A Conversation With: WHALE TOOTH
While at Edgefest last month I had the opportunity to sit down with home grown musical heroes Whale Tooth. With their latest release Search Party under their belts they took on the fest eager and ready to give fans something to dance to.
How are you guys doing? Well, other than melting I suppose.
Elise: Good. Yeah, but I’d rather melt than freeze. Everyone? Freeze or melt?
Norm: Melt! Because when you freeze it’s dark all the time, it’s like dark by 4 o’clock.
Search Party just came out, how do you guys feel about that?
Norm: I think we’re just happy that it’s actually out there now. Lots of bands learn to be patient and I guess that was our turn to do that.
Do you guys have a really hands on approach when you’re recording or do you leave it in the hands of a producer?
Norm: Basically we write and play the songs as best we can and then find someone and say, ‘Hey, help us hammer this out.’ Take suggestions, and go from there.
Elise: It is very collaborative, we don’t just hand them off-
Norm: Yeah, we’re not relying on someone to do it for us-
Alex: Yeah, we’re not like, ‘Take the songs, show us the charts…’.
Elise: Yeah, that being said, there’s a reason why you hire someone from the outside to get their professional opinion on it. It was helpful.
Norm: Yeah, a second set of ears and eyes to help us out.
You guys were called one of the ‘must-see’ bands of this past NXNE. How does that make you feel?
Alex: Well, it’s nice to see hard work paying off. All bands start at zero, so it’s nice to feel validated.
Elise: On the record we recognize the value of those things because there are so many bands playing festivals like that. So if you’re someone that is just buying a wristband and going around and not sure where you’re going, I would rely on publications and things to tell me where I should go.
Norm: Doing things like artists picks are also fun too because you get to demonstrate what you think is great. And share that taste. It’s nice to do stuff like that instead of talking about yourself. So you can actually give people a piece of your minds.
That leads to my next question; who are you excited to catch here at Edgefest today?
Elise: Well, I love The Sheepdogs and I think that we’re playing at the same time as them. So that kind of sucks.
Norm: Yeah, we’re missing The Darcys right now.
Alex: Yukon Blonde is a good one too.
Is there any other band that you want to tour with, collaborate with, anything like that?
Elise: Oh, there are countless bands.
Alex: There are a million bands.
Sep: There are a lot of fantasy type bands that I would like to play with, but it may not be the best match for a concert goer.
Norm: That’s a hard question.
All pause to think.
Elise: Are we talking fantasy land or realistically? Like, we could tour with them over the summer kind of thing.
Let’s go with realistically.
Elise: Well, we’ve played a bunch with The Balconies over the years, and that’s always fun. Always a good time with those guys. As far as local bands that we like playing with, and show sharing with, The Balconies are up there.
Norm: I like Beach House. But I don’t know if they’d be the same style as us.
Sep: Bands you like to see, are the same bands you’d like to play with.
Norm: we got to know Mother Mother really well. They are phenomenal as a band and awesome song writers.
Do you guys have a favourite Toronto venue?
Sep: I like playing the Drake Underground.
Elise: Yeah, The Drake has the best sound on stage and in the crowd.
Alex: What’s that place at College and Dufferin? They’re always bugging bands to play….
Sep: There’s a venue there?
Elise: Smiling Buddha? That’s a joke answer!
How do Toronto audiences compare to other cities?
Elise: I’m going to answer this question. I was born and raised in Toronto so my answer can not be construed as hating Toronto. I love Toronto, I’m from Toronto. But! It’s harder to get Toronto audiences moving compared to other cities in the world. That being said, we have had some really wild shows in Toronto, so it doesn’t really speak of all the time. But generally speaking, that does seem to be the challenge. And I’ve heard that from other artists too, so it’s not really just us. But there’s just so much going on in Toronto. When there are 10 bands playing every night of the week in 20 different venues all year long, people tend to take for granted the fact that there is live music available that is cheap, and easy or whatever. So I think that part of the reason why it’s perceived that people are more blasé or not into it is because they’re surrounded by that kind of entertainment all the time.
That’s actually really a common answer.
Norm: The city is just over-saturated. That’s it.
You guys have a really heavy online presence. How do you maintain that?
Norm: Well, it ebbs and flows right? Like we just had an album come out, so we’re constantly sharing that. So when there’s not much happening, we’re not just going to post whatever’s on our minds just to fill space. It’s calculated so we’re not overdoing it.
Elise: If I read one more tweet about somebody’s bagel that they had for breakfast…
Norm: Uh oh, I’m in trouble.
Sep: Nobody cares that much.
Norm: Unless you’re like Radiohead or something, no one cares.
Alex: Thom Yorke had smoked salmon with capers from New Zealand.
Do you feel that social networking is a valuable tool in the industry today?
All: Oh yeah. Of course.
Norm: Whether we like it personally or not, we have to use it.
Alex: Record companies have been swapped out for the Internet. So you can control what you do. You’re not intrusting certain releases and stuff in the hands of some company.
Elise: Yes, but with that right comes the responsibility that artists haven’t had in the past. Part of the benefit I think is that feeling between fans and artists that they have that direct connection to each other. It’s not like people are writing fan mail to like Universal Music and hoping that one day it will end up with the band. Today, a fan can tweet it, and within 24 hours someone is going to see it. Probably sooner because everyone has a smart phone. Sure, sometimes it can seem like a task to keep up with it, but there’s benefits too.
Alex: Yes, plus social networking has replaced fan clubs. Now it’s like a 24 hour kind of accessibility for fans.
Norm: whereas before you would get periodical updates and stuff like that, an email and what not.
Can you guys offer any advice to any band that’s doing what you’re doing right now?
Norm: Give up.
Alex: Keep fit and have fun.
Norm: you just have to have patience and perseverance. Unless you want instant gratification, this is the right industry for you.
Alex: Good music and good art will rise above everything else.
What’s next for you guys?
Elise: Another record released much quicker than this last one!
Norm: We want to get out there, promote this record, hopefully expand beyond the borders of Canada in the fall. And that’s it. Stay tuned!
Check out Whale Tooth at the Horseshoe Tavern on August 24th. More information on their Facebook Page.