Like many of us, Apollo Ghosts’ singer-guitarist Adrian Teacher has just been trying to persevere throughout the pandemic. At least on the surface, it seems like the Vancouver indie rock group have accomplished just that, entering their most prolific period yet with the release of their first double album, Pink Tiger. Even before that, Teacher started off the spring of 2020 with a sprawling, 35-song covers collection called Local Delivery Only, an album made up entirely of songs from Vancouver artists with proceeds donated to DTES Response. Nearing the end of that early lockdown project, however, the musician became concerned after experiencing significant hearing loss in one of his ears.
As his condition worsened, it not only impacted his music-making, but his ability to work as a teacher. “It was so disorienting. Even working was really hard—being in the pandemic; working in schools; wearing a mask with one ear [functioning]. I was in a foggy daze for more than a year,” Teacher says. “It got to a point where I was going to the doctors. It was a pretty serious condition, so I had to get surgery, [but] it still wasn’t helping.”
Though the singer-guitarist notes he was unable to “absorb the music in the same way,” he was nevertheless determined to keep writing, eventually laying the groundwork for the gently-strummed songs that make up the first half of Pink Tiger. Later, he’d bounce the tracks back and forth with drummer Amanda P and bassist Robbie N, the band recording their parts at their respective homes. The remotely recorded sessions are filled with Nick Drake-referencing folk minimalism (“Morning Voice”), and tenderly-scored moments of Teacher taking stock of a wake (“To Set the King Bloom”). “But I’ll Be Around” is a twee highlight where chiming acoustic lines snake themselves around Amanda P.’s hushed vocal performance.
It’s worth noting that the second half of Pink Tiger is a different kind of beast. All together, the 22-song double album is presented as a diptych of low-key, folky compositions (aka Pink) and the kind of sweat-soaked, jangle-punk positivity the group have honed in on since forming at the tail end of the 00s (Tiger, if you will). Apollo Ghosts accidentally made the giant-sized release—this perhaps a subconscious influence from the constant rotation of Fleetwood Mac’s seminal epic, Tusk, in the tour van a few years back. If the latter was a snowblind totem to late 70s excess, the buzz was apparently more subtle within Teacher’s camp. Pink’s tape-warped, finger-picked “Melatonin 5G,” for instance, talks of mellowing out with some over-the-counter sleep-aids, among other trips. “I got into psychedelics during this time, so maybe this is our drugged-out record—[but] a mild sort of thing,” Teacher suggests, adding, “Most of our records have been rooted in a place; maybe this one is more inside one’s own mind.”
In contrast to the isolation of Pink’s remote home recording set-up, the all-electric Tiger found Apollo Ghosts regrouping and journeying to Gabriola Island to work with producer Jordan Koop (Orville Peck, Wolf Parade) at his Noise Floor Recording Studio. Teacher fondly recalls the setting of the summer session as a “weird little oasis we had, pre-Omicron.”
“It was a really lovely three days in his barn, just letting loose. We had all those songs ready to go, so it was pretty much a live record,” Teacher says, adding of the idyllic, Gulf Island artist retreat, “We went swimming; Nick Krgovich was hanging around like a Cheshire Cat in the backyard, working on his own stuff or sun-tanning. He’s a super amazing songwriter, [but] he didn’t contribute anything [to the record] except for sun-tanning.”
A rays-stricken euphoria nevertheless pours through pieces like “Golden Teacher,” or the percussively pulsating “Soft American.” A full-band, electrified take on “But I’ll Be Around” also beams with an endearingly wide-eyed energy. Amazingly, a few days after the band had completed Tiger, Teacher’s hearing began to return, revealing a whole new world within Apollo Ghosts’ latest collection. “It was so serene and amazing,” he says. “I had heard them in a particular way with the one ear, and then it was just so glorious to be able to hear all the subtleties that I hadn’t caught before.”
Making a double-album was a first for Apollo Ghosts. Adding yet another twist, the lush and expansive Pink Tiger is currently being reconfigured with a newly expanded line-up— both Amanda P. and Robbie N. are taking on bass duties, while Dustin Bromley (Brutal Poodle) handles drums. Teacher is fully embracing Apollo Ghosts’ latest experiment. “Our band has a history of trying different things,” he explains, adding, “We put out an ambient record a few years ago [2019’s Living Memory] where it was just improvised piano, stuff like that. I certainly have a wide interest in different kinds of music. The healthiest, most interesting bands evolve and change.”
Pink Tiger is available now via You’ve Changed Records.