Many drives through snowstorms

Paul Warford speaks with Loel Campbell, drummer for Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep

So which of Wintersleep’s band members would win in a foot race, you ask?

What’s that? You weren’t asking?

Well, I was curious.

“Probably Mike Bigalow. I’d be up there, though. I have a good cardio-vascular system since I’m the drummer.”

And last place? “Definitly Jon. He’d probably miss the race.”

-.-.-.-

It’s an uphill battle, you know, starting out as a band on the East Coast.

We, the proud, the windswept, the snow shovelers, are not always able to draw the same sized crowds as those of our rest-of-the-country counterparts, and there’s a little more tenacity necessary to becoming a ‘known’ band when your roots are Atlantic ones.

So you’ve really got to hand it to Wintersleep.

Now touring in support of their newest album, Welcome to the Night Sky, over the past few years they have been turning the heads of both fans and the ever-important industry buffs who might help to sculpt this little bar band into a Canadian staple.

After all, they deserve it more than Dion does, and we all know it.

Critics are falling all over the new release, they’re getting radio play all over the place.

With a new label and a new bus, are these five gentleman ready to move to a new echelon of notoriety? Over afternoon coffees, through the magic of the telephone machine, Loel Campbell (drums) and I traded words on the issue.

First, a little history.

Loel, Mike Bigelow (bass), Paul Murphy (vocals and guitar), and Tim D’Eon (guitar and keys) grew up in a pair of Nova Scotia towns and started running into each other around the age of fifteen. As Mr. Alexander Keith became more and more intriguing to them over the years, Mike and Loel of Stellarton met Paul and Tim of Yartmouth, dismantled their previous bands—Contrived and Kary respectively­—and created something new.

Initially under the independent label Dependant Music, the group released a self-titled album and then an untitled album. Their newest album, which Loel says “we’re all pretty proud of,” was released some fortnights ago under Labwork Music. A subsidiary of EMI, the new label brought new opportunities via some slightly deeper pockets.

“It seemed like a good step forward for the band,” Loel says of the deal. Aside from issuing their previous albums in the US, and once more in Canada, Loel says it gave the group a chance to finally produce music as they wanted to do it. “They gave us a budget to make a proper record this time around.”

The group finished recording the album in an impressive 20 days, and left the studio spent and satisfied. “And it seems like it will age well,” Loel says.

Getting this far wasn’t easy.

“There were many days on the road,” Loel admits, “many drives through snowstorms.”

“But we were persistent with touring. You really have to do that,” he says. “You can’t just stay on the East Coast and expect things to happen outside of the East Coast.”

When it comes to getting notice and airtime, isolation is not your friend.

“You’re so far away from any big cities out east. It’s really hard to get people that are influential to …listen up.”

We’re all ears now, though. With fans-slash-US-tour-mates The Tragically Hip, a track of theirs featured on the soundtrack of the Trailer Park Boys film, opening for another band who has seen their own share of the road…

“The shows were on Saturday and Sunday, and we found out we were playing on Thursday,” he says. “We had to rush to catch the ferry.”

But then, most people would rush to take the ferry if they had an opportunity to open for Pearl Jam.
“The first night they rented out a bowling alley, so we had a lot of time to hang out with them,” Loel reminisces. He’s confident that the 2005 show at Mile One was the biggest audience the band has performed in front of so far.

…So far.

And as their own audiences grow, the group is beginning to notice the resulting shift in their daily lives.
“I just feel a lot busier,” Loel laughs.

But they can roll with it.

“It’s been a really great tour. Everyone’s in really good spirits.” It hasn’t reached its end, yet. The month of November will see Wintersleep in a cross-Canada trek-snowstorms be damned. St. John’s will play host on November 23, and I’m promised that the group is looking forward to it. “Newfoundland has always been so awesome to us.”

Wintersleep is now well on their way to a larger piece of pie. No matter their future accomplishments, Loel says they’ll remain a group that “all started playing music for the same reasons.”
Let’s see where the new bus takes them.

Wintersleep will be at the Delta St. John’s Ballroom, with special guest Basia Bulat, on Friday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $17.50 in advance and $22.50 day of show (including tax) and are on sale now at at Melon on Water Street, the Mile One Centre box office, by phone at 709-576-7657 (1-800-361-4595), online at www.sonicconcerts.com. This show is all ages with licensed area. Doors open at 8 p.m.