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photo courtesy Jonathan Taggart

Vancouver’s Said the Whale talks challenges, triumphs, and winning America

IN THE FOUR short years since Said the Whale was formed, the band has toured across the continent, earned national acclaim at home, released a handful of albums, and was featured in a full-length documentary on CBC. For the Vancouver-based indie-rock quintet, success did not blossomed overnight. Rather, the band’s steady climb is the result of hard work.

Originally a collaborative effort between co-front men Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft, the band has expanded to include drummer Spencer Schoening, bassist Nathan Shaw, and keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown.

The band kicked off its recent tour in Seattle, Wash.—a change of pace from playing at home.

“We have some exposure in Canada and we can build on that momentum. When we go over and play in the U.K. or the States, we’re just going and winning over fans one by one again,” says Schoening.

The challenge of gaining American fans was the topic of interest in Winning America, the CBC documentary that followed Said the Whale’s trek south of the border.

Directed by Brent Hodge and Thomas Buchan, Schoening says the documentary was “a lot of fun” to make.

“It was it just us going on as usual, but with cameras … We just kept doing what we were doing and kept on keeping on. [Our] friends will see it and we can say, ‘Hey, here’s what it’s like when we go away to tour,’” he adds.

Winning America sheds some light on how hard it is for Canadian bands to make it in the United States—or anywhere else—even if they are widely known and popular in their home country.

“[People are] realizing how hard it is for Canadian bands to go across the border and break into the States,” says Schoening.

This fact was highlighted by a segment showing the band playing in an empty record shop followed by a showcase with a similarly dismal audience. Immediately following the concert’s wrap, Said the Whale flew to Toronto for the Junos where they performed live and won Best New Artist.

“I think that just brought that to light … That there’s just such a huge gap between Canada and the States,” says Schoening.

Although there’s been no drastic change in the band’s popularity, Schoening insists that people are starting to pick up on the band’s efforts and accomplishments.

“Now a lot of the conversations [we have] start with congratulations. It is nice to know [the documentary] is making a difference [and we] will keep on keeping on.”

Said the Whale’s forthcoming four-track EP is titled Little Brighton and will be released in the coming months, while their next full-length effort is set to come out in early 2012.

—Jessie Willms