A&E » Music

Said the Whale's cooler than you think

Indie-pop band plays WOP for Crankworx Saturday



Said the Whale, despite what you may think, has never been a "cool" band.

There has never been blog buzz frenzy propelling their trajectory. They have never played the Pitchfork Music Festival. Chances are, Ray-Ban sporting geeks from Williamsburg will not be discussing the influence of fellow Vancouverites the New Pornographers on the band's sound.

And, in truth, it doesn't even matter.

"Yes, it would be great to have any sort of press from an American music blog like Pitchfork, but it's not something that we're going to concern ourselves about, anymore than just going to the website because I want to discover new music," says guitarist/vocalist/co-founder Tyler Bancroft.

In short, Said the Whale is getting along just fine without being "cool." They have, in fact, had an enviable few years. Since placing second in the 2010 Peak Performance Project (behind rapper Kyprios), they played the much ballyhooed SXSW festival in Austin, TX, were the subject of a CBC documentary entitled Winning America and won a JUNO for New Group of the Year in 2011 — a flattering episode in their, or any band's career, but one which Bancroft faces with some bemusement.

"It's a huge honour but at the same time, who is anybody to decide who is the best new artist that year?" Bancroft says. "I don't know. We were up against our good friends Hollderado from Toronto. I think they f***ing rock. How does it get decided? You shouldn't take that kind of thing too seriously."

This is not so much an attack on the JUNOs, or music awards in general, but is indicative of Said the Whale's down-to-earth approach to the music business.

The attitude pervades their new album, Little Mountain (released in March), a gleeful dose of indie-pop — reminiscent of the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie — that lacks much of the pretension that has invaded much independent music today. They might not be "cool" songs but they're catchy as hell.

In any case, there's been no time for arrogance. It's been a hard road for the band (Bancroft; co-founder/guitarist/vocalist Ben Worcester; drummer Spencer Schoening; bassist Nathan Shaw; keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown) one that has been defined by hard work and gradual, growing success.

"We've worked our asses off," Bancroft says. "We're not one of those overnight success stories. We never have been and don't foresee us ever becoming an overnight type band. We've always sort of grinded it out and any success that we've received has been hard earned as a result of us hitting the road, making records and playing shows constantly.

"We're the sort of 'win one fan at a time' kind of band."

They have, of course, come a long way since Bancroft and Worcester founded the band in 2007. Bancroft jokes that "nobody gave a shit" about the band when they released their first album Howe Sounds/Taking Abalonia.

In the time since they've become a prominent part of Vancouver's indie music scene, and along with Mother Mother, Hey Ocean! and Dan Mangan, are helping to define the sound of the city circa 2012. Last year, they played Vancouver's 125 birthday free concert celebrations, headlined by the New Pornographers, Neko Case, Mangan, Mother Mother and Spirit of the West, all of whom have raised the bar for the Vancouver music scene.

The city has played a starring role in many of their songs and Little Mountain can be easily perceived as a gift back to the city, to give it a voice for this time and place.

"Sometimes it feels that way, but then other times it just feels like we could be from anywhere. It's easy to compare bands when they're from this city because there's something to latch onto and quantify each band," Bancroft says.

"Regardless of whether we're writing a song about Vancouver, I think that there's a story-telling aspect to our music that should transcend geography, if we're doing it right."