Wintersleep is playing Bronson Centre Theatre this Saturday, March 23. Only a week later, the heavyweight Canadian rock band’s new album, The Land Of, is coming out on March 29 via Dine Alone Records.
Maritime expats and Ottawa fans are sure to pack the Bronson Centre, knowing they’ll be treated with new, unheard material; a glimpse at Wintersleep’s latest songs.
Ahead of the local concert date, Apartment613 wrote to lead singer and guitarist Paul Murphy to ask about songwriting, recording, and his favourite sounding bands.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Wintersleep has been making albums for over 15 years. Can you articulate ways the process has changed for you, from album to album, as you’ve grown as a group?
I think there’s a core thing that happens when we’re working on songs, that has always been there, which is the most fundamental and distinctive aspect… but definitely growing as songwriters and players and producers, knowing a little more about how to achieve what we’re going for a bit more sonically and as a band in a room. We’ve always had a pretty clear overall vision about what we’ve been doing, but I guess it’s a bit more methodical and worked out before we go into a studio setting now. Songs are a bit more complete before we go in to the studio.
Getting confidence with [new songs] as a band, before going in, I think allows for more full band live tracking which really helps, having that ability and confidence of the song allows a more live approach to songs like “Into the Shape of Your Heart”.
There’s also a few that we’ve built more ground up production-wise, like “Waves”.
I read in a previous interview that you felt Hello Hum is “the kind of like a record you can listen to by yourself, walking around” and that The Great Detachment “reaches out a bit more.” How would you describe the new release in that sense?
I think of it as a bit of a darker sibling to The Great Detachment, a continuation of the dusk of that day.
I find the lyrics are a huge part of your songs. As opposed to say, a band that keeps the words vague and puts the focus entirely on instruments. Do your lyrics typically come before or after the music in your writing process?
It’s a mixture of things. The lyrics for “Lighthouse” were actually written over another melody I had, but totally fit with this great part Tim had, so that was just pulling straight from this other song I was working on for the verses and then a chorus came out of that process that was entirely new.
“New songs are lighting my life up at the moment.”
Sometimes, I’ll pull from pieces of prose that I’ve written or just lines I’ve heard or read somewhere. Sometimes that evokes a melody. But, yeah, the majority I’d say already have a melody and a few lines that come to mind that sort of take shape from the way the melody sounds. And it’s just about following where it leads from there.
I’ve always found the vibe of your first two records, both untitled, to fit so perfectly with the name of the band, in that the sound is sombre and lonely, though well-articulated and at times uplifting. What were your sonic influences when you started recording?
At what time? Hard to remember everything, but definitely PJ Harvey, Low, Radiohead, Mogwai, Tori Amos, Do Make Say Think, Beck, Flaming Lips, Eric’s Trip, Hayden, Leonard Cohen, Afghan Whigs all pretty influential to me in terms of bands.
There’s more than that for sure but I guess in terms of stuff that comes directly to mind that’d all be on the list. Lots of cool local NS stuff like Christopher Robin Device, Burnt Black, Motes.
Poetry has always felt influential to me, and good literature. Going for walks in the woods.
What are your favourite songs to play live?
Changes from night to night… new songs are lighting my life up at the moment.
What are some new artists you’ve been listening to?
Jon Samuel, Walrus, Caveboy, Frigs, Big Thief, Chai.
Does Wintersleep have more touring plans for 2019?
We’ll be playing summer festivals throughout Canada in June, July, August and heading to the Europe and the UK to tour in later summer, early fall.
Wintersleep is playing the Bronson Centre Theatre (211 Bronson Ave) with special guests Caveboy at 8pm on Saturday March 23, 2019. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets cost $25–28 online and at Vertigo Records.