When I contacted Said the Whale’s publicist to interview the band, I was told it might not happen. They had a really busy day in Toronto and then they were heading off to the United States for some shows while on their way out west.
However, she said songwriter Tyler Bancroft might be able to talk to me at 11 a.m, so I should call him right then.
When I called, he told me he was busy, but would call right back. Said the Whale is one of Canada’s hottest indie rock bands right now, having won the 2011 Juno for New Group of the Year and two nominations for the 2013 Junos.
I expected the band to be rushing between media engagements – a live set on MTV Canada followed by interviews with the Toronto Star and eTalk. Or something like that.
I wasn’t expecting Bancroft to be in the middle of buying a Playstation game to play on the bus during the western swing of their tour.
“I’m buying a Playstation 3 from a fan today so that we can play it on the bus, and we needed some more games,” he told me. “We had an hour before soundcheck and I thought that I could pull this off, but the traffic is nuts so now I’m rushing around like an idiot. It wouldn’t be tour if I wasn’t rushing around like an idiot somewhere.”
Said the Whale is the big headliner being brought to town to play at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, Nov. 30. They’re the central attraction (along with opening day at RMR) that Welcome Week was planned around.
The band – consisting of Bancroft, guitarist Ben Worcester, bassist Nathan Shaw, keyboard player Jaycelyn Brown and drummer Spencer Schoening – was formed in 2007. They released their debut album Howe Sounds/Taking Abalonia and built a following through constant touring and two follow-up albums – Islands Disappear (2009) and Little Mountain (2012). Their music is poppy and catchy and mostly upbeat.
“We’re a very diverse band. We have a lot of different sounds, especially on the new record,” said Bancroft. “It ranges from most avid rock songs we’ve ever written, to the most mellow introspective songs we’ve ever written.”
They were named one of Canada’s rockstars to watch for 2012 by Rockstar Weekly magazine, though Bancroft laughed when I asked him about that.
“I don’t even know what magazine that is. I don’t think that’s a real magazine,” he said. “Somehow that’s on our Wikipedia page and I just don’t understand. As far as being rockstars – we’re just a little band from Vancouver that is still struggling every day.”
In September they release their fourth album hawaiii. The album was recorded a few songs at a time over a series of recording sessions.
“That was a really cool way to make the record. It was kind of like the hip hop approach,” said Bancroft. “It enabled us to focus on a small amount at a time so we didn’t feel bogged down by a huge checklist of things left to do and we were able to explore all the ideas for every song and just make every song the best it could be without worrying about the overall final result of the record.”
The album’s first single, I Love You, is an upbeat paean to family. The second single, Helpless One, is about watching a loved one get older.
While both songs have a familial theme, Bancroft said it wasn’t deliberate. “I’m not really like a touchy-feely family guy but maybe because of that it came out in the music I was writing then,” he said.
The band has been on the road since early November, starting their tour in the Maritimes and slowly making their way across Canada, with a small detour into the United States. They were in a van until Toronto but were switching to a bus to help cope with the longer days on the road while heading west.
Once this tour is over, they will be taking some time off before likely hitting the road again in the spring, though plans are still up in the air.
Saturday’s show will be their first in Revelstoke, though they did stop here once for an end-of-tour party. Vancouver band Escondido is opening. What should we expect from the show?
“I’ve never seen a Said the Whale show before so I don’t know exactly,” said Bancroft. “I’ve seen people seeing Said the Whale shows and they seem to be enjoying themselves. Our shows are fairly celebratory and we’re all to be there. It’s always a good time for everyone involved.”