The arrival of the third weekend in September brought the annual Supercrawl arts festival, and with it came Vancouver-based indie-rockers Said the Whale. The band, headlining the Friday night, opened with their catchy choral hit “Out on the Shield,” and from their sophomore full-length release, “Islands Disappear.” Ben Worcester, the band’s primary guitarist and co-lead singer, enchanted the crowd with “Big Sky,” “MT” and an ode to his grandfather. Said the Whale remained true to the energetic indie-pop roots that they’ve come to be known for. The members moved in unison, interacting with the crowd and showcasing their musical mastery through expansive fills and song transitions.
We had a chance to talk with Said the Whale’s amiable percussionist (and part-time vocalist, as we discovered) Spencer Schoening, before he took the stage.
We asked about whether he thought the band’s 2011 Juno award win affected their popularity, and he explained, “Pin-pointing that as something that has benefitted us seems a bit unfair – it seems more like a milestone than the cause of anything. The only thing that we like to say it did for us is it makes our parents believe that we’re doing something legitimate rather than playing in a garage band.”
Earlier this year, Said the Whale embarked on an ambitious cross-Canada tour with 25 concert dates from coast-to-coast. Schoening reminisced about their most memorable night, and said, “More than anything else it would have to be going home and playing at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver because this is a place where we’ve seen countless shows growing up. The first time I ever went there I went to see the Matthew Good Band play in like, 1999 and I was in the last row in the balcony. So to be there, I was personally playing to that person who was up in the last row in the balcony, because they got there late and didn’t know how to get to a front seat… you know?”
We were curious as to what the band members would be doing if they weren’t making award-winning records.
“Panhandling,” Schoening offered, without so much as a pause. The band’s skills, we found, are much more diverse than their apparent multi-instrumentalism displayed on stage.
“[Ben and I] are both really into photography. Not as much as we could be, because we spend all our time doing music, but I love photography and wish I could’ve spent all this time on that too.”
McMaster University has recently fostered some impressive musical talent with the likes of The Arkells and Of Gentlemen and Cowards on its resume. With the arrival of a few thousand new first-years, there may be some more big names to come. Starting a band and carrying on to success often isn’t easy however, so we hoped Spencer could offer some insight.
“I got good at my instrument, then I joined a band I liked. That worked for me. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have any idea how to start a band from scratch,” he said with a laugh.
After a pensive moment, he added, “Seriously, stick with it because no matter what band you start in, unless you have an absolute fluke there’s going to be a handful of really shitty years where you just drive across the country five times broke and that’s it. If you really want to do it, don’t give up. Literally what it is, is starting a small business. There was a point where suddenly we all had to sign papers and we’re incorporated, and it hit me, we’re actually starting a small business. And with any small business, there’s so much you sink into it before there’s anything you get out financially.”
“But don’t give a fuck about losing money. You’re doing it because you’re making music, just remember that. It’s a lot more fun than working at Starbucks, which is what one ex-member of our band is doing.”
Lucas Canzona &