I had the chance to sit down with Ben Worchester and Tyler Bancroft, co-frontmen of Said the Whale, before their sweaty JunoFest performance at the Horseshoe Tavern. It was a night of performances from Juno nominees and Said the Whale was up for New Group of the Year. Well, I’m pleased to say the band walked away from the non-broadcasted Gala on Saturday, March 26th with the title and shiny award.
Ben Worcester described the nomination as “one big universal high five” and Tyler Bancroft commented, “It’s a huge honour and it’s crazy.”
Tyler continued, “The Junos, in my opinion, have always sort of leaned towards the more commercial area of music and I think, at least since I’ve started paying attention more closely, which has been in the past 4 years as we’ve been a band, I’ve seen it sort of get more smaller artists, more independent artists being recognized or nominated. Whether or not they’re winning doesn’t really matter because the nomination is a huge feather in your cap and that’s an honour in itself.”
Well, Said the Whale got the ultimate feather in their cap when they took home New Group of the Year. They happened to be nominated against their pals in Hollerado. When I brought it up, Ben gave a little cheer. He also happened to be wearing a Hollerado t-shirt (see photo above).
Tyler remarked, “I think they’re the first band we ever played a show with on the road on our first tour, so we’ve been friends with them ever since. We’ve kept in touch and done a few mini-tours in between. We’re both totally rooting for each other.”
To top off all the bandmance love, in their speech, Said the Whale said they were sharing the award with their “brothers in Hollerado.” Now that’s heartwarming.
The band has spent most of March touring the US. They’re not quite finished their tour, with a couple dates to go. They’ve most recently been in the warm Southern States. Ben said, “We just had to take a little break to come to Winterland for a few days.”
As far as how the tour has been going, Ben quipped, “Great, all seven people love it.”
This got a laugh out of Tyler, who clarified. “We expected to go down to the States and play shows that were comparable to our first tour across Canada because we don’t have a record there. We don’t have a label and agent. We have no promotional stuff there. But I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised. If we play a show and there are five people there that came in that city to see us, then that’s amazing. They’ve been very friendly.
Ben describes their reception in the US as a “warm welcome.”
Ben indicated that there are also advantages in playing somewhere they’ve never played before. “I feel like being from Canada, you have some leeway just because you’re a foreigner. It gives you something to talk about every night, so your stage banter comes easy because you can separate yourself and talk about what you’ve noticed about each State in its entirely, which is pretty fun to discover also, why all the States are different in whatever way they are.”
Tyler, building on this, remarked, “Tonight we’re just gonna report back to Toronto what they Americas are like.”
Said the Whale’s most recent dates were in Austin, Texas for SXSW.
Ben described the festival as “insane.”
Tyler continued, “It was like the Olympics, but for music. That’s the analogy we’re sticking with right now.” Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Well, Ben makes the Festival sound even more awesome. “You can’t go wrong when every venue’s selling point is free beer and barbeque at some point in the day.”
Tyler reflected, “I would say that every expectation that we were hyped up about definitely was lived up to.”
Their trip to the States wasn’t all fun, though. While staying Sacramento, they had a lot of gear, as while as some of their luggage, stolen from their trailer in the middle of the night. However, their spirits were not down about it at all.
Ben responded, “It feels like it was a year ago already” and then said, “It’s just stuff and we love our stuff and we can’t really afford new stuff, but it happens to every band and it happened to us. It could’ve been in Montreal. In fact, we expected it in Montreal. It just happened to be in a suburb of Sacramento. It happened, we moved on, we’re making lemonade and now we have something to talk about.”
To further the notion of making lemons out of lemondate, the entire band actually got matching tattoos of lemons while in Texas.
It certainly helps that the response to their stolen gear has been full of generosity, including a benefit show in their hometown of Vancouver, with partial proceeds going towards MusiCounts.
Tyler calls the response “heart-warming” and remarked, “It’s been insanely humbling to hear people offer all their support. We’ve been offered cash donations, but we’ve graciously declined. We don’t want anyone to be out of pocket because we’re already out of pocket, so why spread around the loss.”
Ben continued, “If people wanna help, they can come to our shows and buy our CDs. It’ll help pay for gas, but we don’t want to take people’s money to buy our own stuff.”
Then Ben said, “I would like to one big collective hug to everybody who’s offered some sympathy and support.
As far as what’s next for Said the Whale, Tyler indicated that they’ve got “busy times” ahead. “We’re going to go finish the last two shows on our US tour. And then we’re going to drive to Ottawa and start a cross-Canada tour with Tokyo Police Club and Dinosaur Bones. And then we’re going go to the UK and do about ten dates there. And then we’re going to come home and hopefully start working on a new record.”
They’ve been writing a lot. And they’ve slowly been introducing new songs into their sets. Their writing process isn’t quite defined yet, and Ben says they’re still learning how writing works for them.
Ben remarked, “Every song seems to always come out differently. Some come easy, some don’t. I feel like this the first time in our career we’ve been able to call it our job to write songs, rather than just writing songs as they come. And it’s such a joy. It’s like everything we’ve been working towards is starting to reveal itself.
He puts it best in saying this. “It feels really good to have an idea of what might be on the horizon without knowing exactly what it is.”
Well, apparently their immediate horizon was a Juno Award!
As for a drunken story, Ben offered one up. “On this tour, we had to cancel a show and we had to spend a night in a place called Crescent City, California, so that we could drive through the redwood forest the next day. And we got pretty silly, to say the least.”
“Things got wild,” Tyler added.
Ben described, “We flew a helicopter over a trailer park. Our friend Matt who’s with us on tour got in trouble with the Sheriff for throwing a baseball over the highway, playing catch over the highway. Well, that’s all I can remember.”
Tyler remarked, “It’s a hazy thing. I think we’re lucky that not a lot of crazy shit happens to us when we’re drunk. I think we’d like to keep it that way, but I don’t know… we’ll see!”
Ben continued, “We’ll see after this weekend! Ask us again in three days! But we all like to have fun. We’re all pretty decent people, but, you know, alcohol is it’s own thing. It makes you do things.”
Well, Said the Whale has certainly had a reason to celebrate. As far as I know, though, nothing too crazy has happened in their celebrating… yet.
Their shot of choice is pretty varied. The band all took different shots. Drummer Spencer Schoening favoured tequila and keyboardist Jacelyn Brown wanted something on the smoother side and settled on a broken down golf cart (made with Amaretto, melon liqueur, and cranberry juice). Their newest member, bassist Nathan Shaw, chose the same shots at Tyler and Ben, which was Jager.
Ben said, “For me, Jagermeister is just kind of like medicine. It helps everything go down really smooth.” He also remarked that it seemed to be the best choice after eating a lot of Thai food. They ate at Mengrai, by the way, calling it one of the best Thai food places in Toronto.
Tyler commented, “I’m not a hardcore liquour drinker. I prefer beer or, you know, light highballs of the vodka variety. Shots for me – man, load me up with a girly drink and I’m happy. But I opted for the Jager today. I think every single time I’ve had Jagermeister I’ve done something really dumb. We’ll just see what happens with the rest of the night. Even with just one shot of Jagermeister and I generally will wake up the next morning having done something I regret.”
Ben then said, “Maybe you’ll see Tyler do a backflip off the stage.”
I won’t tell you if the backflip happened or not. I’ll leave that to your imagination. But these guys were a pleasure to chat with. I also ran into the band post-win when they came to watch their pals in Hollerado play a late party set after the Gala. Thrilled and glowing, they were still in celebration mode… and rightly so.
Congratulations to Said the Whale on their Juno win!