Wintersleep broke out in 2007 with the release of Welcome to the Night Sky, their third studio album. Currently on tour promoting their fourth album, 2010’s New Inheritors, Jon Samuel — a member of the band since 2006 — spoke to the Manitoban as the band raced between Seattle and Portland.
You could be forgiven for not having Wintersleep on your musical radar before Welcome to the Night Sky. According to Samuel, the first and second albums were made by a band with a much more local attitude.
“The first record was made almost entirely as a side project,” says Samuel. “Paul had a bunch of songs and showed them to Loel.” The demo for that album, titled Wintersleep and largely recorded in people’s apartments, was made out of a desire to make music with friends.
Samuel says that the second album, which was untitled, was more of a “band-record,” and it was while touring in support of it that the band really stared to gel. “Touring gets you into ‘band-shape.’”
The result of all that work was Welcome to the Night Sky, a critically acclaimed album that saw Wintersleep become a national sensation. Samuel feels that the band’s success around this time was probably a combination of Welcome to the Night sky’s quality and the fact that the band had really begun to focus on getting out on the road.
“To have people know about your band you have to get out of your home town and start touring.”
Perhaps the strongest indication of this is the Juno the band won in 2008 for “Best New Band” — an honour bestowed five years after their first album hit stands.
The band apparently took these reasons for their success to heart, and as a result are arguably one of the hardest working bands in Canada at the moment. They have been on tour almost constantly since releasing
Welcome to the Night Sky, in North America, Asia and Europe.
This means that New Inheritors was written largely on the road. “We did a bit of that with Welcome to the Night Sky, so we’re pretty comfortable [writing on the road]. It seems to work just fine really.”
Samuel says that a lot of ideas come together at sound checks and in hotel rooms. “Paul, for example, will record something on his computer, or even phone a song into someone’s answering machine.” He recalls that “Preservation,” a song from New Inheritors, started this way.
Fans of the band will no doubt have noticed that no two Wintersleep albums sound alike, something that is not lost on the band: “When you listen to every Wintersleep album they are all definitely different from one another.” While the band has been criticized for their changing sound, Samuel thinks it’s unrealistic for fans to expect that there won’t be a progression, and for all of a band’s albums to sound alike.
“It’s a weird thing. We’ve already recorded that record; it is done. [ . . . ] You just kind of move on.” He goes on to say that a band changes a lot in three years: the band is older, they’ve been together longer and they have been influenced by new music — “it’s not even a conscious decision.”
Samuel expands on these points by saying that the band hasn’t stopped writing since New Inheritors came out, and when the next album comes out — Samuel hinted that fans should expect something before 2013 — “it will be even more obvious that there is a continuing progression from record to record.”
Currently, the band has started pointing the tour bus east and will hit B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan before playing Winnipeg’s Garrick theater on Nov. 20.