Said the Whale coming to Regina
Don’t take it from the writer;, take it from the whale.
In late September I had the privilege of interviewing Tyler Bancroft, one of the core members of Said the Whale, a JUNO-award winning band from Vancouver that’s come to be loved across the nation over the past decade. They’re currently on their second tour of the year and will be swinging through Saskatoon at the Broadway Theatre on Oct. 7 before coming to the Artesian here in Regina on Oct. 9.
The group has been together for over a decade now, and it shows in the apparent chemistry and joy they have while playing live – this kind of bond isn’t something you can learn or teach, it’s something that’s grown organically within the group through years of dedication and discipline. Bancroft is one of the main songwriters alongside Ben Worcester; both play guitar and sing leads and harmonies. Jaycelyn Brown is the third member of the core group, mainly playing the keyboard but also chiming in with background vocals and harmonies that always compliment beautifully. Their current drummer Brad Connor has been with them for over two years and their bass player Lincoln Woo for roughly one.
Genre-wise, Said the Whale has always been a bit of an anomaly.
“We usually just say rock music to be simple, but it’s rock music with like folk and pop influences,” said Bancroft when I asked him what the group would consider themselves to be. “I think that one of the reasons that our band is interesting to me and for people who’ve listened to us for a long time is that we are very genre-fluid, and it’s probably one of the reasons we’re not internationally that successful. Bands are expected to be cohesive and stick to a category. You don’t see groups like Blink-182 testing different genres, they just find their thing and they do it, but for better of for worse we dabble everywhere.”
I might be a little biased seeing as how they’re one of my favourite groups ever, but I’d say their genre-fluidity is absolutely for the better. Their vocal harmonies range from choral-like arrangements to hauntingly beautiful ones, and it creates a shocking level of depth in every song. They’ve managed to keep this quality from their first record over a decade ago and it’s definitely a staple of their sound. “It’s fun to pull off live too,” Bancroft mentioned with a laugh during our talk, and the electric energy they give off when everything’s coming together on stage validates that without question.
“The more you dig into our music you can find the difference between my song writing and Ben’s,” Bancroft stated in reference to the variety of song types in their discography.
“Ben uses nature as characters in almost a traditional-style focus,” and has a gift for narrative-style writing that takes you through journeys both audibly and emotionally. Bancroft tends to draw from personal experiences when song writing which really shows in the vulnerability of his lyrics. He wrote a song called “Helpless Son” on their 2013 album hawaiii and said it’s “about my mom and the struggle that she’s gone through to stick around for me. That one I was absolutely sobbing while writing.” The latter sentiment was repeated when he referenced the songs “Miscarriage” and “Level Best,” songs about the difficulties and heartache sometimes involved when trying to start a family and the overwhelming love and devotion felt for your children as you watch them grow.
On top of being incredible musicians, these folks have some of the biggest hearts around. Earlier this summer they brought out a new shirt design to add to their merch table; it’s a white tanktop with three rainbow-coloured douglas firs to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Now on top of making the shirts to show solidarity, they have not and will not be keeping even a cent of the profits from these shirt sales. Instead they will be donating the proceeds to three charities: The Trevor Project, OutMusic Foundation, and the Tegan and Sara Foundation.
“I always find it uncomfortable when bands and brands are profiting,” Bancroft stated. “We had absolutely no intention of making money from a community from which we have no ties other than wanting to support them.” There’s still a few available on their website if you’d like to stand alongside Said the Whale in supporting this community both financially and by wearing your pride loud and proud.
One thing that really sets this band apart is the fact that they never forget about the prairies when planning a tour. Many groups tend to as their fan bases grow, listing North American tours yet only coming to Ontario and British Columbia, but according to Bancroft “it’d be pure insanity to skip them over!” He was hesitant to even refer to their supporters as fans, saying with a laugh that “it’s short for fanatics which makes them sound mentally unstable, whereas I feel like the people who support our band are always so genuine, and we really appreciate them being there for us. The whole thing is a family – our band with the people who like the band. We’re super lucky to have such wonderful people carrying us along the way.”
Towards the end of the interview I’d asked Bancroft if he had any closing thoughts, to which he responded, “If you could just make it so that it’s not snowing when we get there, that’d be great!”