Miracle Fortress: Bedroom club

Bedroom club

Miracle Fortress: Exploring new sounds and ideas
Photo: Debbie So

With his long-awaited sophomore solo album as Miracle Fortress, Graham Van Pelt makes dance music for homebodies

As a founding member of Think About Life and the mastermind behind daydreamy indie-pop project Miracle Fortress, Graham Van Pelt is a familiar face in Montreal’s musical landscape. However, it’s now been four years since Five Roses, his previous Polaris-shortlisted solo release, during which time he’s amped up the electronic side of his self-dubbed “bedroom club.” The result is Was I the Wave?, a pensive yet beat-driven, pristinely recorded collection of dance music for the hermetic set.

“I’m not sure if my approach or sensibilities have really changed,” Van Pelt begins. “If anything, I’ve become more interested in branching out and learning how to do more things with my music. I spent a lot of time experimenting and working on new sounds before I started writing the record, and I think I’ll always be doing that; collecting as many tools as I can, and continuing to create whatever I want.”

In 2009, Think About Life dropped its own sophomore effort, Family, then swelled to a four-piece with the additions of Shapes and Sizes’ Caila Thompson-Hannant (a.k.a. Mozart’s Sister) and mind-splitting stick-man Greg Napier of math-pop duo Special Noise. With all of this collaborative, band-oriented activity, the question is whether Van Pelt’s projects have begun to influence each other.

“With Think About Life, the way we make our songs, work with sampling and do a lot of the music on a computer has gotten me pretty quick with all of those techniques,” he says. “That might have had an influence, but I’ve been making music on a computer since I was a teenager living at my parents’ house.”

“There are advantages and disadvantages to compromise,” Van Pelt continues. “With Think About Life, the process involves getting out of my comfort zone and finding some kind of common ground with other peoples’ sensibilities. For Miracle Fortress, it’s more about exploring my own ideas and trying to follow them to their natural conclusion. That’s not really something you can do with a band, most of the time.”

Following a series of Think About Life tours with Franz Ferdinand, Ratatat, Ponytail and other like-minded acts, it also makes sense that Van Pelt would be happy to hunker down and work on his lonesome again. On Was I the Wave?, his hats include composer, arranger, performer, producer and engineer.

“Some of it might be the result of living through Montreal winters every year, but I’m definitely most at ease when I’m spending seven or eight hours a day in the studio by myself, tinkering away,” Van Pelt says with a laugh. “I don’t feel like I’ve had a productive day unless I’ve done that. The result of that is feeling a lot more natural working on my own.”

Now that the time has come to bring Miracle Fortress out of the bedroom again, he’ll have to get over his homebody tendencies. While Van Pelt’s intention is to replicate the recordings as closely as possible, he’s also welcomed Napier on stage with him to add a little percussive punch.

“We’re trying to hold pretty true to the recordings, while importing as many sounds as possible and keeping it as a continuation,” Van Pelt concludes. “I want to be comfortable while still reflecting what you hear on the album. Greg adds a fluid energy and a bit of a personal touch, which is pretty valuable. The live show is kind of a hybrid, and not quite a direct translation.”

Miracle Fortress

w/ Mozart’s Sister, Hear Hums

At Torn Curtain (6595A Saint-Urbain)

May 20

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