Published Feb 17, 2015When Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland first joined forces as Whitehorse in 2011, their assorted sound was still finding its roots in a melange of genres, including country and folk, but as Doucet explained to Exclaim! that same year, "There's not a lot of rock'n'roll in Whitehorse at this point." Flash-forward to 2015 and the duo (and real-life couple) appear stunned by such a statement.
"It's really interesting that I said that," Doucet replies, realizing the irony of it all because their third and latest album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, is now more akin to a full-blown rock affair. "We actually really enjoy making rock'n'roll music, or pop music, or whatever it is we're doing now."
Admittedly, it's tough to categorize what Whitehorse are doing. In the span of three records, Doucet and McClelland have not only acquired more confidence and skill with new instruments (the two are adamant about remaining a two-piece live), but they've also piled on more sounds as a result of their confining set-up.
"The sound was just getting bigger and bigger," Doucet explains. And while he is quick to distance themselves from the "icky term" of being labelled a folk band ("It can be a bit solipsistic and that isn't a whole lot of fun"), McClelland won't disown it just yet. "I wouldn't get rid of that term for us because I feel like folk is really roots music, and I don't mean in it the way that we know it now, but we try to take the root of different types of music that move us whether it's country, rock, pop, or mariachi. I guess I'd describe it as having all of the above or none; it's what you choose to hear."
To help them distil these influences into a decidedly more punched-up, urgent sound are producers Gus Van Go and Werner F (the Stills, Hollerado), Whitehorse's first outside collaborators. "We can get trapped in our bubble so to have someone else calling the shots really pushed us further [with] more epic drum sounds and that territory," McClelland describes. "And once we got a taste of that, we kind of dove right in."
By forming these new profession connections, Leave No Bridge Unburned displays an enhanced version of Whitehorse without losing their strong folk narrative core. While the rustic guitar and keys of "Oh Dolores" follows a classic country-rock template, songs like "Downtown" and "You Get Older" boast beefed-up riffs and a standout rhythm tracks that transform them into something more comparable to the Black Keys' stadium rock numbers. Either way, Doucet and McClelland are always welcoming new challenges and the endless paths their music can go down.
"We've gone in directions that we definitely never thought we'd go in," Doucet says. McClelland adds: "I think that's the spirit of Whitehorse."