Band of the Day

2012.03.08

Said The Whale

A Vancouver indie rock group with a mission to spread their feel-good tunes beyond North America
Put a coin in your hand now and squeeze real tight. I'll make both sides heads so when you decide, you'll have complete control of your whole life.
lyrics from Camilo (The Magician)

Said The Whale is an indie rock/pop band from Vancouver, Canada that started in 2007 as a collaboration between guitarists/vocalists and high school friends Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft. Together, the duo released their debut EP, Taking Abalonia. It was re-released as a full album in 2008, with seven additional tracks. After several personnel changes, the band has evolved into a five-piece group. Alongside Worcester and Bancroft, Said The Whale also includes Nathan Shaw on bass, Spencer Schoening on drums, and Jaycelyn Brown on keyboards. In 2009, the band released their second LP, Islands Disappear. Said The Whale were filmed by CBC for the documentary “Winning America,” which chronicled their first tour in the US in 2011. That same year, the band won the Juno Award for New Group of the Year. Little Mountain, their third full-length album, was released in 2012.

Unless you live in the Great White North, you might not be familiar with Vancouver's Said The Whale. In their native Canada, they've already won a Juno Award and have been the subject of CBC documentary called “Winning America,” which chronicled their first US tour in 2011. They've just released their third full-length album, Little Mountain, and are continuing their mission of spreading their feel-good tunes beyond North America. There's “Big Wave Goodbye,” which has a New Orleans-feel, courtesy of a jazzy horn section that could've been lifted straight from a Mardis Gras parade. Then there's opening track “We Are 1980,” which is accompanied by a brilliantly-executed music video (all 15 tracks on Little Mountain have their own video) that envisions a world warped by being over-saturated with technology. We caught up with lead singer Tyler Bancroft to find out more about the importance of having so many music videos, the inspiration behind Little Mountain, and why the band members got matching lemon tattoos.

Band of the Day: Question: Hi, Tyler! I just watched the video for “We Are 1980,” which shows someone interacting with the world as if it was an iPhone. Could you tell me more about the inspiration behind it?

Tyler Bancroft: The song itself is sort of a comment on people’s reliance on technology. So the video was just an idea that I had like, “oh wouldn’t it be crazy if the concept of our video is somebody who is into their iPhone so much that they start interacting with the world as if it were an iPhone?” When I pitched the idea to the guys who did the video [Vancouver-based company Amazing Factory], I didn’t actually think they’d be able to pull it off in the way that they did. They did a pretty amazing job with all those special effects.

Band of the Day: All 15 of the songs on Little Mountain have a music video. Why is video so important for this record in particular?

Tyler: Well there are a few reasons. One of the reasons is that, we’ve all sort of noticed how in the past couple of years, YouTube is one of the go-to places people go to listen to a song. And they just assume that it’ll be that shitty video with the album cover freeze framed, and then the song, and maybe an incorrect transcription of the lyrics. And so for that reason [we were like], wouldn’t it be sweet if every time someone does that they’re watching something that’s controlled content by us, and has the right lyrics, and is a video portrayal of how we want it to be, instead of that crappy image? The second reason is sort of just to keep the ball rolling. A lot of times it seems like a band will put out a record, and there’s all this anticipation leading up to the release date, and then it’s out and then it’s kind of over. So now we’re going to be releasing a new video every Tuesday for the next 13 weeks. That’s sort of just something we can keep talking about and we’re going to be on tour the whole time this is happening. It’s just ways to keep things pointed in our direction always.

Band of the Day: Going back to “We Are 1980,” if it was actually 1980, and you were in Said The Whale, how do you think it would be different?

Tyler: Well I think we’d have worse hair! I think we’d have maybe about the same amount of money but we might’ve sold more records, but the record company would have more of the money.

Band of the Day: What about in terms of your interaction with fans? Because you guys are really active and engaged with them, from what I've seen on Facebook and Twitter.

Tyler: It’s an interesting thing you say about the contact with fans. Even when I was a kid listening to music there was no way I could write something to my favorite bands. Maybe I could find an address on the inside of a CD, that was really just like an EMI office or something. But with Twitter and Facebook you can just go write a comment on someone’s wall or tweet at them. A lot of artists are pretty diligent about writing back to their fans. It’s amazing to have that sort of connection with people. I think it makes people feel more invested in your success. They kind of feel like they're a part of it maybe, because they’re able to communicate with you and they're seeing a side of an artist that they don’t normally see. In that respect, I think that’s a part of the music industry that’s gotten really really good. I think some artists resisted [social media] a little bit because they want to keep some of that rock star mystique. But I think, especially for a band like us, there’s really no advantage to not responding to fans and not giving our whole selves to our fans, rather than just our music.

Band of the Day: Do you ever interact with bands or artists that you’re fans of?

Tyler: You know who I’d love to tweet with on Twitter? Robin Pecknold, of Fleet Foxes. He would be like the number one guy; I think that if he tweeted back at me I’d be like “YES!” He also is like one of the funniest guys on Twitter. He has very off the cuff insights, and often not relating to music or sometimes relating to music, but he’s very real on Twitter and it’s awesome. I appreciate that and I think it’s important for artists to sort of find a balance between just promoting their shit all the time and actually having something interesting to say that’s human.

Band of the Day: Tell me about the title “Little Mountain”. Where did that come from?

Tyler: Well, Little Mountain is a neighborhood that I live in, and that most of us in the band live in and grew up in. But the reason that we chose that name isn’t really that we live here. A lot of the times we're pigeonholed for being a band that just writes songs about Vancouver. People try to use that against us sometimes like, “Oh they just write songs about Vancouver.” But I think there’s a story and a general feeling that you are able to relate to regardless of where you are. So we chose Little Mountain because it happens to be one of the top named places in North America; there are a lot of places in North America called Little Mountain. We kinda wanted to get across the idea of, no matter where you are, you can connect to these songs because they’re not specific to our city, it could be anywhere.

Band of the Day: I read somewhere that you all have matching lemon tattoos, is that true?

Tyler: We do. They’re horrible! They’re really bad [laughs]. We got them in Austin last year during SXSW. On the way down we had our trailer broken into and had a bunch of our gear stolen. And that was like four days into tour, and it was like a huge punch in the gut, and it cost us a lot of money. But we sort of came around real quick and made lemonade out of lemons. So we decided to get these lemon tattoos. The design is all the same, well our bass player got a slightly different one, and we got them all in different places, and our keyboard player didn’t wanna get it because she’s pure or whatever. But it was a cool experience to get tattoos together even though they’re butt ugly [laughs]!

Band of the Day: What was your first life changing music experience?

Tyler: Probably just our first tour. It was something we had no experience doing. At the time it was just four of us who hopped in a van and drove around Canada for two months. We did a lot of camping and a lot of drinking, and a little bit of music. It was so disorganized and there was nobody at the shows for the most part. I would say that was pretty life changing. It confirmed for at least three of us that that was what we wanted to be doing at the time. We had a guy who ended up leaving the band a couple years later. But [the tour] was pretty amazing.

Band of the Day: If you had to pick a Said The Whale song to wake up to, and then to listen to right before you go to bed, what two songs would you pick?

Tyler: Interesting...It’s funny you mention that 'cause maybe I’d say waking up like, “We Are 1980,” which happens to be the first track on the record. And going to sleep to I might choose “Seasons”, which is the last song on the record. Which is kinda the idea behind a well-sequenced record, in my opinion. It’s sort of got a beginning, middle, and end, like a day.

Band of the Day: Who does your album artwork?

Tyler: He’s a guy called Andy Dickson. He’s sort of an underground celebrity in Vancouver, as far as music and art goes. He’s done all of our album artwork. The reason that this artwork looks a little bit different from all of our other artwork is just 'cause we wanted to mix it up a little bit, but we still wanted to hire Andy. So we just said instead of using paint as a medium or digital art, use all photographs. So he sort of took that as a challenge and made a pretty cool packaging for it.

Band of the Day: And finally, who would be your Band of The Day today?

Tyler: My band of the day would be Yukon Blonde from Vancouver. They’re f*cking amazing.