Never underestimate the power of a name—especially one as mysterious and evocative as Shane Ghostkeeper’s. On the line from his Calgary home, the singer, guitarist, and frontman for Ghostkeeper, the band, explains that his moniker reflects his Cree Métis heritage. Just how his family came by that handle, however, is a matter for some debate.
“There’s a few stories going around,” Ghostkeeper says. “One anthropologist lady where we grew up said it refers to the fact that there are medicine men in my family. It’s been a long line, and it keeps getting passed down, and it has to do with having knowledge of ceremonies that are used to conduct communications with the other entities that exist among us, the spirits. But one of the funny stories that my dad and his family like to tell is that his great-grandpa, in a Métis settlement area called Kathleen, north of Edmonton, was known for taking care of the graveyard, so they called him ”˜Ghostkeeper’ as a nickname—and then his kids took it on as a legal last name.”
Both meanings seem perfectly appropriate. Bolstered by drummer Sarah Houle, bassist Scott Munro, and multi-instrumentalists Jay Crocker and Brad Hawkins, Ghostkeeper’s sound is haunted by old-school rock and country, yet it’s never less than noisily contemporary. And many of the songs Shane’s penned for his band’s second release, Ghostkeeper, memorialize friends and family members who have passed away.
Album opener “Tea and Cree Talking”, for instance, is about a cousin who died far too young. “He was, like, the coolest dude around, always bringing over beautiful girls to meet us,” he recalls. “So that song’s about a relationship that I’ll always cherish, and that I’ll always have for inspiration in how I should conduct my relationships with my nieces and nephews and younger folks.”
Ghostkeeper and crew kept it real on the musical level, too, by recording their new disc in a variety of impromptu venues.
“We weren’t cooped up in the studio every day, all day long: we were out on adventures,” the songwriter recalls. “Like, we did the drums to ”˜Piggy backin’ (Do Cost You No Money)’ in an underground parkade—and after a little while, security came by and wanted us out of there. But we did our best to sweet-talk him and he gave us one more chance—so I did a vocal, too.”
Ghostkeeper plays the Pit Pub on Thursday (April 8).