In this digital day and age, with a music industry that continues to feel a little weak in the knees, a fresh-faced new band on a major label will sometimes only get one album to make their mark or forever be cast into obscurity. But in the indie music world, you can actually chart a band’s slow growth as songwriters and then hear them truly galvanize as a band.
Halifax-via-Montreal group Wintersleep’s current and fourth release New Inheritors is easily the band’s crowning moment. The bandmembers finally seem comfortable in their own Chuck Taylors, and the album boasts lush and dense arrangements that still allow them to stretch out. “We were really able to feel different areas and go places we haven’t gone before for this record,” explains singer and guitarist Paul Murphy. “It’s really important for us to push ourselves into uncharted waters. We really don’t want to do the same record twice, so if we get into similar ground or if it sounds like we’re starting to repeat ourselves, we generally won’t go down that road.”
“It’s really important for us to push ourselves into uncharted waters.” – Paul Murphy
With the success of Wintersleep’s third album, 2007’s Welcome to the Night Sky, the world quickly came knocking on its door. The group won a 2008 Juno Award for Best New Band and was hand-picked by Sir Paul McCartney as one of the opening acts for his show on the Halifax Common in July 2009. The hugely successful song “Weighty Ghost” was included in the book The Top 100 Canadian Singles by Bob Mersereau in 2010, and was featured on the TV series Being Human this year and the movie One Week in 2008..
Consequently, the group toured so much that it began almost literally living out of a suitcase. To most songwriters, the road can be a creative vacuum of long drives and busy days, the climate for songwriting being much friendlier in small bedrooms in front of flickering computer screens or in dank rehearsal spaces with overflowing ashtrays. Wintersleep – all of whose four members are credited with songwriting in the band – managed to do the impossible within the tour cycle, carving out half of the songs on New Inheritors during sound checks and the rare day off.
“It can be hard trying to concentrate on writing while being on the road, because it can be so draining and you’re really just focusing on the shows,” says Murphy. “Whenever we’d have a couple of days off or a sound check, the skeletons of songs would just start to appear. Those songs on the record were like little snapshots of the cities we’ve been in and the places we’ve seen.”
- In January 2011, the band performed “Weighty Ghost” on Late Night With David Letterman and received a huge surge of digital hits in the following days after the broadcast, resulting in a stronger fan base in several key markets.
- While Wintersleep remains a top priority, members of the band have always played elsewhere as well, with half of them performing in another group, Contrived. Drummer Loel Campbell works as both a touring and recording member with Holy Fuck, Land of Talk, Hayden and others.
- Wintersleep’s last two records were produced by famed Scottish producer Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian, David Byrne)