Music

Calgary roots-pop act Locomotive Ghost grow Into the Glow

Ben Nixon laughs good naturedly when he’s told to shut the hell up.

The musician had spent the better part of the interview referencing growing older, being more mature, having more life experience.

Dude is 27.

But although he’s two decades junior the gnarled, grizzled old man sitting with him in the busy Caffe Beano on this morning, Nixon puts it less in the context of life than in the life of his local folk-pop quartet Locomotive Ghost.

“Really where I notice it is that the band has been around for nine years which is enough time to see growth and aging,” Nixon says.

Doubtless fans who’ve followed them over that span have seen it, too — from the time when the core of Nixon and Mike Buckley met and began writing together while attending Selkirk College’s music program in Nelson, BC. to their relocation to Calgary when the schooling was done to their current incarnation.

And that life as four — with the addition of vocalist/pianist Laura Schoenberg and drummer James Bundy — are finally ready to show how much they’ve grown and matured with the release of their fourth and latest album Into the Glow, which they’ll celebrate with a show this Friday at Festival Hall.

The 12-track effort, recorded at OCL Studios with co-producers Russell Broom and Spencer Cheyne, is a charmingly bright yet moody work of lush, melodic roots-based music, with textures and layers awaiting under the surface of that polished sheen.

Nixon acknowledges that they popped the pop on this album, but did so only in ways that worked with the songs and as a pleasing aesthetic to get their thoughts and ideas through the door, and offers that as another example of getting older, wiser.

“A lot of us musicians, especially when we’re younger, go, ‘Oh, pop music, that means bad music.’ That’s absolutely not the case. There is bad pop music but there’s also bad garage music,” he says.

“It’s just a matter of finding what elements work … It’s popular because it works.”

And Into the Glow does work, thanks in large part to the fact that Nixon says it showcases the band as a collective beyond the original core that birthed it.

That can be heard tangibly thanks to the inclusion of Schoenberg — who joined Locomotive Ghost three years ago — as an almost equal voice on the album, with the band sounding like a more grounded Stars or The Head and the Heart, the interplay between the genders on a song such as first single Fool a wonderful storytelling device and a welcome addition.

“We like having that shared male and female presence, especially when it’s two voices that have really different and distinct characters to them,” says Nixon, who, along with Buckley provides the steady manterparts to Schoenberg’s strong, sweet vocals.

“And also it’s just really wonderful for the creative process to have more songwriters involved, because you end up with different things.”

He points to that as another way in which Locomotive Ghost has evolved as a creative unit over the past decade.

“I think one of the things that we were able to do with this album, just growing older being more mature with our own creative process, we were able to separate from ego a lot of the time,” he says. 

“We brought in a whole bunch of different songs and basically every time we brought in a song each of us was ready to have that song be destroyed or not used at all.”

He offers as an example the album opener Lightning Bolt, which was co-written initially with Schoenberg, but by the time it was completed he no longer had a writing credit on the track.

“Which I’m totally OK with, because I love where it went,” he says of the sunny, boppy, ebullient number.

“It was a lot of that, having multiple ideas and saying, ‘OK, what’s best for the song?’ That was a really nice creative change for us.”

On the less creative side of things, the more business part of being a band, Nixon admits that those attitudes and expectations have also changed since when they first began.

While admitting that they’re not about to half-ass any aspect of getting the album into as many ears as possible, he also says they’ve set more realistic goals with Into the Glow, such as merely getting some radio play across the country and some publicity for its release, as well as being allowed the opportunity to perform in front of audiences — whatever the size — that are truly listening.

In other words, “sharing the songs that we’ve put so much effort and emotional investment into.” 

“We wanted to make an album that we were really proud of front to back,” he says, “and we all think that we’ve done that.”

Locomotive Ghost release their new album Into the Glow this Friday at Festival Hall.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at mike@theyyscene.ca. He likes beer. Buy him one.

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