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Apollo Ghosts Interview: “Truth and honesty is everything in art”

We talk to Adrian Teacher on the back of the band’s new LP, ‘Pink Tiger’.

Apollo Ghosts write beautiful songs. It’s that simple, really.

The Vancouver four-piece, led by Adrian Teacher on vocals/guitar and accompanied by Amanda P., Robbie N. (bass) and Dustin B. (drums), have spent the last 14 years warming the hearts of those who have engaged in their lovely body of work.

Arriving in 2008 with their debut album, Hasting Sunrise, Apollo Ghosts spent the next four years on a spell-binding run, which saw the release of albums, Mount Benson (2010) and Landmark (2012).

Following the release of Landmark, members of the band pursued other projects, and after their low-key return with the 2019 ambient album, Living Memory, the band are now in full-swing with the bit between their teeth on their latest offering, Pink Tiger: the ambitious and fantastic double album.

Recorded by Jordan Koop (The Courtneys, Orville Peck) with additional production and mixing by David Carswell (Destroyer, The New Pornographers), Pink Tiger is an album that possesses a glorious split personality.

22 tracks that clocks in at just under the hour mark, the first part of Pink Tiger sees Apollo Ghosts showing their tender side, with a series of songs that are quintessential agents to melt the heart (Melatonin 5G, To Set the King Bloom, Deodora, Dirty Spoons).

The second part of Pink Tiger sees Apollo Ghosts taking a hairpin turn, unleashing the kind of sun-dappled jangle-rock that would brighten up anyone’s day (Spilling Yr Guts, Okay Soda, Soft American, Gentlemen Go To Heaven). It’s an important chapter from a band that has been vital across the DIY landscape both in Canada and beyond.

In support of Pink Tiger, Apollo Ghosts are set for their first U.K. tour which includes a performance at the End of the Road Festival. At the beginning of May, via email we asked Teacher some questions about Pink Tiger and the influences behind the record.

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Sun 13: Apollo Ghosts weren’t active for a good chunk of the last decade. What were you up during that period?

Adrian Teacher: “We had a band for awhile called COOL TV followed by Adrian Teacher & The Subs. Still making lots of music and touring, just under those different band names.”

S13: Can you tell us about process behind it Pink Tiger?

AT: “We recorded the first half, Pink, during the pandemic year at home. It’s a lot softer than what we usually do. When things started opening up and we could start playing again, we went over to the Noise Floor studio on Gabriola Island and recorded the more upbeat songs in about three days.”

S13: A double album is a statement at the best of times, but seeing as it’s your first album in almost 10 years, was this something you planned, or did it just pan out that way?

AT: “Well, we actually recorded an ambient album in 2019 called Living Memory. But we didn’t do a physical release for it so the album kind of got lost in the shuffle. Things kind of got flipped around and jumbled for awhile with the band because of the pandemic and family stuff.

“We wanted to put out a double-record after we went on tour a few years ago and blasted Tusk by Fleetwood Mac in our bass player Robbie’s truck. We thought it would be so decadent and hilarious for a mostly amateur band like us to do such a thing. Now it seems to be a pandemic cliché since many bands had so much time on their hands. Oh well!”

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S13: The thing I enjoy about it is that, sonically, it feels like two different albums. Did you ever think of releasing it that way?

AT: “It was a possibility at one point, but when we put it all together, it made the most sense to us as a double album. We like that you can put on the quieter side, say, on a Sunday while you’re making breakfast. Or put on the more upbeat side when you’re ripping around town doing errands or something! Or play the whole damn thing and go on a freakin’ journey!”

S13: The themes that seem to underpin the album feel like things you probably couldn’t have written 10 years ago on Landmark. Would you agree?

AT: “Those kinds of questions are always so difficult to answer, which itself sounds like a bullshit answer, so I apologise in advance, especially coming from the person who wrote all the lyrics. I don’t really write songs … how can I put this… in a linear or seriously organised way. I’m not scribing into a neatly bound notebook: ‘Theme One’ – Capitalism: Profit Motives and Free Enterprise… most of my lyrics are on the backs of envelopes or thumb-typed into my iPhone notes. The words have to somehow mesh with melody and cadence… it’s a maddening process, mainly because I think so highly of lyric driven songwriters… sometimes boring words or phrasal verbs win out over more fancy words I’d prefer using. I suppose the same overall themes are in all of our records… unconditional love, social justice, suffering, fear, death, fear, randomness, absurdity.”

S13: I suppose that feeds into a song like Set the King Bloom, which is one of the most saddest songs you’ve written. How important is it for you to be so candid with your art?

AT: “That’s a sad one for sure but I feel there’s a lightness there too, like letting go of something that’s been suffering for awhile. Truth and honesty is everything in art, and you definitely can’t fool an audience – believe me, I’ve tried. Songs without some kind of authentic core will always be ignored completely. It’s the building block of anything substantial and long lasting.”

S13: Morning Voice and Dirty Spoons evoke a real cinematic quality to me. Was film an inspiration behind these songs in any way?

AT: “I’m not a film buff, but there was a real attempt to jump into the world of midi programming on this album. The synths, digital strings and arpeggiators really give those songs a cinematic quality.”

Apollo Ghosts - Pink Tiger

S13: You’ve always been a great storyteller, too, making the mundane aspects of life seem cataclysmic. Are you a big fan of fiction and if so, who are your literary influences?

AT: “Cheers, that’s very kind of you to say that. I take song lyrics seriously and agonise over them. I feel like I’m improving as I get older but am nowhere near where I’d like to be as a songwriter. I love reading and generally have a few books going at once. Writers I really admire that come to mind as I’m typing this into a cheap knock off version of Microsoft Word: Lucia Berlin, Lydia Davis, Raymond Carver, Truman Capote, Gertrude Stein, Flannery O’Conner, Guy Delisle…”

S13: Gentlemen Go To Heaven is an interesting song for me. Out of all the songs on Pink Tiger, it feels to me like the most ambiguous. Do you remember writing that one?

AT: “I remember vaguely that it was two separate songs at one point, and then we combined them, and it was like bam! Finally. It works! When we play it live we sometimes extend the end bit, which keeps people dancing! It’s like a sad attempt at writing a Feelies type song. When we recorded it and listened back, it had a really weird country twang to it… it sounded vaguely Meat Puppets-y…which of course…caught me off guard.”

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S13: How much of an influence is Vancouver to the music Apollo Ghosts produce?

AT: “Vancouver is where we live but the bulk of what we write is informed by other experiences etc. I think we definitely have a west coast, easy-jangle lazy groove to our music… nostalgic… pop… twee… we don’t take ourselves too seriously but we care a lot about our music and care deeply about putting on an authentic and tender show. Sometimes this doesn’t translate in other places but often it does. People can think we’re from another planet or being deliberately peculiar. But we come from a west coast tradition of pushing boundaries musically – I feel that the music scene here is diverse and strange in all the right ways. It’s on the forefront of everything that’s cool, progressive and exciting!”

S13: You’re touring the U.K. later in the year, How excited are you to return to some sense of normality as a touring artist after the last couple of years?

AT: “We are very excited to return to touring. Generally we tour about two weeks per year—we’re not total road dog warriors, but we enjoy getting out there regularly and meeting new people and playing shows, so it’s been weird having the time off. Very excited to play in the U.K. as we’ve never played outside of North America. It’s going to be strange driving ourselves to venues on the opposite side of the road. Oi!”

Apollo Ghost 2022 U.K. tour dates:

  • Wednesday, August 24: Hug & Pint, Glasgow
  • Friday, August 26: The Cavendish Arms, London
  • Monday, August 29: Greenbelt, Kettering
  • Tuesday, August 30: Grove Inn, Leeds
  • Wednesday, August 31: The Lanes, Bristol
  • Thursday, September 1: End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens
  • Friday, September 2: Strongroom, London

Pink Tiger is out now via You’ve Changed Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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