When Whiles singer Joe Peppercorn and his wife had their first child seven years ago, it changed the way he viewed his role in the universe.

When Whiles singer Joe Peppercorn and his wife had their first child seven years ago, it changed the way he viewed his role in the universe.

"I describe being a parent to people as that 'Back to the Future' photo, where Marty McFly sees himself start to disappear," said Peppercorn, clad in a Brian Wilson T-shirt at a Downtown coffee shop. "I think that's a good thing, realizing how small I am and how many billion people [there are]. I never understood that until I had children and realized how much bigger the world is than myself."

That change of perspective worked its way into the Whiles' excellent new album, Mercury Ghost, which the band will celebrate with a release show at Ace of Cups on Friday, Nov. 4. The lush, melodic pop record is the band's fourth release on Anyway Records in a nearly 20-year career that has seen the Whiles flirt with major-label success and play alongside many national acts, especially early in its career.

2012's Somber Honey ushered in the second phase of the Whiles, in which Peppercorn and his bandmates accepted that mainstream success may never come, and that live performances and releases may be few and far between. But the chemistry and friendship among the members - singer/guitarist/pianist Peppercorn and his brother, lead guitarist Matt Peppercorn, plus bassist Chris Bolognese, guitarist/engineer Jake Remley and Cleveland-based drummer Paul Headley - glue the Whiles together.

"It's a very intense connection," Peppercorn said. "That's the only reason we're able to still be a band. We can get together and it clicks. I think there's an implicit agreement that if we get together and it doesn't work, that's when we should probably stop."

Peppercorn wrote most of the songs on Mercury Ghost while his 1-year-old son was napping, then recorded them with Remley and the band throughout 2013. The album features some of the band's most gorgeous, layered vocal harmonies since 2004's Colors of the Year, which Peppercorn attributes to the countless hours he and his bandmates have spent rehearsing songs by John, Paul, George and Ringo for the Beatles Marathon - the annual December event during which Peppercorn and friends play every Beatles song in chronological order.

"The Beatles show is a big influence, especially the last few years when we learned all the arrangements and all the vocal harmonies. We were like, 'We need to be doing more of that in our songs,'" said Peppercorn, who also took vocal-arrangement inspiration from Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.

It was only after writing Mercury Ghost that Peppercorn realized so much of it is about fatherhood (Peppercorn is now the dad of three). Initially, he thought leadoff track "Desolate Highway" was about his wife.

"Then it completely changed, and I realized I was writing about my son," he said. "When I said, 'My heart is knocking on the doorway of your cheek, and your eyes, once tight shut, now are starting to leak,' it was like, oh, this is about my son being born. This is about me being ready for him to enter my life. This is about my need for my son to be in my life. ... My son is what made my life make sense for the first time."

The album's title track also references that newfound perspective. "I was a searcher, now the world is full of things I wish I didn't know," Peppercorn sings.

"Before kids, it's like, 'I want the truth. I want to really know things,'" he said. "Now it's like, 'I wish I could just not be so aware all the time of the temporal nature of all this. I almost wish I didn't have that knowledge.'"

There's a shadow hanging over Mercury Ghost, too. Brett Helling, a beloved local musician who took his own life last year, was supposed to sing on the album. "I'd written parts for Brett to sing, and he didn't show up that day, and then we finished the album," Peppercorn said. "I was like, 'Oh, Brett will be on the next one.' … That ghost hangs over some of the songs. He definitely looms over this record, and his absence is really painful on this album."

Performing songs from the new album and the Whiles' back catalog is something Peppercorn values now more than ever. "I'm really self-conscious and self-critical, so I tend to look back on what we've done as not very good," he said. "But then when we're singing them live, I realize I'm pretty proud of all the things we've done. As I'm singing them I get very emotional because I realize a lot of the feelings I'm describing 10 or 12 years ago, they take on new meaning. They really hit me in ways they didn't before."