Said the Whale

by Emily Bielby Rating: Release Date:

Vancouver based indie rockers, Said the Whale have made quite a name for themselves within the four years they have been together and, with already two successful albums and numerous EPs under their belts, they're set to get even bigger.

Having played at multiple venues and recently The Great Escape Festival, Brighton, it's no wonder they won Juno Award New Group of the Year.

So you've been going strong now since the release of Taking Abalonia; that's a good four years. What have been the highlights?

I guarantee if you ask any of us, the number one highlight would be all the places we have seen, and all the friends we have met along the way. My two favorite Canadian cities to keep returning to have to be Montreal and St John's. Somehow it seems like it's just getting more fun as time goes by! This year alone has already taken us through part of the States on our way to SXSW, across half of Canada with one of our favorite bands, Tokyo Police Club, and through the UK to play in London and a couple of festivals. Of all this, one obvious highlight to me was making a bonfire on the beach in Brighton with Hey Rosetta.

I say going strong - every band has its ups. Have there been any downs?

There have been some downs, absolutely. I believe we are on our fourth van and our sixth engine right now... but we have a good feeling about this one. The last van we bought broke down within the first 200km of highway, and on top of that it was Jaycelyn's first ever show with us. On top of that, we were going to open for Stars! There was a lot of stress just trying to get there. The biggest bummer happened just last march when our trailer was broken into. We lost about a few thousands of dollars worth of gear including all of my cymbals, a keyboard, all of Tyler's clothes and my clothes, and worst of all, Ben's acoustic guitar, on which he wrote every song he's ever written. The sentimental value is more devastating than the financial side of things, but all along the way we have managed to take things in stride.

Do you feel both Taking Abalonia and Islands Disappear were as successful as you'd hope they would be?

Our hope was just to make some good music, so the success is really just the icing on the cake for us.

Any album plans for this or next year?

After coming home from the UK we are going to jump right into working on new material. After putting the pieces together throughout June, we will be stepping into the studio with the great Garth Richardson and the wonderful Shawn Cole. We got the chance to work with them at the Peak Performance Project bootcamp last year as a result of winning their songwriting competition. We hit it off and we jumped at the opportunity to record with somebody with as much experience under his belt as Garth does. He recorded the first Rage Against the Machine album and Mothers Milk by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

We have been playing a few new songs on the road already, and there are some that have yet to be written, but we are all excited about the direction this is going and also to get some new music out there. Hopefully, we will have an EP available in the fall and a new LP by next spring.

In November 2010, you won $75,000 after being placed second in CKPK.FMs 2010 Peak Performance Project; I bet you guys were chuffed. What did you blow your winnings on?

Much of the winnings will be going into recording this record. We most certainly did not blow the money in any way, we all remember that old adage, "Don't spend it all in one place", so we have been very strategic about how to use it. Seventy-five thousand may sound like a hell of a lot of money, I know it does to me, but it's amazing how fast that can go in the music industry. Luckily, we got to dip in to the pot when we got all that gear stolen from us. I don't know what we would have done otherwise.

You also won the Juno Award for New Group of the Year in 2011. How did that make you feel?

It was the most surreal moment of my life. I honestly did not expect to win. It is an unbelievable honour to be even considered for the category, let alone win it, but I think our favorite part was seeing Jian Ghomeshi smile after opening the envelope. We were up against some great friends of ours, Hollerado, who we actually shared the stage with on our very first show on our very first tour. To see both of us sitting at tables alongside Neil Young and Arcade Fire was definitely a 'high five' moment for us all. We dedicated our award to them.

You recently played at The Great Escape Festival, Brighton. Did you enjoy it and how do you feel it went?

The Great Escape festival went better than we had hoped. It turns out we were put on some good shows, one with Handsome Furs, and another one with Hey Rosetta and Braids, so the lineups were pretty stacked. We ended up getting to talk to a couple agents in Europe so it was a business success alongside just being a good time. We had a beach fire with Hey Rosetta, we went on rides on the Pier, we drank beer outside because you CAN there. It was my first great European experience.

Was Brighton what you expected?

I didn't have any expectations other that what I had heard about in Quadrophenia by The Who, so... no! It was cool, a little bohemian, lots of hip people and cool shops. I suppose I have a bit of a skewed impression since I only saw it at the height of this cool, cool festival, but I'm sure it wouldn't be such a cool festival if it wasn't in Brighton! I think it was all of our favorite place of the trip.

You also played Liverpool Sound City Festival. How was that?

We were very excited to grace the home of The Beatles. We ended up going to the bar they frequented as young chaps, but didn't have enough time to hit that Cavern. Once again, as with any festival, there were so many bands I would have loved to see, but not enough time to catch nearly anything. On the last night though we were just looking for a place to get a Guinness and I stumbled into the venue downstairs only to discover one of my new favorite bands! They're called Cloud Control and they're from Australia and you should check them out. Those discoveries are the things that make festivals really worthwhile and exciting for me, so I'd call it a success.

How does performing and playing live shows compare to playing shows over here in the UK?

It's kind of different, but kind of exactly the same. Other than the fact that we usually don't get to play for very long while touring abroad, we always step on stage with the same attitude of "we are going to play a bitchin' show tonight!" But the difference lies in the fact that when we play outside of Canada, we can guarantee that not many, if anybody, knows our music. This kind of works as an incentive to try and win them over. The funny thing is at the festivals and one or two of the shows we still seemed to be surrounded by Canadians!

Many of the songs produced on your first album, Taking Abalonia, reference events or places in Vancouver. Is there any particular reason why?

I think it all comes from writing what you know. Ben in particular is a lover of nature and a passionate guy about every part of his life. As we began to see more of the country there were songs inspired by the prairies, by the frozen great lakes, and by the cities on the Canadian shield. That being said, it is hard not to have a love affair with this city. We're right on the boundary between big city and wilderness so the nature that we are surrounded by creeps into our lexicon without us thinking about it. Ben is also very into folk music, like Stan Rogers and Bruce Cockburn, so the story-telling aspect of songwriting is something he has explored it songs like 'False Creek Change' and 'Black Day in December'. Both songs are tied into our very neighbourhoods and talk about the change we see in day-to-day life.

Do you plan to follow up on that theme for your next album?

We have no agenda as far as what the subject matter is going to be. We'll just have to see what happens. I'm going to guess that in our writing now there will be some more variety since now we have had the chance to explore America as well as the UK, rather than just Canada. Your guess is as good as mine what the boys will be singing about next!

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