The story of how a weekend recording session became a major collaborative project spanning two years.
Matt Carter | @m_j_c73
“I think that at the time we recorded these songs they were at the perfect point between raw and refined,” said Cellarghost’s Charles Harding, explaining how the songs that make up the group’s debut album, In The Whiteout, have evolved over the past few years. “If we were to recorded them today, they would sound a little calculated.”
It’s been a while since some of these songs were written and it’s been over a year since work first began on this album – probably closer to two years if you factor in the first attempt at recording some of these songs. In the summer of 2014, Harding and his bandmates Luke Wilson (Bass), Colin Bonner (guitar) and Carter Boyle (guitar/vocals) spent a weekend in a rundown Saint John rehearsal space trying to hammer out an album with their friend Stuart Buckley, who was running a small label at the time.
“We recorded a full album, but just never put it out,” said Bonner. “I guess we never really finished it. We didn’t really like the songs we had at the time and we recorded it in a rush. We were just figuring a lot of things out.”
By the time they decided to scrap those early recordings, summer was wrapping up and another school year was about to begin. Scheduling is the one thing that has governed much of the band’s direction over the past few years. School has always taken priority over music and as a result, the band have kept a pretty low profile between September and May, surfacing only to play the occasional show here and there.
In the spring of 2015, both Wilson and Bonner finished their respective degrees and moved from Saint John to Fredericton to join with Boyle who was also finishing his undergrad and Harding who had already been living there. The group had previously recorded a pair of tracks with Fredericton engineer Evan Hansen and decided to bring several of the songs from their first attempt into his studio to see what would happen. After a solid month of rehearsing, sometimes as much as 20 hours a week, the band booked two days with Hansen and fellow engineer Brad Perry at The Recordery and tracked bass, drums and guitars. “It probably took a week in total if you count the extra time it took to do the vocals,” said Bonner. “All the music is basically live off the floor.” That was a year ago.
Much of the past year was spent getting the right sounds and the right mixes. In that time the band also connected with Saint John musician Corey Bonnevie who mastered the project and offered to release it through his label, Monopolized Records. Bennie Allain did the artwork.
“We picked the right people to help us out with this project,” said Harding. “Bennie’s artwork fits the themes really well. I think he was really able to nail exactly what we were going for.”
“The same thing goes for Corey,” said Wilson. “I think the first master came back in just a few days, sounding great. We were really happy.”
As a sum of all parts, In The Whiteout has a distinct and cohesive sonic quality that runs through each of the twelve tracks, with Allain’s art offering a strong and complimentary visual atheistic.
“We’re notorious ‘last minute guys’,” said Bonner, “but we always manage to whip something together in the end. It’s funny that this record took so long to come out because it was done for such a long time.
“In that time, we got to book a bunch of shows, we got to tour again and we got put on a bunch of good bills,” he said. “It gave us time to become a good live band. Now we’ve got this album and we’re so comfortable with the songs. We might still play a wrong chord once in a while but everything just feels really good.”
So after nearly two years spent dissecting songs and arrangements, juggling rehearsals and figuring out how to best move forward with each step of the process, the band have finally deemed the songs fit for release. In The Whiteout comes out June 17, 2016 via Monopolized Records.
Boyle recalls a quote he heard from fellow musician Levi Ellingwood that sums the whole process up in one sentence.
“’You can never really finish a piece of art, you can only abandon it’. Those are some great words.”
Live Dates: Cellarghost album release shows:
Cellarghost+ER and the Other+Brookside Mall | The Capital Complex | June 17, 2016 | 10:30 p.m. | View Event
Cellarghost+ER and the Other+Young Satan in Love | Pepper’s Pub | June 18, 2016 | View Event
Cellarghost performing, Wilderness – Watch
Live at The Recordery – Cellarghost (Whiteout) – Watch