeps, he says, and spent countless evenings at a late-night bookstore around the corner from Wheeler’s apartment.

“I’d go there and just sort of hang out and (think) about the things I was sort of struggling with.”

Among the books he befriended was Jean Baudrillard’s “The Vital Illusion,” in which he confronted a question regarding the interplay of memory, belief and history: “Is a ghost history, a spectral history, still a history?”

“If you (listen to) the lyrics on the record, there’s a ton of references to the past or history ... he (question) of, ‘Is the fabricated history still a history?’” he asks.

“So if I remember this thing the wrong way but I start to believe (it), does that make it just as relevant as if I had actually experienced it? As much as it’s a philosophical question, it really is a personal question to me. I felt like I had to do it — just talk about what mattered.”

As sonically compelling as it is lyrically, “A Ghost History” might well be the album that propels Kestrels into the East Coast indie spotlight.

Though they were autonomous in its creation, the band now has the hand of popular Hamilton-based indie label Sonic Unyon Records (Thrush Hermit, The Pixies, Eric’s Trip) to help them get “A Ghost History” out to the world.

As for the time it took to bring the album to fruition, “it’s kind of weird in indie rock to make records that show a lot of effort,” says Peck. “A lot of things end up being scrappy or spontaneous, and there’s some of that on our record as well, but most of it is very, very deliberate, which just suits my personality I guess,” he laughs.

Kestrels will be joined by Coach Longlegs, Kick Gut and Little Things at The Rose and Thistle Friday and East of Empire, Thee Internet and Colonel Craze and The Hunch at The Ship on Saturday. Peck will also play a solo set at Post Espresso on Water Street Saturday afternoon.

Organizations: Big Apple, Sonic Unyon Records

Geographic location: Halifax, Manhattan, East Coast Water Street

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