Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Mar 28th 2012 1:00PM by Jason Schneider
Winning a Juno Award for Best New Group doesn't carry the stigma it once did when flash and disappear acts like Sky, Idle Eyes or the Infidels took it home. (No, we don't remember who they are, either.) But when Said the Whale walked away with the honour at the Junos 40th anniversary awards in 2011, it was a well-deserved victory for the Vancouver pop-rockers, whose odes to their hometown struck a national nerve with Islands Disappear.
Said the Whale harnessed that momentum over the past year while making the just-released follow-up Little Mountain, which, while still containing a few more Vancouver love letters, also reflects the band's increasing focus south of the border, something that was partially captured in last year's CBC documentary, Winning America.
"I don't think winning the Juno affected this album at all," co-frontman Tyler Bancroft tells Spinner. "We had it pretty well written before then, and a couple of the songs are actually four or five years old. We'd written most of the songs during the first half of 2010, and after the tour we did with Tokyo Police Club and the Junos, we went back to Vancouver and just did pre-production for a month. It led us to be the best prepared that we'd ever been before to make a record. It also helped us fully develop the songs before going into the studio, instead of realizing after six months of playing them live that this is the way they should have sounded all along."
Bancroft says that the band didn't really tinker too much with its creative process. Their relationship with producer Tom Dobrzanski remains solidly intact in terms of his ability to balance the various unique personalities within Said the Whale, particularly the dynamic between Bancroft and the band's other principal singer/songwriter, Ben Worcester. Each of them brought their new songs to rehearsals in a more skeletal state than usual, allowing the fellow band members Jaycelyn Brown (keyboards), Nathan Shaw (bass) and Spencer Schoening (drums) more input.
Spinner's Juno Awards photo gallery
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- Kardinal Offishall
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- Sinead O'Connor, October 3, 1992
- Ke$ha, April 17, 2010
- Cypress Hill, October 2, 1993
- Coldplay, October 25, 2008
- The Go-Gos, November 14, 1981
- Frank Zappa, October 21, 1978
- Britney Spears, October 13, 2003
- Laura Branigan, December 4, 1982
- Kanye West, December 13, 2008
- Linkin Park, February 5, 2011
- Taylor Swift, January 10, 2009
- Ashlee Simpson, October 23, 2004
While the album's title is a tip of the hat to the central Vancouver neighbourhood where the band resides, and the song "2010" is a reflection on the Winter Olympics experience in that city, overt references to smalltown America in such songs as "Big Sky, MT" and "Jesse, AR" clearly show a band looking for inspiration elsewhere.
"I think it was inevitable that being on the road like we were in 2010 would work its way into our songwriting on some level," Bancroft says. "I mean, it's not like those songs are specifically about those places, but when you're seeing so many new cities and meeting so many new people, I think you just naturally start thinking about what their lives are like there compared to where you're from. We've never shied away from the fact that we love Vancouver and are constantly inspired by it, but I think this new record is the beginning of breaking away from that a little bit."
Still, as Vancouver's indie-rock scene has flourished over the past decade thanks to bands like the New Pornographers and Black Mountain, Said the Whale is in no hurry to detach itself from the city completely, even as they continue to find their own niche.
"We pay attention to the musical landscape, both in Canada and the States," Bancroft says, "but at the same time I don't think it has any effect on our songwriting. We try to adhere to the belief of doing what comes naturally, and I think what's interesting about our band is the diversity within our records and between our records. We don't try to lock ourselves into any one particular style. That definitely keeps things interesting for us, and hopefully for listeners as well."