Canadian group Said the Whale describe themselves as pop rock with a folk-us on songwriting, and yes, they’re just as adorable as they seem. The Vancouver-based band have been slowly winning over a loyal fan base since their formation in 2007. We caught up with Ben Worcester (vocals), Tyler Bancroft (vocals/guitar) and Spencer Shoening (drums) after their set at the 2012 Sasquatch! music festival to make puns and learn just what the whale said.
Treeswingers: So, I just caught most of your set–
Ben Worcester: Was it the best part of the set?
TS: Possibly. You were talking about how you broke your harmonica?
BW: Yeah, that was the best part of the set!
[man walks by with a t-shirt emblazoned: Christmas on Mars, a reference to the obscure 2008 feature film by alt-rockers the Flaming Lips. Tyler gestures at him.]
Tyler Bancroft: Christmas on Mars, yeah!
BW: It’s a secret code word. It means we’re going to go do heroin.
TS: Okay. So who are you guys, where are you from, and when did you start making music?
BW: We’re three-fifths of Said the Whale, we’re from Vancouver and that’s where we started making music. We officially released our first recording in 2007. So that’s kind of the beginning of the band as Said the Whale.
TS: And have you always been in this incarnation?
BW: No, Tyler and I started the band together and we recorded the first record with a few other musicians, and then Spencer joined the band and he’s been a core member since he volunteered to join. He knew us from high school and we knew him as this insanely talented drummer. So as soon as he was interested we locked him down.
TS: You made him sign away his life?
BW: Yeah. We had a couple of keyboardist and a couple of bass players, all of which are amazing people but had other things in mind. Now we’ve got Jaycelyn [Brown] and Nate [Shaw], and we’re a happy family.
TS: Cool. And when did you sign to your label?
TB: That’s a difficult question. We started working with our manager who was putting out our records and then through our relationship with him, he started the label that we are now on.
BW: So we are born into it.
TS: Some weird inception thing happened?
BW: We were born into the label. It’s a part of us.
TS: Cool. So you’ve just released your third EP, Little Mountain. How’s this one different to the other two?
BW: A new bass player. Also, a different process of recording and writing. There’s some really old songs, there’s some really new songs and as a group we kind of collaborated more and worked on building these songs to what they are, more than the other ones.
TB: For the first time, we set aside a solid month of just playing the songs every day, writing the songs. Some of them we went in with them being done before the month and some of them it was just the very end of it and the song came together and that was that, but really it was just time to sort of feel things out and do a bit more experimenting with things, rather than just knowing what we were going to do right when we went in to the studio.
TS: And how would you guys describe your music, if you had to put words to it?
TS: Pop-rock with a folk-us on songwriting?
Unison: folk-us! [laughs]
TB: Now it’s your turn to make the puns.
BW: Generally, we get the folk-rock thing because we use acoustic instruments. A lot of times it gets categorized as folk, but really if you hear the record, every song stands different from the next song, we do a whole mix of stuff.
TB: And folk really just means regular folks are writing, we’re just folks, a couple of folks.
TS: I’ve genuinely never thought of it like that.
TB: I don’t think folk just has to describe an acoustic guitar and a dude. It just means at the core of it the song is what matters most and that’s absolutely true.
TS: Yeah! And I saw you guys had a pretty hardcore fan base out there. A big crowd came out for you.
TB: That just shows how close we are to Vancouver.
BW: A lot of people from Canada in general make their way down to this festival.
TS: Yeah, I’ve noticed that. There’s some sort of weird rivalry in the camp ground between American flags and Canadian flags.
BW: I don’t like that.
TS: I don’t know if you’ve taken a walk through there, it’s weird.
BW: If they just took a little breather on that border crossing, on either sides, there wouldn’t be that.
TS: So, how did you break that harmonica?
BW: Using it. Apparently you can’t use a harmonica too many times otherwise it breaks. You know, there are little reeds in it so if you blow too hard then sometimes you bend them or whatever.
TB: He broke it by blowing too hard.
TS: That’s a direct quote.
BW: Better than sucking too hard. It could have been that too, though.
TS: Maybe you just suck at harmonica.
BW: Apparently I suck really hard and I blow, too.
TS: You sucked so hard you blew the harmonica. Great. So, for this record, I saw that you released a video for every single track on the record. Why?
TB: I think the simple business answer is a lot of people go to YouTube as the first place to check out a band they’ve heard of or song they’ve heard of and generally all they find is a pixilated version of the album cover and incorrect lyrics. So this was we were able to have control over what they were seeing, and present them with something visually stimulating and interesting to watch.
Spencer Shoening: Well, I’ve got to say, every time we shoot a music video the first thought that comes through my mind is: “I could never be in this industry.” But it was a big pleasure working with people who help us put all the videos together, they’re amazing friends of ours. Their company is the Amazing Factory, and they were amazing.
TB: They’re just incredible, especially considering that for a big-time music video, the budget can be hundreds of thousands of dollars and we obviously don’t have that much money to work with, and we’re making music videos. So there was a lot of…
TV: Yeah, getting creative in the process.
TS: Awesome. So what do you see coming up in the near future? What are the next projects?
BW: Eh, Grammys–
TS: Some film soundtracks–
BW: You know, whatever happens.
TB: Lots of touring, some recording .
BW: We’d love to do a film track one day. We take everything as it comes, so you know if we had the opportunity to do that, we’ll do it, otherwise we’ll keep touring, keep writing, keep recording and keep doing that, and try to keep the integrity.
TS: And hopefully come back to Sasquatch!
BW: We will come back to Sasquatch!
TS: Who do you listen to, what are your inspirations and what influences your music?
BW: I personally listen to a lot of amazing Canadian artists that we know who affect us on many different levels because we get to watch them succeed in what they’re doing, as well as just some of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard, like Dan Mangan and Aidan Knight.
TS: –and Carly Rae Jepsen
BW: And Carly Rae Jepsen.
TB: That’s a huge single.
BW: And We Are The City, and all these bands we love.
SS: And don’t forget Avril!
BW: For me personally, I listen to Bob Marley all the time. The Tragically Hip band and Paul Simon. He is a hero. Those are probably my three biggest inspirations.
TS: And what about you guys?
TB: Same thing with Canadian music, having made friends with all these Canadian artists who are writing amazing songs, that’s huge. Just whatever I’m listening to.
SS: Come on, it’s Kanye.
TB: It is.
SS: He loves Kanye.
TB: I do. I love Kanye.
TS: How do you feel about Drake?
TB: I haven’t really gotten into Drake.
BW: He was a good host at the Junos though. We like Drake, we just don’t know him.
BW: We’re tight with Kanye though.
TB: We actually just saw him in the airport in Heathrow. Him and Kim Kardashian walked by.
BW: Tyler squealed.
TS: Did you? Did you take a photo and Instagram it?
TB: I didn’t. I didn’t want to be that guy.
TS: It’s always slightly embarrassing, but you have to do it when you get the chance.
BW: Plus we had to go to duty-free and buy all the chocolates.
TS: So – what did the whale say?
BW: wayoooooo-up wayuooooooooo ooooo pooof!
TS: Was that the whale spurting water at the end?
BW: Yup, that’s what the whale said.
Said The Whale- Camilo (The Magician) (download)