HITTING FULL STRIDE
With nearly a year of support already behind their Epitaph debut Reconstruction Site, Winnipeg--based punk--folk quartet The Weakerthans aren't even close to being
finished promoting their newest album.
After previously releasing two albums on the punk label G7 Welcoming Committee, the band prepared their third album on their own dime. They completely finished the recording before deciding to release it with the California--based imprint, who offered them a contract without having yet heard one note of it.
As with the album before it, Reconstruction Site took three years to complete. Together since 1997, it is only The Weakerthans third album overall, due to the slow, deliberate and perfectionist manner in which guitarist
John K. Samson writes. To say that a lot of thought, blood, sweat and tears go into his craft would be an understatement. Lyrics are often poured over and over and, of course, touring doesn't leave a lot of time to complete new songs; but, as Samson sees it, the road is an important place for the band.
"We have played every major city in North America already," explains Samson over the phone from his Winnipeg home, "and we have been to Europe twice too. Four months in time out of the past year have been spent
away from home touring. That is a fair chunk of time out of your life.
"You still have to have a life at home, we all have families, friends, animals so we can't be gone all of the time, but going out on tour in little chunks, those little chunks add
Europe has always been a focus for the band, who have toured there more times than they have here at home. "We started out going to Europe right away. We have
been doing two European tours a year since the band began. There is a great, vibrant, supportive community over there."
When asked why the band gravitates to playing in Europe so often, Samson explains that the attention they have been given, especially in Germany, made it an easy
"We have three cities that we consider to be our community---Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamburg. It is easy to travel over there and the shows are so great. The audiences are different in Europe, they are more respectful and they pay more attention to the music. They don't speak during songs, they hang off every note and listen to every word."
As the band has now been together more than seven years, the members of the group have moved from being angry young men in their 20s to concerned, pensive musicians in their 30s.They are a band working their craft
because they love and care for what they do and, as Samson agrees, find themselves in an industry---punk especially---that tends to cater to youth.
"That is something that is very weird about the music industry. In most arts, you are considered to just be hitting your stride when you reach your 30s. But with music, with it being so youth--driven, when you reach our
age some consider your career to be over.
"It's a depressing thing to think about, but it is also very liberating. We're not about to stop because some people think that you don't make your best art after your 20s. This feels secure to me, we make music because this is what we love doing.
"A lot of people decide in their 20s if they are cut out to do this or not. It has to be something that you want to do and if it is something that you feel you must do, you find ways of surviving in order to keep doing it. Hopefully that is something that we will be able to do for a long time."
With Reconstruction Site, "the band has brought in a number of different musical instruments to broaden their range---using horns on the album's first track "Manifest."
They have also incorporated some decidedly un--punk instruments, like pedal steel guitar and musical saw, into their songmaking reality.
"I'd call ourselves disintegrating punk," Samson once described his band's sound, "because we are kind of disintegrating into other derivatives and influences." Does the old description still apply?
"I would agree, yes, that is still a very apt description of what we are doing," Samson now says.
"Those are still the basics that we come from. Punk is where I learned to make music and it's inevitable that music will change, but the ethic of punk, the fundamentals that it ingrained are still important. The democracy that it offers a band means a lot."
When asked where exactly this disintegration will lead to, Samson's answer is simple, but holds more meaning
than it appears.
"I think that we will probably disintegrate into nothing, eventually. But we need to go through the process to get there and this is the way we are doing it."
As for their fourth album. Samson says not to expect it anytime soon. In fact, if they are going to follow the same trajectory as with previous releases, look for it to arrive sometime during 2006.
"We're not very close at all" says the guitarist. "We have been traveling pretty much since the Reconstruction Site record came out. The rate of completion for us to do an album is usually about three years and we haven't even seen a year go by.
"We have the edges of something right now, but it's just the edges. We can expect some changes to be made to what we have, but I don't know right now what that is going to be.
"It's still too preliminary to figure out what it is going to be like. We are going to continue working on them, taking time off after these summer shows to concentrate on them." V
By Sean Palmerston