Canadian rockers Wintersleep have produced five solid albums in over a decade as a band. Their biggest hit, “Weighty Ghost” hit in 2007, but now the band is back with Hello Hum which includes some of the catchiest songs they’ve ever written.
We chatted with frontman Paul Murphy about the band’s history, the new album and the differences between playing in their home country and crossing into the U.S.
Paste: You guys have been together for just over a decade, which is a lot of time to grow as a band and as friends. How has that evolution been?
Paul Murphy: I guess as a band it initially started off as something fun to do and just a reason to hang out with each other. We recorded for fun and didn’t have too many aspirations to make it a live experience and never expected to tour that much. It started as side projects from what we all were doing at the time and it grew into something we took a lot more seriously. It started off pretty humble; we only started touring in 2004 or 2005.
For me it feels like you have to be friends to do it this long. The band has definitely helped our friendships and we’ve grown closer just being together writing and recording all of the time.
Paste: And how has the musical style changed over the course of your five albums?
Murphy: Initially it was more just soft songs we were editing off of Cool Edit Pro then with the next record we made it more live-sounding. I think the more you tour and the more you work at it live your perspective as a songwriter changes because you want to write for how it actually translates outside.
Paste: You mentioned the band started as a side project for everyone . Have any members of the band ever done major side projects where they thought about leaving Wintersleep?
Murphy: We’ve all done stuff in other bands. Tim [D’eon], Loel Campbell] along with Mike [Bigelow] were all in a band called Contrived and more currently I released a solo record, but I never thought about taking a hiatus. It was really simple and I only played a few shows. Most of our energy goes into this.
Paste: How did you want the vibe on Hello Hum to come off?
Murphy: I don’t know. I guess we did have a few songs that we knew we wanted to try to have maybe a trial and error style behind it. There are a few songs that were pretty much finished, but we left some wiggle room for when we actually recorded it. We worked a lot with layering and not have every song a live-off-the-floor idea. This one we kept in mind that we wanted to have flexibility to add sections to a song and not worry about it. We didn’t want to have too many ideas in mind. There are some songs that the ending wasn’t working and we worked it out last minute in the studio. When you’re under that sort of pressure you can create some pretty neat things and we wanted that built into the actually process of recording. A lot of it was pretty fresh.
Paste: Was there one song that when you wrote it you knew would be the centerpiece of the album?
Murphy: I think “Nothing is Anything” was a moment like that. It was one of the first songs we recorded – so maybe that’s why, too – but from the time we started working on it to the time we finished it, the song just sounded way different than I thought it would. It’s almost a surprise for me. The very last song we recorded was also like that. There’s a part that Tim had written and we worked and changed on it to make it sound totally different. And that was the song called “Hum.”
Paste: Awesome. I was going to say the two songs I picked out were “Nothing is Anything” and “Saving Song.” I always find myself loving the middle of albums. Those songs generally hit my vibe in life. A lot of gems are hidden on the latter half of albums.
Murphy: Cool. (laughs) I think growing up in life I always liked the B-sides of a tape. I’d play an album, but when I really started loving it was when I played the back half of it.
Paste: So, you’ve been on tour, mostly in Canada, but some dates in the States. What’s the difference between the receptions in the two countries?
Murphy: There’s way more people in Canada that know about us than in the States. When we first started in Canada feels a lot similar to what it’s like in the States now. You’d have some pockets where a lot of people show up and it’s crazy, but regardless of who shows up it’s always fun to play in places like Los Angeles and not in the littlest of places in the Canadian winter.
Paste: What are the plans after this current tour ends?
Murphy: We’re going to stay pretty busy. We’ll do a more extensive Canada/U.S. tour in the fall that will probably be longer and be half and half dates between the two countries.
Paste: Is there any other cool things up your sleeves? I know you love B-sides, so will some cuts that didn’t make the album find their way to the public?
Murphy: Oh yeah. We were thinking about releasing B-sides, but we’re not sure how it will happen. We’d love to do a vinyl of those songs, but we’ll see. We might be doing a video, but I’m not sure if videos are worth it because it will just end up on YouTube. It’s almost better to come up with some sort of idea that you can do on your own and make it personal.