A Solitary Man

Polaris nominated Miracle Fortress is very happy to do this one all on his own.

Miracle Fortress
With Shad and Transit
Thursday, May 5, 8 p.m.
Brixx Bar (10030-102nd St.)
Tickets: $15 at Blackbyrd, Brixx and Primeboxoffice.com

When we talk about artists in western culture we normally like to give credit to a solitary force. Even when it comes to something as collective as a rock band, we still tend to search for that leader, the one we can acknowledge as the real creative genius behind the sound. When we talk about Arcade Fire, we think Win Butler. Foo Fighters, we think Dave Grohl. When we talk about any band Jack White is in, we think Jack White.

Sometimes we forget that the other band members, the producers, the engineers, the session players and the friends that act as sounding boards can all have an immeasurable impact on the sound of a single song.

The point of this excessively long introduction is to put the new Miracle Fortress album into perspective. While normally there is a handful or so creative minds influencing the sound of a record, whether we recognize them or not, Miracle Fortress’ sophomore release, Was I the Wave? is, in fact, the result of a solitary artistic force. Graham Van Pelt, the lone, quiet voice behind Miracle Fortress, composed, arranged, engineered and produced the entire album of tingly indie-electronic experimentation by himself. A rare feat in the music industry, to be sure. 

“I was going to say I didn’t really choose it, it just kind of happened that way,” Van Pelt says of his working style. “But I did choose it — I like to work alone. I like not having to compromise, to follow ideas down their long and often winding paths and just try to give myself as much space as I can have in order to feel really free and to do anything I want.”

While Van Pelt has already proven that he can play well with others through his dancier work with Montreal indie-pop outfit Think About Life, he laughs as he admits that the personal nature of the music he composes as Miracle Fortress makes it easier for him to work solo. “Maybe I’m shy about it with lots of other people around.”

You’d think the overwhelmingly positive reception his debut, Five Roses, received from publications as far reaching as Spin and The Guardian and, closer to home, and a 2007 nomination for the Polaris Prize, would make him a little more forthcoming with his music.

“I don’t have a problem releasing them if I have that urge and confidence that they should get out there,” he says. “I can usually tell. I start by playing them for just a couple friends. I see how comfortable I am showing them. If I’m not that comfortable then I probably won’t end up releasing it to anyone else. But usually, by the end of the process I’ll have 10 or 15 songs I can put on and be in the room while other people are hearing it and not totally squirm.”

I guess that’s what it comes down to. No matter how solitary the creative process, for most, there comes a moment where you have to share and that act of sharing has it’s own influence on output. Nevertheless, when you listen to Was I the Wave?, those tracks Van Pelt is prepared to have you consume, take a moment to consider that the many layers, every glistening accent and every gentle melody was polished into it’s current state by one mind. When wetalk about Miracle Fortress, in this case, we truly are talking about Graham Van Pelt. 



All Content Copyright © SEE Magazine 2008 About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Contest Disclaimer