After eight years in the music scene, The Establishment has watched Halifax evolve in countless ways. They watched their favourite bars close and new ones open; they watched bands break up and re-assemble. They saw some neighbourhoods flourish while others began to sport empty storefronts like gaps in a rotting smile. And now, even though their music is better than ever, they've decided it's time to stop.
On Thursday, the band will release the ferocious album it recorded two years ago, The Consumer, and after that, it will take an "indefinite hiatus."
"We think the Halifax we came up in has gone away, and maybe we should too," says drummer Josh "Pinky" Pothier.
In 2004, Pothier just had moved to Halifax from Yarmouth. Future Establishment bandmates Trevor Murphy and Mike D'Eon grew up there too, but they didn't know each other well until they began playing together. The Establishment was Pothier's first band.
"I was 19 or 20, and I lived with Mike, and we had a practice space in our house," he says. "We didn't play a show for six or eight months. We really wanted to hone it up. We were always serious about how we came off."
They played their first show at the Seahorse. The next day, friends of D'Eon's at the Saint Mary's Journal published their photo on the front page of the newspaper. "It was a really terrible photo---we were all playing in the clouds or something," Pothier says. "But I couldn't believe it. I had just moved here, we played a show and the next day we're on the cover of a newspaper? Where else does that happen?"
The band's brand of sludgy but disciplined post-hardcore garnered them a loyal fanbase. They started touring and playing shows in places like the Attic---a bar that Pothier still mourns. "It was the only venue in Halifax that paid bands well," he says. "A mid-level band could get a show there without a lot of effort and get paid. We spent way more money on our first album than this last one because we made that album playing at the Attic."
Pothier has a few other favourite memories too. He remembers the group playing backup for a Jon Epworth joke project called Healthy Collins and is particularly fond of the evening the band played a tribute to The Melvins at the Seahorse.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be---the songs are really slow," he says. "I think I came out of it a better musician, though. I don't think people got as much out of it as we did."
After Thursday's show, Pothier, Murphy and D'Eon will remain busy with their day jobs and other projects: Murphy and Pothier play in Sleepless Nights, Murphy also plays for Quiet Parade and hosts the CKDU show Halifax is Burning---"Trevor has, like, four jobs," Pothier laughs---and D'Eon will continue playing in Bike Rodeo. Pothier is now drumming for the instrumental group Kuato and keeps a well-maintained drum blog, Bloody Drum Knuckles.
There isn't anything dramatic in The Establishment's decision to pause. As Pothier says, the time was right. But like all the other bands before them, they're not really gone. Their presence in the scene is more vital than ever.
"We'll still be around and we'll still be friends 10 years from now," Pothier says. "We've been good for each other. Halifax has been good to us."