In Conversation: Wintersleep

Credit: Scott Munn Credit: Scott Munn

This week, we were fortunate enough to be able to speak with the drummer of Wintersleep as the band prepares to embark on their tour of the United States with the always brilliant Frightened Rabbit. Coming off the heels of their UK tour with the group, here’s what Loel Campbell had to say to us.

Noted: Having just finished your UK tour with Frightened Rabbit, how did it weigh up against previous outings to the UK, a place you’ve expressed a fondness for in the past?

Loel: It felt kinda like a traveling family. We all immediately became comfortable with each other, band and crew… It was always very pleasant, as well as the other supports, Washington Irving and Three Blind Wolves. There is something in the water in Glasgow. Everyone knows that by now I suppose. It was pretty much 3 weeks just touring mainland UK, so we hit a few new places like Portsmouth, Liverpool, Stoke… I think we played everywhere you can play besides Wales. Their fans are very sweet and loyal. So I think people make an effort to get out to the show early to see all the bands, because they know the Frabbits want them there. It was kind. Ended up meeting so many great people.

Noted: Speaking of Frightened Rabbit, you were clearly delighted to be supporting them when we saw you in Nottingham. Had you a previous relationship, or was the tour your first chance to get to know them on a personal level? Any stories you’d like to share?

Loel: We hadn’t had a previous relationship… A couple of us had met Gordon [guitar, keyboards] when another band he was in (Moth And The Mirror) were on the same bill as us in ABC2 in Glasgow on one of our first times through that city. We were all familiar/fans of each others work. It truly felt as exciting as some of our first tours. You’re just excited to see people react to their music… it’s like you’re letting everyone in on this big, awesome secret.

Wintersleep strolling in Norway. Photo: Dustin Rabin

Noted: How do you rate Scott Hutchison’s beard on a scale of new born baby to Gandalf the Grey?

Loel: Scott bowed out of the beard race about half way through tour…. but before then…. All beards should be treated equally.

Noted: You’ve been involved in quite a vast number of side projects, namely Holy Fuck. The band Contrived hosts 4 of the 5 Wintersleep members. How have these side projects had a bearing on the stylings of Wintersleep? Were they necessary to keep yourselves evolving as musicians?

Loel: I think we are all interested in just going steady with music. Doing it all the time. So if there is time to fill up and be able to kick out some jams with friends then so be it. Playing with other people is how you grow and learn… I think it’s the same sort of experience working with a producer. You get to figure out how to finish something, how to talk about music… There is a certain set of linguistics that you just don’t pick up with a guitar. Our latest record was co-produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT, Tame Impala). That was our newest teacher I suppose… You can just imagine our wide eyes and open ears.

It was a very slow process. It did well on radio in Canada in 2007 – we played it on Letterman in 2011. So it was four years of it picking up steam.

Noted: You’ve cited Sonic Youth and Fugazi as early influences, but have any more recent artists had an impact on your sound or way you operate? What’s in your CD player?

Loel: Damien Jurado, Fleetwood Mac, Fever Ray, Neu!…. Pop music old and new.

Noted: Your history as a band extends back as far as at least 2001, but you have also cited your 2007 release ‘Welcome To The Night Sky’ as your ‘first proper album’. In what regard?

Loel: The first couple of records were very slow to produce. Not very consistent recording and engineering schedules. They are obviously two bodies of work – proper documents of that time but with Welcome, we had been playing the tunes live for a couple years. Recorded the thing completely in 21 days straight and worked with our producer Tony Doogan for the first time (he makes proper albums). I think it was the first time we could achieve everything we imagined… musically…. sonically.

Wintersleep live

Noted: Have you become disenfranchised with any of your material as you’ve progressed as a band, or are you proud of everything you’ve made?

Loel: I think it’s just time and place. Luckily, most of our big musical regrets are left in our teenage years.

Noted: Your ‘Untitled’ album from 2005 is one that became significant to me whilst dealing with a personal loss last year. What was the recording process like, and was the decision to leave it untitled a conscious thematic one?

Loel: Like I said, it was stretched out over about a year. We recorded half in the Fall of 2004 and then the other half in the spring. We were all going to school at the time, so we would gig around town, roll our pennies, then hit the studio when we could. It was the first time we put some rock/prog stuff in the mix. I think it’s a really nice blend of tunes. It has a dramatic feeling to it. You’ll have a couple really loud songs. and then a really gentle, soft number. Wintersleep started as a side project, so we were just collecting stuff under the name. We never really thought we’d end up with five albums at that time. We just wanted it all to fall under one heading and not be separated by album titles. The 2003 record had 12 songs on it… we were going to sequence the first track on Untitled (Lipstick) as 13, so the record would 13, 14, 15 and so on… We just wanted the whole project to feel very seamless and bound together.

Wintersleep started as a side project, so we were just collecting stuff under the name. We never really thought we’d end up with five albums at that time.

Noted: ‘Weighty Ghost’ was obviously a big success for you as a band, with the song being used on adverts, trailers and TV shows around the world, resulting in you performing it on the Late Show with David Letterman. Was this a surreal experience for you, or did you treat it as just another show?

Loel: It was a very slow process. It did well on radio in Canada in 2007 – we played it on Letterman in 2011. So it was four years of it picking up steam. It is really a amazing to see people connect with a tune like that. You could never expect that sort of thing to happen. When we were on Letterman, it was exciting… We found out like two days before, so I don’t think we had time to over think it. It was kinda like… “Oh, we are doing that…. What song should we play? I guess we better practice…” and then it happened. On shows like that, a lot of the staff have been there from the beginning, so it’s super pro. Very accommodating and comfortable. It’s a pretty intimate affair really.

Noted: You released Hello Hum in 2012 – is it a record that you would have seen yourselves releasing when you first started making music together, or is it the natural, logical progression from your previous work?

Loel: There is no way we could have made that record when we started out. We simply didn’t have the skill set that we do now in terms of production. I think the song writing is in a similar vein to all our stuff, but as far as performance and production… you can hear growth in our musical vocabulary.

Noted: In the 12 years since Wintersleep’s arrival, the Internet has grown to have a large impact on file sharing and access to content. How has this affected the band? Do you think it allows you to reach a larger fanbase, or has there been a perceivable detriment?

Loel: I think it’s good. It’s how people hear new music now. I don’t think we would ever had been able to tour outside of Canada if it wasn’t for that.

Noted: Finally, what is next on your agenda? Any last words?

Loel: More shows, new songs, learning. Always looking ahead. Thank you for the chat!

Ashley Collins
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Ashley Collins

Ashley is a Noted co-founder, scribbling his thesaurused thoughts on music and all its accessories from his South England sty.
Ashley Collins
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