Two of the first albums Chad Peck owned were Hayden's Everything I Long For and Ash's 1977. Fourteen-year-old Peck's mind might have been a little bit blown if he'd been able to predict how these early purchases would connect to his own band, Kestrels, in adulthood. First, Kestrels' second full-length, A Ghost History, was just released on Sonic Unyon, the iconic label that put out that Hayden album back in 1995. And second, Tim Wheeler of Irish group Ash makes a guest appearance on the track "Dumb Angel." Overall, after a long gestation period for their new record and multiple lineup changes, it seems Kestrels has hit a sweet spot as a band. Peck, who's also the man behind the curtain at Noyes Records, is the only original member---he's joined by drummer Paul Brown and bassist (and brother) Devin Peck. The current incarnation has only been in place for the past six months, but Brown says this period has "without a doubt been the most productive, the band has had the best vibes, and relations with everyone have been the best ever."
Kestrels started recording A Ghost History in 2010. "We were still kind of searching for the sound we were looking for on the album," Brown says. The fact that Brown lives in Halifax, and Peck an hour-and-a-half's drive away in the small community of Lornevale, slowed things down a bit too, with lots of demos getting sent back and forth in long email threads. The record they wanted to make required a mix of spontaneity and careful crafting. Some songs were composed right in the studio. On the other hand, "The Past Rests" went through 23 takes until everyone was happy. "I think that one was just our favourite song at the time, and we gave it that extra attention," Brown says. Peck describes their process as "deliberate. I really like records that sound good." The final result captures the sincere melodies, blissful fuzz, and sheer noise of a Kestrels live show. "The first record came off more clean sounding, innocent," Peck says.
Peck has had connections with Sonic Unyon for years through his work with Noyes. Still, being asked to join the label at a Christmas party last year was a pretty exciting moment. "They're just really savvy, they put out records they love, and they know music. So for them to put out our record, it's pretty humbling," he says.
Peck met Tim Wheeler at an Ash show in Boston in 2003. The two stayed in touch, and Peck ended up renting Wheeler's Manhattan apartment last summer while Ash toured Japan. Not only did Wheeler agree to play on "Dumb Angel," but many of the lyrics to A Ghost History were written in his living room, while Peck soaked up the sights and sounds of New York City. "Being away sort of makes you face the things you left behind," Peck explains. "A lot of bands are pretty glib with their lyrics, but I try to say things I actually think."
Kestrels is already thinking about what comes next, but first up is a tour of Canada and the States, at a time when the level of commitment within the band is high.
Kestrels w/ Kuato, Flag on the Play, Dance Movie Friday, June 22 at Reflections Cabaret, 5184 Sackville Street, 8pm, $5
"Ambition is kind of a dirty word sometimes," Peck says. 'To me, ambition is not about more people hearing it necessarily, but about feeling we've done everything we can to make the best record." --Jaime Forsythe
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