Band of the Week: Miracle Fortress

Music Features Miracle Fortress
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Band of the Week: Miracle Fortress
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec
Fun Fact: Graham Van Pelt, together with local artist Jack Dylan, founded Montreal studio/art space/concert venue Friendship Cove in 2005.
Why It’s Worth Watching: Having conquered dance floors with his Think About Life compatriots, Van Pelt makes a play for the headphone set by letting his studio wizardry shine on Five Roses.
For Fans Of: The Beach Boys, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine

“I’ve never heard a Galaxie 500 song, and I honestly had never heard a My Bloody Valentine record

before making this album. Afterwards, a lot of people starting telling me that Five Roses sounds a lot like them so I downloaded some stuff.” It’s an unlikely story, but one that Graham Van Pelt, the musical architect behind Miracle Fortress, swears by. Of course, the very idea that Van Pelt—a member of boisterous, thrash-pop trio Think About Life—would wind up recording an album of contemplative dream pop (chock-full of candy-coated harmonies, no less) is, on the surface, an equal implausibility.

But Van Pelt doesn’t see it that way and dismisses the notion of a creative contradiction between the two projects. “I just have differing interests in terms of live performance and production values. Think About Life is all about playing live, so volume and intensity end up coming before craftsmanship. I mean, there is a certain element of craftsmanship that goes into trying to get people moving, but it’s not nearly the same kind of process. I enjoy that a lot, but there’s also a part of me that wants to get into the studio and explore.”

Explore he did. With Five Roses, this self-professed gearoholic (“I fetishize pedals and things like that,” he says.) has created a minor masterpiece, the product of hours in solitude experimenting with different sounds and textures. It’s all very Eno-esque in approach, but stylistically speaking, another '60s studio whiz comes more readily to mind. It should come as no surprise that Van Pelt holds Pet Sounds among his all-time favorite albums.

Although Five Roses was written and recorded entirely by Van Pelt, a touring lineup has been assembled that includes Jordan Robson-Cramer from Sunset Rubdown and Telefauna’s Adam Waito. Earlier material gathered on the Watery Grave EP was performed solo, but such a setup proved impossible for the full-length. “The music I was writing just couldn’t be performed by one person," Van Pelt admits. "I wouldn’t be able to translate this album into a live setting by myself. I would have needed cymbals between my knees or something, and the spectacle of the performance would probably overshadow the music.”

You can expect Van Pelt to continue as a lone wolf in the studio as long as Miracle Fortress is around, though. “I really enjoy immersing myself in my work in the studio and the psychotropic experience that comes along with it. It really is a form of escapism for me, so I doubt I’m going to want to turn the project into a band. Besides, the people who I play live with all have their own projects. I don’t think they feel like they need to contribute to the recordings in order to feel satisfied. I think they’re just in it to have fun and do some traveling.”