A phone interview with Loel from Wintersleep Oct 30th – While the band was out west on their first round of dates for Welcome to the Night Sky
Mike: Where are you guys right now?
Loel: I’m with Mike and we’re in a
Where in Canada are you?
In Kelowna, sorry.
Oh dude – I love it out there. I usually go out there twice a year to hit wine country and buy up all sorts of wine down the Okanagan Valley, it’s awesome there.
Oh really? Right here? That’s a good tip.
Do you have any downtime? Are you there for a day?
We have the day here, but I don’t know if we’d have time to go out of town because we don’t have a vehicle, because we’re on a tour bus, so we’re not really mobile, we’re just foot mobile. It’s really tough to get around that way. I wish we did have some down time. It’s a really beautiful day here too.
There’s a couple of wine stores that we go into in Kelowna where they stock everything so you can just go in whenever you want. Just hit Discover Wines, and ask for David. Dude will set you up!
I’ll keep my eye open for that. That’s a really good call.
Well you’re in the land of the grape, they make some awesome stuff there and I go there twice a year just to buy wine and I’m not really what I’d call a connoisseur I just love what they make there.
Cool that’s great to know. I did not know that.
It’s pretty funky. You’d have to get it back home, travelling with bottles is a hassle you’ll likely just drink it all.
I’m sure everybody wouldn’t mind, there’s like 12 of us on the bus so I’m sure it wouldn’t last long.
Are the Wooden Stars in the bus with you touring?
Yeah we’re all on the same bus. There’s 12 bunks, like 12 sleeping coffins. It’s pretty practical doing it this way instead of taking 2 crumby old vans that could potentially break down. The routing for the tour is pretty tight. There’s some really big drives so it’s nice that nobody has to drive.
Do you get any sleep or is it like a symphony of snoring and grunting?
It’s pretty good actually. When you’re in your bunks there’s just kind of this crisp white noise around you all the time. You can’t really hear anything outside of your bunk and there’s curtains that go across and seal up to make them private. It’s actually pretty good.
Sounds like a train.
Yeah or like a boat. Where you can rent bunks for the night or whatever. It’s really good. There’s a night light in there that you can read and stuff. Today it was a little bit hard to sleep when we started moving. The driver started driving at 7 in the morning and we were going through Roger’s Pass or whatever and it was snowing the whole way so it was a bit rocky.
That can be a treacherous pass to come along at this time of year. You never know what you’re going to get.
Exactly, you just make sure you’re sleeping with your feet first in case you have to come to a stop suddenly.
This round of dates you’re doing right now, it’s all focused on Canada, correct?
With the touring now? Yeah Canada is the only place that our new record is out.
Oh, it’s not out in the USA yet?
No it’s not. The first two records were released in the States too but I guess that wasn’t in the cards for this record. There’s some things brewing right now for a State-side release but it’s not out yet. It’ll probably come out in the States in the new year or whatever. It’s coming out in Japan which is really cool.
What are you putting on the disc for a bonus track? Everything that gets released over there has to come with something.
I know. We have two songs that we’re going to put on, that we recorded in the same session – we wanted to make it a ten-song record so we’ll have – we really like the songs that were finished but they didn’t really fit. So we’ll include those on the Japan release, which is kind of fun. It’s fun for us to have a Japanese import or whatever. So that’ll be neat. It’s a neat label called Imperial, they released a lot of really good stuff like Dinosaur Jr and a lot of the Mogwai records.
Is that coming together because of Tony (Mogwai)?
No, Imperial saw us play at South by Southwest. The people from the label that were over saw us play South by Southwest and they really loved the show and now that we have the record, they really like it. They’re going to help us get over there some time in the near future so that’s really exciting.
I’m pretty new to your band Loel. I haven’t heard the other two discs. I just got a copy of Welcome to the Night Sky in the mail and I really dug it. I think it’s a really ambitious sounding disc.
Yeah I must say it’s our most ambitious to date, for sure. We feel pretty satisfied with this one.
It’s quality material. I’m wondering if it’s going to see any radio. Do you think you’ll get singles out of it? Is it getting played?
Actually, there’s like the first single off the record it’s called ‘Weighty Ghost’ and it’s gotten added to a lot of different stations in Canada, so far so it’s doing pretty well. It’s in the top 20 of like Canadian radio or something like that. I don’t really know that whole … it’s a bit weird to have a song that’s embraced in that kind of avenue. I don’t think we write songs to get them played on the radio but it’s nice to actually have one getting airplay now.
It’s good if the single can find an ear. I don’t listen to radio anymore, I don’t know if any of you guys follow radio. To me I think it’s got value and I look at the charts and see what’s being played and what’s interesting to different college stations but I don’t tune anything in, I just play what I’m interested in playing and that’s it. Mostly I read magazines & buy CDs from reviews I like.
Yeah I think we’re the same way. But it’s still really powerful – radio.
For sure. Aside from the music-heads and the people that sniff around on the web for new songs and the next bands that are touring around and coming up – I think radio is a nice way to just take the approach of ‘here it is, check it out’.
This is kind of a double question, how long did it take to both write and then record Welcome To the Night Sky?
We never really toured a lot before the record that we put out in 2005. It did have a title but we didn’t tour a lot before then. So we instantly started touring a lot after that record. And we had a couple of songs like the ‘Weighty Ghost’ song and song ‘Murderer’ that we had pretty much completed and we played them at our CD release for our last record in 2005, so we’ve had this growing catalogue of songs that we’ve compiled over the two years of touring and when we weren’t touring we’d have retreats and go and hunker down and work on new ideas. So this record’s basically like the outcome of two years of compiling music on the road. But we had a lot of material going into the recording. We had about 15-17 songs, so we whittled it down to 12 that we wanted to actually record. So with the first two records we didn’t actually have all the – when we started recording we didn’t have all the material written, we’d start out with 4 songs and just try to work on those, try to save up some more money to do the next four. But this one we had a lot of time to be able to record the record and also a lot of material. So it kind of feels like our first proper band- record I guess.
Is it safe to say you had 100% of your material together and you went in and worked on it with Tony.
Yeah we definitely had all the material together. Tony leant his ear to the process at lot. We’re big fans of his and he had a lot of suggestions and we really think he has great taste so we’d really listen to him when he had a comment about one of the songs or a particular part that one of us was playing. It just kind of – we just shaped it, patiently took it day by day. We’d start a different track each day and work on them and make sure everybody was happy and make sure we got a really great performance off the floor, like a really great live performance and went from there.
I’m interested in knowing if it’s a challenge to play the new stuff live. Did you have to step anything up when you’re touring it or are you just rolling out the new material without rehearsing it a lot?
No we definitely spent a lot of time rehearsing it. Definitely just trying to serve the songs justice. They’re definitely the same kind of structures but we take them different places nightly depending on what everybody’s feeling and trying to project as a band and work together. We just try to do the song its greatest justice. It’s been going really well. The production of the new record, there’s a lot of pretty crazy sonic stuff going on.
I really liked that sound, it’s one of the things that really drew me into the disk.
Yeah so we’re just trying to be a better band and trying to get the record across and also just really trying to throw down with as much energy and passion as we can get across. We’re super-into music, writing music and playing music and we take it pretty seriously and just try to do our absolute best every night, and we definitely think about it a lot, how we’re going to pull off certain songs live. But it’s really working well I think. I think the band is playing the best it ever has.
Are you getting a good turnout at your shows so far?
Yeah it’s been really great actually. We had a couple really great shows in Ontario right before we were leaving, while we were heading out here in Ottawa and Hamilton and those two shows were sold out. Going to Sudbury and that was a really good show, which is kind of unexpected because…
It’s pretty northern. Sudbury’s not as central to Toronto and some of the bigger cities.
Yeah you wouldn’t think you’d have any people that know your band there but it was a really great show and really great audience. All the audiences have been super sweet and attentive. We played in Edmonton two nights ago and that was an amazing show. It’s been really great. It seems like we’ve got a really great audience.
Are you playing mostly stuff from the new album or are you going back to your older materials as well.
We’ve been playing some of the longest sets we’ve every played. Pretty much every show we play every song off the new record – not in sequence to the record, we juggle it up, but yeah we’ll play a lot of stuff off our other two records too. Just stuff that fits in in the live environment. Whatever we feel night to night, it’s a different set list and try to mix it up and keep us on our toes and keep things interesting and fun and fresh so everybody has a great experience every night, including ourselves. I don’t think it would be that fun to just play the record start to finish each night and then be done. It’s nice to mix it up. We’ve done a few shows on this tour where we’ve ended up playing close to two hours.
Usually for bar shows you get about an hour and that’s it.
Yeah exactly. It’s been really great, we’ve been having so much fun on this tour, it’s been great. Mike the new bass player, we play in Holy Fuck together and a couple other bands and we’ve known each other since we were in pre-school so we really have a great connection as far as the rhythm section goes and we’ve been having a lot of fun doing some neat improvised stuff that we’ve never hit before. It’s getting everybody really excited to write the next record I guess.
I think Holy Fuck were just here in London two weeks ago. How does that work?
At the Lola Festival?
Yeah neither of us played that show.
I wondered It doesn’t really time out with your Wintersleep tour dates.
Yeah we were rehearsing then so neither of us could do it but we were founding members of that band but we’re just more into this. I think Wintersleep just means a lot more to us, so you have to make a choice at some point. I’m not saying that we won’t ever play with Holy Fuck again but just right now we’re busy doing this.
You know when you go on and look at the band on iTunes or e-music, their profile comes up and it says you’ll like them if you like this band and that band. Who would you pick for a couple of those bands? Who would you sound the most like?
I don’t know. That’s a tough one.
One of my big beefs describing music is trying not to pigeonhole – and say if you like these bands then you’ll like Wintersleep and I don’t know if that’s fair to you as a band or the reader because they may have a pre-conceived notion of those other bands and they’ll be turned off…
Yeah, I can only imagine what are there for the options. I don’t know. If Led Zeppelin was there (chuckles)? We’re big music fans. I don’t know. We’ve gotten
I dig Swervedriver, I heard a bit of that shoegazer going on in your stuff.
Yeah totally. I don’t know, it’s hard to narrow down. I guess it’s good that somebody else does it.
Yeah. Then you guys can all read it and go “pffft. Dude doesn’t have a clue man!!!”
Exactly (laughter). We can read the comparison and just be like ‘No way!’ We get a lot of comparisons that we don’t like but I guess you have to accept it because it’s just somebody’s opinion. We get lots of different comparisons.
So aside from skulking around the Kelowna Dollar Stores, what else are you doing in your down time to keep yourself amused while you’re touring?
We play a lot of video game hockey, NHL 2008. We bought that in Ottawa so we’ve got that hooked up and we all play, kind of like a season. It’s a really good way to pass the time. We have a chess board, books and vast music collections and we’ve been watching a lot of movies. We watched Pan’s Labyrinth last night. It’s the second time I’ve seen that movie it’s really great.
Yeah it’s a good flick. I really dug it.
Oh man it’s so good, I love it. And trying to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm as much as possible. It’s pretty tight on the bus but there’s satellite TV and stuff. It’s really great actually it keeps everybody entertained and happy. We’re having a really good time.
That’s good to hear. I won’t keep you any longer, I’m looking forward to seeing you when you play in London.
Yeah it should be good. The last time we played there it was good.
I’m not familiar with the Wooden Stars at all, I haven’t even looked them up on line, what would you say about them …
Sure man. They’re amazing. They won a Juno ten years ago. It’s kind of like the last thing that they did I guess. This a bit of a reunion for them. This is like their first tour in seven years.
That’s cool I’m going to check them out. That sounds awesome.
They’re amazing. I actually found out about them when I was in high school, I just accidentally happened upon their CD, their record The Moon and I fell in love with it, so it’s really quite funny to have this band that you’ve loved for almost 10 years that’s opening for you night after night.
That’s pretty humbling.
Yeah it’s quite awesome actually. They’re just really good friends now, we just met them over the years that we’ve been touring and they put out a record in June so it’s perfect timing and we’re really
enjoying each other’s company and watching each other play each night.
Cool, I’m looking forward to seeing you both now. Take it easy Loel. Enjoy your gig tonight and try and pick up some wine while you’re out there.
I will man, thanks for the tip. See you in London.