“Dear Elkhorn,” a song inspired by driving through Manitoba, is composed of relaxed and delicate harmonies. It is full of understated charm, softly inviting the listener in. As such, it makes a great opener on Said the Whale’s newest album, the just-released Islands Disappear, setting the thematic tone for much of the rest of the disc. Indeed, this album was influenced by the band’s past two years driving across Canada. So it seems only fitting that vocalist and guitarist Tyler Bancroft would be speaking to me from his car.
After crossing over a bridge from Prince Edward Island back into New Brunswick, Bancroft reflected on the album “It plays like a concept album, although we never intended for it to be like that at all. It’s like a story book, beginning to end.” The album opens and ends with songs about touring, and, as Bancroft pointed out, they are in the same key. On this accidental form of album magic Bancroft said, “It was really just we had this collection of songs and we decided to record them and then it came out playing like a scrapbook of our last tour which I think is pretty cool.”
As a whole, Islands Disappear is a range of calm soft melodies and energetic indie pop tunes like the rhythmic “Camillo (The Magician).” This song, released in July on an EP that was buzzworthy on its own, added to the excitement of the album’s release. Another equally energetic song is “Out on the Shield,” which again draws heavily on their experiences from the road. On this song Bancroft said, “That’s totally tour inspired, we always find ourselves driving through these little towns that don’t necessarily have the same purpose as they once did.”
The song begins with all the members of the band lively singing in harmony “we never meant to stay here; we were here for the gold-here for the gold-here for the gold!” Bancroft explained, “You find these little gold rush towns in the middle of nowhere, and by today’s standards they are so alone and far away from everything, but they are still so beautiful.”
The writing of Islands Disappear was a long process, with some songs as many as six years old. Bancroft and co-vocalist/guitarist Ben Worcestor write songs independently and then bring what he describes as “skeletons of a song” to the band where they review ideas and songs take shape. The album was produced by Tom Dobrzanski, who worked with the band on their last album, and was joined by renowned producer Howard Redekopp, he of Tegan and Sara and The New Pornographers fame.
On working with Redekopp, Bancroft said the experience was “amazing. He has got a huge resume obviously, and it was really cool having that experience in the room. We were also working alongside Tom and we are already comfortable with him, which made it that much quicker to be comfortable with Howard. It was nothing but good times [ . . . ] in the studio.”
When asked if he had any favorite songs on the album Bancroft replied “do you have any favorite children? Seriously it’s like that. I can’t pick my favorite amongst my new children.” He says he is proud of the album as a whole, in particular the way he and Worcester worked alongside their newer bandmates — Jaycelyn Brown on keyboard, Peter Carruthers on bass and Spencer Schoening on drums. Indeed, Said The Whale’s last album was realized with the support of studio musicians and friends, but the “real band” approach this time around allowed for more input, and as Bancroft put it, “We have a solid lineup for this record.”
Said the Whale will play the Pyramid Cabaret on Nov. 2 with Hannah Georgas.