'Hello Newfoundland,' Said the Whale

Justin Brake
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Vancouver-based indie rockers tour province

The title of Vancouver-based indie rock outfit Said The Whale's new album may or may not give Newfoundlanders reason to worry.

Released just last week, "Islands Disappear" is the highly anticipated followup to the band's 2007 effort, "Taking Abalonia," which, coupled with an ambitious live performance etiquette, has earned them an all right reputation on Canada's West coast.

Members of the Vancouver group Said the Whale perform Corner Brook Friday and St. John's Saturday as part of a national tour in support of the album "Islands Disappear." - Photo courtesy of Jonathan Taggart

The title of Vancouver-based indie rock outfit Said The Whale's new album may or may not give Newfoundlanders reason to worry.

Released just last week, "Islands Disappear" is the highly anticipated followup to the band's 2007 effort, "Taking Abalonia," which, coupled with an ambitious live performance etiquette, has earned them an all right reputation on Canada's West coast.

"I think if you Google 'islands disappear' one of the first things that comes up is some sort of environmental stat about rising water levels," co-lead singer and guitarist Tyler Bancroft tells me from his cellphone.

"So maybe you guys should take heed," he jokes.

Somewhere between Windsor and Waterloo, Ont., the band is on the road to promote the new record.

The night prior to our interview, on the day of the album's release, they celebrated "birthday party" style at Windsor's Phog Lounge, which was voted Canada's Best Live Music Venue by CBC Radio 3 listeners earlier this year.

"We decorated the stage and had cake and noisemakers and stuff, and just had a big proper birthday party for the record," Bancroft explains. "It was packed, too."

Said The Whale and Phog Lounge impresario Tom Lucier are tight; they have the kind of relationship every band and bar owner wants: Lucier give them respect and promotes the hell out of their shows, and the band draws a big crowd every time.

Now on a tour that will take them east of Montreal for the first time, the band is excited to do a little networking and build a fan base on the "other coast," Bancroft says.

And with the new album to support their cause, they're as ecstatic as ever.

"With the album out now I kind of feel like we're sitting on this slingshot that's pulled back, and I'm just ready for something to happen," says co-band leader Ben Worcester, after being handed the phone in the tour van.

"It's kind of like sharing yourself with the world," he adds. "And with this album in particular, the whole band that we're playing with right now has invested so much into it."

Over the past two years Said The Whale has undergone some lineup changes, but the five current members - Bancroft, Worcester, drummer Spencer Shoening, bassist Peter Carruthers and keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown - are all in for the long haul, Bancroft and Worcester say.

"We've finally got the same five people on the album as we have in the tour van with us," Bancroft explains.

"It's a family thing; we're all in it together."

"Islands Disappear" bears all the elements that would lead a reviewer to use the terms "rock," "indie," "pop," and "folk," but the distinctive quality of their music is an affinity to their roots marked by songs that are positively and humbly landlocked to Vancouver and the West Coast - in a good way.

"It's not something that we do consciously," Bancroft explains, making reference to he and Worcester's tendency to invigorate their music with locale-specific inspiration, "but we both grew up in Vancouver, and obviously a huge part of being in Vancouver is its geographical location.

"It's, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, although I haven' been to St. John's, so I'll take that into account. We both love the outdoors. I work on a tugboat and grew up around boats. Same with Ben - he lives on the water and so geography is a huge part of what we know, and generally we just write what we know, whatever comes naturally."

Thus far the critics have been kind to the band, but will Newfoundland take to Said The Whale?

Decide for yourself - they make their still-afloat Island debut at The Backloft in Corner Brook Friday, and at The Ship in St. John's Saturday.

Vancouver chanteuse and rising star Hannah Georgas will open both shows, giving concert goers a definite bang-for-your-buck reason to attend.

Organizations: Google, CBC Radio 3, The Backloft The Ship

Geographic location: Canada, Windsor, Vancouver Worcester Waterloo Montreal St. John's West Coast Newfoundland Iceland Corner Brook

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