Triumph through tragedy: How Said The Whale reinvented itself
It had been nearly four years since indie-rock group Said The Whale had recorded an album prior to its 2017 record “As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide.” During that time, the Vancouver, B.C.-based quintet parted ways with two of its members and went through many personal tragedies — all of which force their way into the band’s most recent album.
As the band’s co-leadsinger Ben Worcester told the Emerald ahead of Said The Whale’s show at WOW Hall on Sunday night: “We went through some stuff.”
“Ben and I always just write what we know, so our songs have always been personal,” said Tyler Bancroft, the band’s other singer. “Shit just gets heavier as you get older.”
Unlike the band’s earlier material — which paired upbeat musical arrangements with similar happy-go-lucky lyrics — “As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide” incorporates similar musical tones with lyricism full of loss and regret. During that four year span, Bancroft and Worcester both experienced different tragedies.
Worcester and his girlfriend of seven years went through a difficult breakup. He realized he’d made a terrible mistake and, fortunately, he and his girlfriend have gotten back together since then.
Bancroft wasn’t as fortunate. During that same time period, he and his wife experienced the pain of two miscarriages. He added that was the hardest situation he has ever had to go through, and it shows on the band’s most recent record.
On the track “Miscarriage,” which details the scarring memories, he sings: “Tell me how to act / All I wanna do is make it alright / I want to tell you that you’re beautiful / And everything is fine.”
While it certainly wasn’t easy for the two of them to share those stories with the world, it was therapeutic to release some of the built-up emotions during those trying times. It also helped the band connect with its listeners.
“I find that the more kind of painful feelings are the easiest to relate to,” Worcester said.
The band members channeled those raw emotions into the making of their fifth studio album. And for the first time in over three years, Said The Whale decided to hit the studio together, again.
“We were kind of in a place where we weren’t sure how we were going to do it or if we’d be able to do it or if we’d keep being a band,” Worcester said. “We came at it with a more care-free attitude of just like ‘Let’s just go and record songs and see what happens.’”
Now, both Worcester and Bancroft say that this is the band’s most cohesive and collaborative album it has ever recorded. They credit the success to the album’s producer, Cayne Mckenzie, who helped focus their intense emotions into a well-rounded album.
“It changed everything,” Bancroft said. “Having the outside voice kind of let us let go of our views easier.”
They also felt their creativity had more space to breathe. Adding that having only three members — or “fewer cooks in the kitchen,” as Worcester likes to say — helped curtail the stress recording sessions can bare.
Sharper vocal harmonies and arrangements with more depth are showcased throughout the record. But the most notable change is the addition of electronic musical styles.
Midi keyboards and synths are more noticeably featured on the record, bringing a modern taste and new life to the band’s music. While songwriting, Worcester — who admits he is no expert when it comes to electronic musical styles — left space for keys and synths to be added later in the writing process.
Mckenzie’s ability to translate the band’s tough life experiences into a comprehensive album helped the members cope, but performing live is what truly serves as their therapy.
“When you can put yourself in the place where you wrote the song and your feelings come out in a performance, it’s better for everybody,” Worcester said. “It makes the songs mean something to you when you’re singing them — it means something to the audience as you’re translating that to them.”
Follow Zach Price on Twitter: @zach_price24
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