Published Feb 27, 2012Few bands admit to wrestling with expectations, but most do at some level. Take Vancouver's Said the Whale. The five-piece's sophomore effort, Islands Disappear, launched the group to new heights of indie fame, becoming a favourite amongst critics and fans. Now, with so many more ears waiting for its follow-up, surely the group must feel some pressure.
"You gotta keep a clear head," says singer-guitarist Tyler Bancroft, on the phone from Vancouver. While outside forces didn't intrude on the writing process for the group's new album, Little Mountain, he admits that waiting for the world to hear it caused some anxiety. "It's stressful waiting for reviews to come in. You work on something so hard for so long and it's like, 'All right, this is it.'"
Despite Bancroft's consternation, it's hard to imagine Little Mountain not being embraced the way its predecessor was. Returning to work with producer Tom Dobrzanski, the band didn't veer far from their established folk-tinged indie pop sound.
"We considered branching out and using some bigger producers," he says. "We had talked to some producers and it made us realize that we knew exactly what we wanted the album to sound like anyway. We're comfortable working with Tom and we know he can make an album sound like how we want it to. It was just the logical answer."
Islands Disappear was often compared to a road trip across Canada, an analogy the band wear with pride. But while Said the Whale continue to embrace their hometown, they've bristled against the characterization by some of their music as simply a vehicle for Canadiana.
"A lot of the time our band gets pigeonholed as this band that writes whimsical songs about Vancouver," says Bancroft, "and as much as that's true some of the time, we also wanted to point out that there's a storytelling aspect to those songs about Vancouver that we all think is translatable regardless of geography."
As an apparent test of this theory, two songs on the album ― "Big Sky, MT" and "Jesse, AR" ― name check American rather than Canadian locales, but their settings have little to do with the tales they tell. Still, Bancroft seems cheekily proud of the decision. "Yeah, take that bitches," he says with a laugh.
As well as being the name of a Vancouver neighbourhood, Little Mountain is also one of the top 100 place names in North America, says Bancroft. "We wanted to have a name that resonated with people regardless of where they are." Similarly, the album's cover, a shot of the city, was chosen for its lack of recognizable landmarks.
Yet it seems that their city continues to serve as a musical muse and sometimes, the quintet just can't help themselves. "Big Wave Goodbye," personifies their city as the lover left behind as they head out on tour. "It's gives us that little sick Vancouver home pleasure," says Bancroft, "but we hope that's not what sticks out."