Atlantic Canadian rockers Wintersleep burst through a new level of mainstream with the release of their 2016 studio album The Great Detachment. Anchored by the number one single Amerika, the album became a definitive stamp for a band that paid their dues with gigs across the nation and beyond.
Three years later and the band is back with their seventh studio album In The Land Of. Longtime bandmember Loel Campbell caught up with The Herald to talk hit-making, musical comradery and returning to Newfoundland, a province that they are intimately familiar.
In The Land of follows, arguably, the biggest hit and album of your careers. The track Amerika was a massive success for you guys nationally. So following that up? No pressure right?
I think we’re grateful that Amerika landed and resonated so well in the first place. It’s a good feeling when a song connects that largely. It’s definitely a confidence booster. We just try to do our thing and work on stuff that we’re interested in and feel strongly about. There’s not really any sort of formulaic thought that goes into generating a hit, it’s just trying to challenge ourselves. It usually works out the best for the albums.
It’s somewhat ironic that you’ve had so many acclaimed and beloved albums, award winning records, but one hit single has seemingly pushed you over the top. What’s your take on that entire phenomena? How maybe singles have become more important than albums?
We didn’t know if Amerika was going to be a single to begin with. It really is a raw sounding song. The way we recorded it is really not the way you would think a song that performs well on radio would be produced in 2016 or 17. It was recorded really haphazardly. All the instruments were in one room and there was lead in all the microphones.
I think it’s just the energy of us performing. That’s why it became popular, because it hit a lot of that honesty in music and musicianship. It was performed well and we were really prepared for it. Obviously the message in the song and lyrics are timely and that has a lot to do with it. It’s a song that has a perpetual life to it in referencing America, the American dream.
Much has been made of the idea that In The Land Of deals with themes of isolation and feeling alone in your own home, in many ways. Is that reflective on anything in the band’s world, perhaps with the new success? Or more metaphorical?
I think it’s more a personal day-to-day-thing, a normal day at home more than us being a functioning working band. It’s an observation on society. Middle class people working and trying to have a firm footing in society.
And the album cover reportedly has something to say on environmentalism and how we’re leaving a worse world than we entered?
The artwork is a photo of the great pacific garbage patch. A small piece of that collaboration of garbage in the ocean. That’s a reference from a song called Never Let You Go. The second verse talks about frustration and dissatisfaction, frustration in feeling that you’re on the right side of things. It’s something on our minds a lot.
You guys are returning to St. John’s at March 31st at Club One. Between your time spent here with former bandmate Jud Haynes (Mightypop founder and award-winning graphic artist) and your numerous tour dates since, you’re quite familiar with the place. What’s your prevailing thoughts on the province? Any go to’s when you’re here?
Jud would go home to visit his parents and we’d tag along with him, because none of us have been over there. We’d stay for a week and try to play as many nights of the week and find anyone who would have us and try to develop as a band and share the songs. A couple of years after that we got to open for Pearl Jam there. We just have such a wonderful history there and St. John’s specifically.
We always end up down The Ship and The Duke. We usually are drawn there for fish and chips. It’s hard to pick the favourites. And there’s so much more to explore. We’ll usually do a tour to Cape Spear, a hike up to Signal Hill. I’m always just filled with wonder around The Battery and the Narrows. Listening to the ships in the harbour, it’s all very implanted in my mind. Quidi Vidi and that awesome bar with the low ceilings, Linda’s. We love going there, going to Mallard Cottage. We always run out of time basically. It’s the last day of this leg of the tour so hopefully we’ll have some extra time there. I feel very at peace there.
Seven albums in and it feels like you guys are making the music you want to make and have honestly hit a stride that few groups hit at all, let alone in this many years in. Any secret to that success?
The main thing is the music. There’s so many ideas between all of us. You can’t get to everything really. We have a process now and have that figured out, but I think it’s still experimental and challenging and fresh.
I think all of us sharing different ideas in writing, we’re always kind of challenging ourselves. We have really good communication between all of us. Obviously there are things we butt heads on, but ultimately it’s pretty amazing to think that we’ll continue to make albums.
This is our seventh and we’ll keep doing it. I think we all feel very lucky to be seven albums deep, 18 years into the band. It’s not commonplace for bands and musicians and writers. We feel fortunate and we want to try to keep going with each other’s hopes and what we’re sharing with each other.
For more on the album, band and tickets to Club One, visit wintersleep.com