Locomotive Ghost
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Locomotive Ghost

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Folk Indie




"Calgary folk-pop act Locomotive Ghost help christen Bella Concert Hall"

It’s hard to class up a joint that is, by all accounts, very, very classy.

So Ben Nixon and his cohorts in Locomotive Ghost will do the next best thing.

“We’re going to be super-grungy and gross,” Nixon says, joking with a laugh. “Ruin the place.”

Doubtful. But when the Calgary band takes the brand new Bella Concert Hall stage on the Mount Royal University campus this Thursday, two weeks after its gala ribbon-cutting, it will be opening the $90.5-million facility up to a whole new group of audience and artists.

Not just a house for classical, opera or jazz, it is now also, officially, an option for aficionados and acts of all tastes and musical persuasions.

Fitting that the honours should go to an act such as Locomotive Ghost, who have a sound that encompasses so many different styles — a delicate and elegant blend of folk, pop and rock that finds the best of influences such a The Head and the Heart and Feist, and drops it in the quintet’s own lush, aural ecosphere.

But while Nixon would love to claim some sort of foresight on the behalf of programmers, he admits that Locomotive Ghost’s performance is actually the result of having something of an “in” with MRU. He does, after all, work part-time for the institution, doing sound, lighting and stage work for all four theatres on campus, including helping to get Bella up and running.

That, come to think of it, also makes it somewhat fitting that he’ll be part of the first contemporary act to perform a show at the new hall.

“It’s really cool for me in that I’ve gotten to be involved in a lot of the process as the new facility has come to fruition, really,” he says.

“So now to be able to be on the back end of it, making sure, ‘Oh do these speakers turn on yet? Do we have any lights?’ and then on Thursday to be the one under those will be pretty cool.”

The show, with fellow local act Boreal Sons, is already “technically sold out” with some walk-up seats still available to be among the 787 bums in the theatre seats, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking anything for granted.

They want the show to be just as special for the audience as it is for them, which means a great deal of time, “preparing some new material, refining some old material and just trying to get into the zone to maximize the space and make the most of what we can we the atmosphere and the energy exists there.”

That speaks a great deal to the point in its career that Locomotive Ghost is at.

They formed six years ago at another institution of higher learning, Nixon and co-founder Mike Buckley coming together at Selkirk College in Nelson, B.C., and releasing a pair of albums, before heading east, and settling here in greener musical pastures a couple of years later.

In doing so, they also added Laura Schoenberg, Matthew Howell and James Bundy to the mix, and making a greater push, finding a greater focus with a series of independently released seasonal 7-inch releases spread out over the spring, summer, fall and winter of 2013-2014, with a compilation and tour wrapping things up properly in the fall of last year.

And while the collective has already met with a great deal of success, thanks to those releases, talents and efforts — they’ve been finalists in such competitions as X92.9 Xposure, CBC Searchlight and the Calgary Folk Music Festival Songwriting Competition — Nixon says they’ve learned and grown a lot as well.

Musically, that has meant becoming more of a collaborative entity, and “honing in on what we do best, encapsulating what we enjoy about having really dynamic, broadly emotional music and bringing in some of the spoken word that I do within the songs also.”

This winter, they’re hoping to head into the studio to record another eight new songs, to go with recently released single In the Garden and its B-side, for another full-length album that showcases what they’ve learned, how much they’ve grown.

In the meantime, audiences will get a taste of that Thursday night with the concert in a room that Nixon admits to being intimately familiar with, but also somewhat still in awe of.

“Every time I walk in, it catches my breath a little bit,” he says.

Locomotive Ghost performs Thursday at the Bella Concert Hall with Boreal Sons. Some tickets will be available at the door.


Twitter.com/mrbell_23 - Calgary Herald


“Locomotive Ghost has recognizable, adult-contemporary anthems that are accessible enough to everyone, while also offering advanced, meticulously crafted bridges and breakdowns that would challenge even an advanced musician. This is part of the band’s charm, they know they are good but they never shove it down your throat...

The “Winter Release” event was a great experience and a more than fitting end to an ambitious and well-crafted series of four seasonal themed releases. Locomotive Ghost have truly hit their stride and belong on any festival stage across Canada.” - BeatRoute Alberta

"Monday Music Pick: Locomotive Ghost"

“Locomotive Ghost, named for a line in American poet Allen Ginsberg's 1955 work "Sunflower Sutra," writes and plays songs that are at once artistically expressive, accessible, fun and full of small surprises — ebullient backing vocals in "Blue Eyes" (from the "Summer" EP), keening guitar leads overlaid on a churning bed of processed rhythm guitars and rainfall in "Run for Cover" ("Summer"), and vocal harmonies over countrified picking "This Damn Addiction" ("Spring") for example.

The sound is deft and clean. Organic samples and acoustic instruments blend seamlessly with electronica. Vocals soar, and morph into spoken word. Tasteful drumming and propulsive, melodic bass keep a groove flowing. It's art, definitely, but it's also entertainment.” - Avenue Calgary Magazine

"Locomotive Ghost - Summer 7", Self-Released"

“I have to admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for concept albums, so when I read about Locomotive Ghost doing a series of EPs this year – each one representing a season – I was intrigued, to say the least.

“Blue Eyes” appropriately opens the disc with a grooving bass line and sunny ukulele. Reggae-touched vocals lead way into some intriguing group vocal melodies as the song definitely shines that light we so yearn for after the gloominess of winter. “Isaac Newton” takes a more minimalist approach with finger-picked guitars while follow-up “Dog Days” returns to a more grooving rhythm section and clean guitar lines. The most intriguing track may just be “Run for Cover.” Like any normal Calgary [summer], the sunny days are usually bombarded with erratic storms, and this is represented by the final track. Drums echo while the vocals hang low behind the dreary pace, which elevates into ruckus of noise before falling rain settles in.

This is definitely an interesting project to keep an eye on while the band takes three-month cycles to develop unique lyrics and sounds that resonate the sentiments of each season.” - BeatRoute Magazine Alberta

"Review – “Spring” – Locomotive Ghost"

After a significant break from the release of their second record Close Your Eyes and Listen, Calgary quartet Locomotive Ghost are back with a very seasonally fitting new EP. Marking the beginning of an ambitious DIY project called “Seasons”, the band plans to release a series of four 7” vinyl records corresponding to each season. With each 7”, and thus each season, the band states on their website that they “will explore the emotional realities that come with each [season], and the passage of time.”

Obviously a thematically sound EP, Locomotive Ghost deliver it all through their unique mix of folk, rock, pop, and spoken word poetry – the latter element providing the band with a continued distinction carried over from their previous record. One of the highlights from Close Your Eyes and Listen, bassist Ben Nixon is back with his spoken-word poetry which is scattered through two songs from Spring.

As the weather here in Toronto slowly and indecisively shows signs of spring, the EP’s middle track, “The Sun Will Shine,” particularly captures any current weather related feelings. With lyrics like, “Oh the winter was hard on me. Froze my hopes and shattered my dreams” and “sun will shine, it will shine again. Yes, I know it will but I can’t say when,” this standout track nicely captures the need we all have to shake off those winter blues.

Lyrics aside, “The Sun Will Shine” ends with an intense musical build up, thanks to an interesting combo which completely pays off, of a huge guitar solo over Nixon’s previously mentioned spoken-word poetry. Just like spring itself feels like a breath of fresh air from the chaos of winter weather, on the other side of this build up, “The Sun Will Shine” ends with the peaceful sounds of birds chirping.

Along with the briefly heard Nixon in “The Sun Will Shine,” “Springscape” is where he is able to really shine. A fairly instrumentally sparse track, Nixon nicely using nature symbolism and expresses the vitality, with regards to both nature itself and the human spirit, that comes with the awakening of the season.

The EP is bookended by two songs which are folk-rock to their core. The opener, “This Damn Addiction” is a very fun and upbeat number while the closer “All I Need” features a great banjo section, folky guitar solos, and some gruff emotional vocals, for a very pleasing combo.

Continuing their, at times, unique medley of music styles, Locomotive Ghost’s Spring is a solid beginning to what should be a very praiseworthy year long project.

Spring is available through the band’s website digitally and as a special green 7” vinyl record.

Top Tracks: “The Sun Will Shine”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good) - Grayowl Point


Seasons (2014)
Winter 7" (2014)
Autumn 7" (2013)
Summer 7" (2013)
Spring 7" (2013)
Close Your Eyes and Listen (2011)
Locomotive Ghost (2010)



Locomotive Ghost plays their own stories, sharing desperate moments, celebrating mended hearts, and owning up to mistakes. The group’s earnest performance and shared male/female vocals have been likened to The Head and the Heart, while their pop sensibilities have yielded comparisons to acts like Of Monsters and Men, and The Lumineers. Locomotive Ghost’s music is “at once artistically expressive, accessible, fun, and full of small surprises” (Avenue Calgary).

Locomotive Ghost recently recorded their third full-length album, “Into the Glow”, with award-winning producers Russell Broom and Spencer Cheyne. The group supported the project with a successful crowdfunding campaign in the spring of 2016. In writing their new music, the group intentionally combined each individual’s strengths to create a pool of the most expressive, ardent, and catchy songs from which to choose. “Into the Glow” will be released in early 2017 and will be preceded by the first single, “Fool”.

To date, Locomotive Ghost has released two full-length albums, four EPs, one compilation, and one single. The group gained industry accolades for the ambitious and holistic creative approach to their year-long, self-produced “Seasons” project. In 2015, Locomotive Ghost began their collaboration with producer Spencer Cheyne when they released their single “In The Garden”. Later that year, they became the first contemporary music act to be featured at Calgary’s Bella Concert Hall. Locomotive Ghost has been highlighted on a dozen Canadian radio stations and several international podcasts, including the popular show “This Week In Science”. The group has performed at nearly two hundred events throughout Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan (and, according to Beatroute Alberta, “belongs on any festival stage in Canada”).

Locomotive Ghost was formed by singer Mike Buckley and bassist Ben Nixon while they were attending Selkirk College’s music program in Nelson, BC. They played together off-and-on for nearly a year before focusing on the project and settling on a name (taken from an Allen Ginsberg poem). After graduating from music school, Buckley and Nixon relocated to Calgary, where they eventually added vocalist/pianist Laura Schoenberg and drummer James Bundy.

Band Members