Published May 22, 2010If there were a time for the proverbial sophomore slump to hang over Wintersleep's collective head, it'd be now. Yes, New Inheritors is the Halifax quintet's fourth full-length album, but after the commercial success of 2007's Welcome to the Night Sky (plus a Juno award for New Group of the Year and MuchMusic Video Award for "Weighty Ghost") they should have felt that pressure when recording the follow-up. Or so one would think.
"When we're working on something we have a pretty clear dedication to the different things we're thinking about and writing... so we didn't feel any pressure," lead singer Paul Murphy says. "There's a personal pressure, because you always want to make it better and make it feel different, but at the same time it will hopefully sound like Wintersleep."
They began piecing together the album's 12-song skeleton on the road while Night Sky was only three months old. It could have been a frustrating process for the band, having to write in the midst of trekking from town to town, but Murphy says it added an element of joy for them. "It became a nice part of the last few years, just to have new material when you're doing these month-long tours," he explains. "I think it was more frustrating for people working at each venue, because we ended up jamming on new stuff when we were supposed to be sound checking." Despite having the framework of the album, they spent time in the studio fleshing out those ideas to see what worked and didn't. Instead of standing still with the "trashier version" of the title track, they realized it didn't translate well when recorded and reworked it to be "smoother and groovier."
Where past releases excelled with uplifting melodies ("Weighty Ghost," and from their Untitled album, "Jaws of Life") and songs that built to intense climatic eruptions ("Miasmal Smoke and the Yellow Bellied Freaks" from Night Sky and "Orca" from their self-titled debut), New Inheritors is more orchestral and rhythmic. The album isn't void of their signature indie rock sound, but songs such as "Experience the Jewel" and "Preservation" display a growing affinity for bass-laden tracks and string accompaniment. Murphy attributes bassist Mike Bigelow, recording with them for the first time, as the main culprit for adding the extra groove on the album.
"Him and [drummer] Loel Campbell are really into grooves," laughs Murphy. "We just try to make it as fresh and new as we can when recording. And these little surprises happened along the way - like the string arrangements, which were really nice because they just fell into the songs - and we got something refreshing that we weren't expecting."
With the changes throughout Wintersleep's career - the maturation of their sound from inception to New Inheritors, which delves in to darker themes of humanity's finite nature - Murphy has also gone through a personal transformation over the course of fronting the band. "I don't really have a permanent residence," he says, as result of the band's consistent touring schedule. "That has a really big effect on me, not having an actual place where you're living for a long period of time." But it has become second nature. "At the beginning of the band, I wasn't used to touring that much, but now I feel it's a reversal of roles; I'm more comfortable when we're on the road touring. I'm adapting, I suppose."