By Ben Boddez
A yacht cruise around Vancouver’s picturesque Granville Island was the perfect place to find indie-rock veterans Said the Whale, known for their nature-based songwriting.
On September 5, Air Miles Stage Pass contest winners got a chance to hang out with their favourite band as they dined on plates full of colourful donuts and watched the sunset over the water.
Before the festivities kicked off, the band, reclining in a lounge on the yacht’s top deck, sat down with BeatRoute to talk about their latest project, Cascadia. The album continues a career-long dedication to depicting the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
“Being in a port city, where you get a lot of focus on environment versus economics, it’s hard for that not to seep into your music,” said frontman Tyler Bancroft.
Cascadia features a little more political commentary than the band’s past releases, and guitarist Ben Worcester believes that with the recent environmental discussions, it’s more urgent than ever to feature his favourite local spots in song.
“I write nature into our songs as a character. You get emotional and you care about these things, so when they’re threatened by outside forces, you wanna say something about it. It’s hard when you live in a beautiful place to think about it disappearing.”
Cascadia also comes with a companion piece – a surprisingly lengthy and in-depth cookbook featuring a meal and drink associated with each song.
“It was an effort to play to everyone’s strengths. Jaycelyn [Brown, the band’s keyboardist] got super into cooking, Ben got super into hunting and foraging, and I’m really into beautiful merch!” Bancroft said, cracking up the rest of the band. “I estimate that we’ve probably dined together about 5000 times.”
“Eating a good meal together is important. It really has become a part of our band, what we’re going to eat and how much we enjoy it,” Worcester added.
Spending an entire summer planning out a musical cookbook isn’t the only way Said The Whale go the extra mile in dedication to their craft.
While touring their latest tracks last March, Bancroft was struck with appendicitis, which usually knocks someone out completely for about two weeks. Four days later, Bancroft was back on stage performing in a hospital gown.
“It was really stupid,” he says. “The doctors were like, ‘try sitting down on stage,’ which I did for one show, and it was a real buzzkill. So then I stood, and it could have only worked because of everybody’s willingness to help me out. My wounds definitely took longer to heal than they should have.”
On the same tour, Said The Whale hit up ten high schools across the Lower Mainland in order to draw attention to youth music programs. They even held a contest to find an opening act for their Vancouver show, which took place the day after the cruise, which went to 17-year-old Jaden Bricker.
The band says that visiting an Abbotsford arts-based school was easily their greatest experience on the tour.
“It was like they had a class about how to react at concerts to make bands feel good,” Worcester said. “And they all got A’s. All of it was very rewarding.”