Photo By: Scott Munn
Contrary to their name, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep haven’t been hibernating. However, this doesn’t mean that they haven’t been sleeping. Case in point, when I call singer Paul Murphy for an interview, he’s sleeping in the van and fails to pick up.
Wintersleep are currently on a cross-country tour in support of The Great Detachment, the band’s sixth album and first coming off a lengthy recording silence that started back in 2012. The downtime came as a result of a seemingly endless period of touring and recording, which spawned three albums in just five years. “The tour is going really good! It’s the second that we’ve done on this record, so it’s nice to come back to all these places and see that the album has stuck with people, and to see them sing along,” says Murphy in regards to their current slate of shows.
Commercially, The Great Detachment is Wintersleep’s most successful endeavour. The album peaked at number nine in Canada, and its singles, “Spirit” and “Amerika,” received lots of plays across the country on public, private and college radio. Those unfamiliar with the band may be more familiar with their 2007 single “Weighty Ghost.” EMI helped make the song a radio staple that year, and even got it used as the theme song to a CBC crime drama. When I asked Murphy if he had ever felt that the breakout single typecasted the band, he responded with a laugh before saying, “I think at this point ‘Amerika’ has already surpassed ‘Weighty’ regarding charts and that stuff¹. But it isn’t something we are concerned with; I think that you just make a record and hope you have a song on it that will gain that success for you.”
“Amerika” is very much a psychedelic and patriotic ode to the land of the free. In April, the band partnered with Scott Cudmore to release a music video that features an America on the brink of destruction, from both itself and a giant meteor. One of the forces of destruction appears to be Donald Trump, who shows up in a taped campaign speech halfway through the video. When asked about the video and its relation to now President-elect Trump, Murphy states “It feels a little darker to play the song now, I guess. But I don’t believe that the message has changed in any way. In fact, I see it as a hopeful song that just comes across as bleak. Whether Trump is president or not, the video is still depressing, but the same hopeful message is still there.”
The message of their latest single may not have changed, but the band sure has.
The current tour is their first since 2005 without keyboardist and bass player Mike Bigelow, who departed earlier this year to focus on other musical avenues. The Great Detachment also comes with new management and a new label: Toronto’s Dine Alone Records. According to Murphy, the relationship had been in the making for quite some time, and since it came to fruition he has felt it be quite productive.
“I guess they had been interested [in] us during the time we recorded our last three albums with EMI, who was bought out by Universal. But it feels like it was a real high priority for them to sink their teeth into us and do what they could, which was nice, because with EMI and Universal it felt like they were fans of our band, but it was still just an afterthought you know? They’d send our songs out to radio stations, but we weren’t really a priority.”
Dine Alone has proven that they consider Wintersleep to be quite a priority, as they recently announced that the band will appear alongside The Sheepdogs, The New Pornographers and a load of other great Canadian talent at an upcoming New Year’s Eve event in Vancouver. After that, Wintersleep plans to do one last short tour in January before finally hibernating back home to begin work on album number seven.