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Halifax psych-rock trio Kestrels take sound to new heights

Monday 11th, August 2014 / 11:32
By Nick Laugher

KESTRELS_PRESSSHOT_HORIZONTAL_MAY212014CALGARY — Taking their usual brand of scrappy, peppy psychedelic grime rock and filtering it through the insanity and fervour of their live show, The Moon Is Shining Our Way is the newest EP by Halifax’s slacker shoegaze darlings Kestrels and a huge leap forward in terms of cohesion and energy. With a full-length on the way, frontman Chad Peck says it’s only the beginning for Kestrels and their massive new sound.

While their last full-length was pretty heavily influenced by literary juggernauts and theorists, like Jean Baudrillard, this time around the band was mostly gleaning inspiration from touring partners.

“I took a lot of cues from bands we played with, including Ringo Deathstarr and Speedy Ortiz. This one was shaped less by a single concept, though some hints of the past creep in subconsciously,” says Peck, though he does admit that some literary references slipped in there as well.

“I did read some of the Paul Auster novels that I hadn’t read, including Moon Palace, which influenced the title track,” he says.

The result is the wavy, wiry and ambitious psych rock you’d expect from the trio, but with a more mercurial, frenetic lean. Peck says it had a lot to do with this being the first record to feature brother Devin Peck on bass.

“It was a pretty natural evolution coupled with a more solidified vision. It was also our first recording with Devin on bass, which propelled things sonically. After touring A Ghost History for so long, we were interested in trying some different ideas in terms of production and structure,” he says. And Peck certainly seems to be jazzed about the result of all the tinkering and experimentation, remarking, “It’s definitely out best record yet.”

Engineered by Alex Bonefant and mixed by Claudius Mittendorfer, the EP is a gnarly mishmash of ‘90s shoegaze and scrappy Halifax garage rock – a match made in heaven. Recorded at the same time as their yet-to-be-released full-length, the EP serves as a sort of bridge between their last EP and the exciting sonic frontiers the trio is charging through on their forthcoming LP.

“The LP is about 85 per cent done, though I just met with our mixing engineer who pushed me to add some extra elements on some of the songs. Once we get home from tour I’ll have a chance to reassess a lot of what has been done. I’m really excited for it to come out.”

Now a mainstay in Halifax, Kestrels have developed quite a following with their instantly recognizable brand of intelligently crafted, hazily psychedelic melodies and sweeping drones, but admit that the Halifax scene can be a pretty fickle mistress.

“It’s funny to think that it was once considered the new Seattle. Geographically, Halifax is such an isolated area that bands really have to fight to get recognized. It’s great to see so many bands now touring and putting out records,” says Peck.

“Bands tend to have pretty short careers in Halifax, so I guess the biggest change would be how many new bands are popping up and playing shows. Stylistically it’s a pretty psych-rock heavy scene at the moment.”

The isolation of Halifax and the fact that drummer Paul Brown lives in Toronto are probably two of the main reasons that the band operates out of and convenes there, for the most part. This, and a few ill-placed quotes have given some people the impression that Kestrels rarely practice together as a band.

“Ha! We all have our own separate things going on and live in different places,” says Peck. “We practice a lot before touring and recording, just not every Friday night or anything like that,” he explains.

UPDATE: The Kestrels’ Western Canadian tour dates have been cancelled.

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