For most bands, releasing a hit single is merely a dream. The opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle (or a song for that matter) more than once is a fleeting chance, something Halifax’s Wintersleep had to come to terms with.
In 2007, with their third album, Welcome to the Night Sky, Wintersleep hit it big with their track “Weighty Ghost” which ultimately helped them win the 2008 Juno Award for New Group of the Year (even though they had been a band nearly seven years at this point). Nearly a decade later, they also managed to capture the essence of a moment with “Amerika” from their 2016 album The Great Detachment.
These songs helped catapult Wintersleep into the upper echelon in the world of Canadian music, but Wintersleep has always been about writing great albums. Their first two records, Wintersleep and Untitled were fantastic efforts, and while their follow up to Night Sky, New Inheritors slightly missed the mark, it’s predecessor, Hello Hum could be considered their best to date, thanks to the experimental pop sheen brought on by producer Dave Fridmann.
With their latest release, In the Land Of (2019) the band had no intentions of creating a ‘hit single’ of any kind. If one comes about, so be it, and that’s always been the way the band has operated from. Drummer Loel Campbell explained that “mining for hits is not conducive to something that is so full of emotion”.
“It’s kind of impossible to think about. Sometimes you have an idea that you think is worth working on, but writing with other people and trying to write hits is something that rubs us all in the wrong way,” said Campbell.
“Obviously we work with producers and engineers, but as far as our band goes, it’s just our band. We’re going to use what we have. We all write music and it would just feel cheesy [to go and write songs with hitmakers].”
The ten track album, released via Dine Alone Records, has had four singles released to date from it, the first being “Surrender” which was released in late 2018. Following the release of the album they released “Beneficiary”, “Forest Fire” and “In the Shape of Your Heart”. The album moves like the rest of their catalogue, weaving through soft arrangements to loud rock ‘n’ roll and from stark ballads to experimental synth sounds and songs.
The album references, like their previous record The Great Detatchment, the relationships we form with our lands and others surrounding it.
“The title is very much taken from the last song on the record “Free Pour”, but it mostly makes me think about America and the state of things in general at large, and it kind of makes me think of Canada and the responsibilities we have as Canadians and how we can live better together and be less impactful on our land. It’s supposed to be open ended, so it covers a lot of ground,” said Campbell.
Tracks like “The Lighthouse” harken back to memories of rural Nova Scotia. “Never Let You Go” speaks to the impact that waste has our on our land, and “Surrender” and “Forest Fire” are meditations on true love. The Ennio Morricone inspired track “Waves” pulses as singer/guitarist Paul Murphy sings “Maybe I’ll move to the countryside […] Where the waves unspeakably speak / Where the days spill so violent and free.”
There’s a lot to unpack in the record, and it allows for both passive / active listening. Thus, it’s no surprise that In the Land Of has been long-listed for this year’s Polaris Prize. Campbell also added that these songs also add another dimension to the band’s live shows too.
“I feel like these songs went over in our live sets really well, and it’s been really fun to play the songs live. I really think they are a great batch of songs, which is obviously really important,” said Campbell.
“I’m really happy with the variation of the record. Most of our records have that variation, but on this record there’s more extreme jumps between genres. We just kind of work song to song, and it’s pretty apparent with the songs on the record.”
Wintersleep perform at Cicada Music & Arts Festival on October 5.