On the Edge of East Coast
Story & Photography: Andrew Herygers
Publisher: Muzik Etc. Magazine
Another predictably foggy Halifax morning, complete with heavy drifting clouds and misty rain as I await for Paul and Loel of Halifax’s newest and coolest musical offering, Wintersleep. Idea of the East recording studio stands in an un-marked building across from warships, masts, and mechanical cranes where the 1917 Halifax Explosion occurred. Paul Murphy (vocals & acoustic guitar), Tim D’Eon (guitars), Loel Campbell (drums), and Jud Haynes (bass), have recently returned home from Wintersleep’s first tour which included Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces. I have the opportunity to get a glimpse into the finishing touches of the highly anticipated follow-up album to their self-titled debut.
Inside the studio, Loel sets-up his Gretsch drumkit and Sabian cymbals as Paul prepares coffee for the wake-up. Sitting on a couch softly strumming his acoustic guitar, Paul hums haunting melodies... “I’m afraid of God”, and is back dropped by a wall adorned with an Oscar Peterson portrait and gold record of “Sloan’s album - One Chord to Another”. Down the hall, Loel kicks in the morning by letting loose on a huge sounding bass drum. Jud soon arrives with a guitar in hand jokingly referring to the recording in progress as “The Gretsch Song”, for its ingredients include not only Gretsch drums but also a vintage 1960 Gretsch acoustic guitar. Haynes confesses, “I love vintage gear for its character and collectability. I have a decent little collection which is highlighted by a few Gibsons including a ’67 EBO, a ’68 SG Special, a ’69 Les Paul, a ’77 RD and a couple early ‘90s model Gibsons.”
Award-winning producer Laurence Currie enters the room and pops a fresh cassette into a small tape deck for the “ghetto blaster test”. A huge sound and driving beat emerges and I catch the finale of a song entitled “Skeleton”- a dense wall of electric guitar, shuffling drum beats, and odd melodic sounds.
Wintersleep arose out of a recording side project and personal writing outlet for vocalist and guitarist Paul Murphy and guitarist Tim d’eon during the summer of 2001. Wintersleep began in the coastal fishing town of Yarmouth at the Western edge of Nova Scotia. “There’s a whole undercurrent scene going on in Yarmouth; it’s been going for ten years”, recalls bassist Jud Haynes (formerly of Newfoundland’s Bucket Truck). It’s just kind of a darker smarter music scene there.” In the fall of 2001 the duo began work in Halifax with drummer Loel Campbell. The three began performing live with the addition of Haynes on bass in April 2002. Referring to Yarmouth bands like Burnt Black and Kary (of which Murphy and d’Eon are a part of) Haynes adds “When I was in Newfoundland the bands that were coming out of Yarmouth were affecting us in a huge way, even though we never saw them live or knew any of those guys”. Since there are not typically a lot of venues that encourage original music in small town’s across Atlantic Canada, the act of home recording tends to fuel the creative spirits and provide musicians with an outlet. Creative underground scenes begin to flourish.
The twelve-track debut, “Wintersleep”, has modest beginnings. Paul recalls “We thought we would sell 300 copies.” Haynes confirms “It was just for friends and the local community”. Its personal and reflective qualities are complimented with beautifully sounding Martin acoustic guitars. Song titles such as “Orca”, “Home”, “Wind”, and “Snowstorm” are moody, somber, dark, and laid-back. Rave reviews of the album across the country and an ever-increasing fan base fuel energetic live shows. When asked why their fans like the music, Murphy responds “I think it comes across as honest, they like seeing a band that goes up there and puts a lot of heart into it.” With performances on CBC Television’s “Zed TV”, a web site for exported album sales (www.wintersleep.com), and a little help from their friends at Dependent Music, Wintersleep broke into Atlantic Canada and then abroad.
Wintersleep’s debut album was recorded at Redfish Audio in Lunenburg and released in April of 2003 as part of Dependent Music, a musical collective started by musician Brian Borcherdt in 1994. The label is rooted with acts Heavy Meadows (Halifax, NS), singer/songwriter Jill Barber, Contrived (featuring Campbell and D’eon), Kary (featuring D’eon and Murphy), and The Remains of Brian Borcherdt, to name a few. On June 24, 2003 the entire Dependent Music family tree was picked up for national distribution by Outside Music (Fugazi, King Cobb Steelie, Boards of Canada, etc) and released across Canada.
Wintersleep’s sound has matured. The initial beds tracks for the new album began in late 2003 at Sonic Temple, a down town Halifax studio, although most recording and mixing was done at Idea of the East. “It’s more confident than our last record” says Murphy. The recording process was relaxed and stretched out to allow for more reflection and listening time. Referring to equipment on the new album guitarist D’Eon informs “Most of the guitar was through a Hiwatt Head and Orange cabinet. We also used a Fender Rhodes electric piano, a microKorg synth, a vintage Moog Rogue, a glockenspiel, Yamaha Grand piano, and a simulated B3 organ.”
Today, producer and engineer Currie is recording the last track, suitably titled, “Fog”. As a producer, Currie is in high demand and his studio a revolving door of Halifax’s current and thriving music scene. Haynes comments “He has an ear for the finest details and most importantly, is a very straight up and helpful guy”.
For a year now, many of the new songs have been part of the Wintersleep live repitoire and are embraced by fans. Haynes enthusiastically marvels when speaking of an Irish fan at a Newfoundland show, “She gave me money right there and then and her address to buy two copies of the new record, that we haven’t even started recording yet!” As for the current album, nearing completion, keep an ear open for it. It is expected in the fall. And expect to hear a lot more about Wintersleep in the coming months. As for the touring plans, Haynes concludes, “We bought our own van and were gonna drive it into the ground!”
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