Vancouver band Said The Whale released their newest CD, HAWAII, in September 2013 on Hidden Pony Records. They’ve definitely come a long way since their debut EP in 2007 called Taking Abalonia, which was re-released in 2008 with seven new songs and called Howe Sounds/Taking Abaonia. Ben Worcester (guitars/vox) and Tyler Bancroft (guitars/vox) started the band back in 2006 with Laura Smith (on keyboards in 2007) and Jeff LaForge (on bass in 2007-2008). Laura and Jeff were replaced by Colin Dodds on keyboards (2008) and Peter Carruthers on bass (2009-2011). Colin was replaced by Jaycelyn Brown (keyboards) in 2008 and Nathan Shaw (bass) replaced Peter in 2011. And all during the band replacements, they put out some quality work: The Magician EP (2009) was released to build up momentum before they released a full CD, Islands Disappear (2009). In 2011, they released the New Brighton EP followed by a full CD in 2012 entitled Little Mountain.
Some fun facts about the band:
In November of 2010, they placed 2nd for the Peak Performance Project (a radio station here in Vancouver; 102.7 The Peak) and won $75,000.00!
In the spring of 2011, they toured across the USA, taking a CBC film crew with them (CBC Canada filmed a documentary on the band called Winning America). They also played SXSW in Austin TX which was a highlight of their tour.
Upon returning to Canada, they were nominated for a Juno Award: New Group of the Year (for 2011) which they won in 2012!
(Personally I think the Juno Award win was funny because of the body of music they had released well before 2011.)
The track listing for Hawaii is as follows:
1. More Than This
4. I Love You
5. Safe To Say
8. On The Ropes
9. I Could Smoke
10. Oh K, Okay
11. Helpless Son
12. The Weight of the Season
The CD opens with the song “More Than This” which is a slow piano based song at just 1:24. I think this song sets the listener up for a musical adventure, or so it seems to me. It’s got a “get ready for this” feeling. Their harmonization is emphasized very clearly.
“Mother” is upbeat with a pleasant melody that flows well and is utilized by all members of the band. The vocals are balanced, clear and slightly pensive. Thinking about some personal habits that may be a bit shady, this song speaks of don’t tell a mother about some of the crazy things that her child does. The song starts out bare bones but by the end of the song, everyone is on the same page and playing strongly.
“Narrows” is a song that is mostly in a minor key and speaks of fishing for ________. The listener can fill in the blank because the song lyrics are written in a general term that anyone can understand and relate to. That’s one of the main reasons I like this band – the way they write music. It makes you think. With lyrics like “And with all my heart left to faith/I cast my luck into the water and I pray/for all my scars and my intuition/To see me through this/I’ve never been fishing like this before”.
“I Love You” is a favourite here in Vancouver. This song was on heavy rotation on the radio and rightly so. It combines sane music until the song goes into the chorus which then becomes an insanely musical mash up. I like the subtle time changes from the verse to chorus and vice-versa. Lyrically, the word “love” is used in a more sibling/friendship kind of way in the verses: “When I learned that I had a brother/I made up a dance for you/We’d be crime fighters together/and do things that brothers do” and “When I learned I had a sister/I pretended to hate her/I’d seen it on TV/I knew exactly what to do”.
“Willow” has an interesting time signature musically that I like the sound of. The drums are prominent in the verses but they even out with the other members for the chorus. Within this song are really two songs – the middle part of the song sounds completely different than the beginning and end. Lyrically, the song speaks of starting and ending a relationship. With lyrics like “You And I/We found each other at the strangest time/When all we wanted was a piece of light/And something real just to hold on tight/And now I’ll never let you go” and “I gave you all I had to give/And still I feel like its a risk/Telling ourselves that this will be forever/Willow won’t you give me your heart”, it’s clear that some things just don’t work out the way you might have envisioned them to.
“Oh K, Okay” is a song that I really like. Musically it’s very bare bones but has a good melody which is consistent through the song. Lyrically, it speaks of meeting someone and hitting it off immediately which leads to a relationship. I like these verses the best: “I’d never met a girl who thinks the way that I do/About the better things/Like the reflection of the moon/Or the mortality of fire/And the distance of a star and us/Oh K, oh K, oh K” and “I lay my thoughts upon you in the dark/I lay beside you and listen to your heart beat/Rippling the water on the lake and the stars/Night sky, bright sparks/Oh K, oh K, oh K”. Sharing something with another person is an awesome experience be it in love, life or just because.
Some of the reasons why I like this band is because they write original songs, they have quirky music and a lot of fun – onstage and off. They’re a high energy band who may look laid back but the wheels are always spinning and looking towards the future.
I highly recommend this CD to add to your collection. It’ll fit nicely between The Zolas, Mother Mother and Hey Ocean! You can listen to the music and check out the lyrics on their website that I’ve linked in the first sentence of this article. You can check out the band in various locations through a Google search. They’re on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Video – Said the Whale – I Love You (totally a funny video!)