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Q&A: Miracle Fortress Self Edits

By Rachele Friedland on June 27, 2011


Q&A: Miracle Fortress Self Edits

Although you may not have heard anything from Montreal's  Miracle Fortress in a few years, that doesn't mean that Graham Van Pelt was taking any time off since his Polaris Prize–shortlisted 2007 effort, Five Roses. Instead, he worked diligently and extensively on its follow-up Was I The Wave?, not only writing but also engineering the album. While there's a lot of attention that goes into the production of an album, FILTER gets to know the more personal details that contributed to the making of Was I The Wave? with our exclusive chat with Van Pelt below.

You’ve had a bit of a break from recording your first album (Five Roses) to Was I The Wave?. what were you doing in between those times?

Graham Van Pelt: I spent a while recording and touring with Think About Life, a dance band based in Montreal. We released a record and did quite a lot of touring. During this period, I continued to work on Miracle Fortress material, experimenting with new sounds and techniques. I simply didn't arrive at a collection of songs I was happy to release as a full record for a long while. I chose not to release any sub-par or half-realized material, in favour of taking my time and developing as an artist.

Did you feel that during your time in between albums, there was something in particular that you felt needed to be expressed or explored through this album? A new sound, technique or overall message?

I want to improve upon the directness of my music, which means capturing ideas and messages as they are occurring to me without much delay. This time, I was experiencing some anxieties fairly natural to a young man in his 20s in this part of the world, and so I wanted to express them as best as I could on this particular record.

Were any of the songs for this album pre-written or is it all fresh material?

The material will be fresh to most people who follow what I'm doing, though some will have heard preliminary versions of some of the tracks on recent tours.  The oldest tracks on the record are "Spectre" and "Raw Spectacle," which are from 2009.

As far as lyrical content goes, is there a feeling you’re hoping to evoke from listeners? Or is it more for you to convey your own feelings?

I do aim to reach people and maybe give them something to relate to, lyrically. I think my perspective is pretty common to people at my station in life and that I can offer some description of what they might be going through that could assist them. I try to think of the music I make as an offering that can hopefully reach the right people.

Since Miracle Fortress is essentially a one-man-band, at least for writing and recording, tell us a bit about your involvement with the making of Was I The Wave?

My process for making music is mostly electronic, which for me means that I'm going to have an eye on the end product the whole way through the process. I do all of the engineering, which I find really exciting, and kind of write my way to the end of each recording. A lot of ideas get put down and edited over time.

Do you feel that creating music on your own limits you, or that it allows you to transcend boundaries?

I like the lack of compromise that working alone affords. It can be challenging to self-edit, but at the same time the likelihood that the music will have a strong individual current throughout is high. I think that my character gets of lot of room to develop from track to track, and that eventually certain people will come to enjoy what they can expect from my songs while continuing to be surprised as the project grows.

What was your reaction to the album after its completion? Were you pleased with its outcome or worried about its “new” or “different” sound that critiques would point out?

"New" and "different" are pretty complimentary in my judgment. I'd much rather move in those kinds of directions than to attempt to repeat my stuff until it gradually begins to lose quality. I'm not so worried about certain people's critiques, which they're welcome to, as long as I can continue to reach people even as the audience changes.     F

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