INTERVIEW: Wintersleep

It’s no secret: the industry, along with record labels, have become pals with the term “change”. Often overshadowed is how musicians grow, going from a reckless adolescent born to jam to an artist selected to open for a figure who once sang under The Beatles moniker. While in Montreal, WINTERSLEEP drummer Loel Campbell chatted to us about opening for Paul McCartney, how touring evolves over time and the benefits of constantly being involved in music.

How do the cities and venues you’re playing at on this tour compare to where you were playing a few years ago?

Well, for example, we recently played at London Music Hall, whereas prior to that we had mostly played at a club called Call The Office in that city. I like the music hall, it’s one of the nicer venues we’ve played in Southern Ontario. Our audience has definitely grown a bit so we’re playing bigger rooms, which is cool. It’s nice because bigger venues usually have more equipment and let you pull off a few more bells and whistles. We’ve been enjoying that lately, for sure.
How have fans reacted to material from New Inheritors?

We’ve been trying to mix it up quite a bit with the set list each night. Obviously a lot of people that come to see us are into our older stuff as well. We try do about six or seven off the new record and fill out the rest with older material. Overall, the crowds have loved the news songs live. The live format gives a song a new life, in a sense. We don’t drastically change the way we play songs but little things start to develop, and there’s always a certain amount of new ideas and refining that goes on. It’s definitely a nice challenge for us to play new material live.
Tell me about the bands you were just on tour with – Rah Rah and The Besnard Lakes.

Rah Rah is from Regina. You don’t hear about a lot of bands from Regina – but they’re really great. They’re a neat kind of co-operative band with a couple songwriters and multi-instrumentalists. There’s a brother and sister in that band, Erin and Joel Passmore, that used to play in a group called Sylvie. We met them when we played with them years ago. I played on a couple songs on their latest record as well. We’re buddies so we had them out on tour with us.

We’re friends with The Besnard Lakes too. Jace Lasek, who has the lovely falsetto voice in that band, runs a studio here in Montreal called Breakglass. We’ve recorded there and had various run-ins with the folks in that band throughout the years. Most recently we recorded “Blood Collection” off the new album there. It’s always great to get to tour with friends.
You opened for The Besnard Lakes in the States is that right?

That’s right. We were supporting them down there in Buffalo, Ithaca, and Northampton.

Do fans interact with you differently at shows where you’re at the top of the bill compared to those where you’re not?

I don’t think so. I guess, when we played in London for example, I know we had a backstage room to hang out in. But when we were playing kind of smaller shows like we did in the States, we were just watching The Besnard Lakes while they were playing. If people liked the show they would come up and say so but it’s the same thing at any other show. It’s cool to meet new people in new places that haven’t seen your band before. I guess that’s the real difference.
Are you looking forward to the tour around the U.K. in February?

We’ve been over to the U.K. quite a few times. We’ve done our own headlining tours but this time we’ll be supporting The Hold Steady – so it will mean playing some bigger rooms. We already did a tour in the States with The Hold Steady in September and that was really good. We found that their audience was into it, so we’re looking forward to going into another country with them.
Are you and the band able to keep informed when you’re on the road, either with laptops or cell phones?

Yeah. Most of the guys in the band are in a fantasy hockey pool so, if we’re in Canada, it’s really easy to keep in touch with family just through the regular means of communication. Of course, in the U.S. it starts to get a bit different because you can’t really be on your phone all the time. The venues normally have wireless Internet and we’re able to stay pretty connected, but still, relationships with people outside of the band become less articulated.

We never really watch television, but we’re not completely out of the loop. We might hear about events a day or two after everybody else knows about it. Sometimes it’s kind of funny when we fall behind like that.
Is that freeing? Letting things like that slip away from you and staying focused on performing.

Definitely. I think everybody has gotten better at focusing on performing. Just kind of focusing on the shows, which is super important. It takes a lot of attention and a lot of dialogue at any given hour of the day.
What was it like to open for Paul McCartney last summer in Halifax?

It was really cool, and obviously a great honour. He’s obviously one of the biggest music legends of modern times. It was pretty surreal, but, at the same time we kind of had to treat it as a regular show. It was cool for my parents as well because, like most people, they’re Beatles fans, so that show was kind of validating. To them, it legitimized our career choices for a little bit longer.
Is it true McCartney handpicked you guys for the show?

Yeah, he did. It’s kind of funny thinking of Sir Paul going on our MySpace and giving us a listen, you know, like “Yeah, they’re alright”. I don’t think the exact process is known, but I think we just have mutual friends somehow. The world is oddly small when you think about it.

On the East Coast, do you think you were exposed to a different music culture than what others experienced in Western Canada?

Personally, when I was younger, I was never really into what was popularized as “East Coast” music, like fiddle bands and stuff like that. I thought the marketing behind it was a little chintzy. It wasn’t really reflecting the feelings of a 13-year-old who really liked Nirvana or heavier music. It certainly didn’t reflect our tastes at the time. It was kind of weird. It didn’t seem like music in Western Canada or Central Canada got pigeonholed like it did in Nova Scotia, where it always kind of had a fiddle attached to it.

With our earlier bands I think we were all rebelling against that with quite heavy, pummeling sounds. Having said that, as we got older and became more mature I think we all just realized that a good tune is a good tune.
After your UK and Ireland tour dates at the start of 2011, where else will the New Inheritors tour take you?

We didn’t play a lot of shows last summer so I think this summer we’ll probably be doing the festival scene in full swing. I don’t know where that will take us, but I’m sure it will include some regional Canadian festivals right across the board. As far as Spring goes, I’m not sure.

We’re going to start recording again next month. We’ve got a crazy amount of song ideas kicking around, so we hope to build around those and begin building a new record.
With the busy schedule, have you been able to work on any Christmas shopping yet?

No, I’m very off the ball this year for shopping. Around this time last year we were doing a tour in Europe that was two months long. It was fun to try to wake up early and find a cool market, so you could come home and say, “I got this when we were in Spain and this from Portugal”. That was a cool incentive I had last year. This year, we’ve just been touring North America so it’s not quite as exotic.
Are there any young music fans in your family who are obsessed over any of today’s young pop stars?

My girlfriend Rachel’s niece is obsessed with Miley Cyrus, but she’s only seven. She’s got a long ways to go before her parents will let her listen to anything too advanced anytime soon.
Can you remember any embarrassing artists you dug as a child?

I was into New Kids On The Block (laughs) No, the first record I bought wasn’t embarrassing because the group still holds up – it was Naughty By Nature. That’s pretty awesome, right?

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