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Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy- Interview

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Wintersleep's Paul Murphy

Wintersleep’s Paul Murphy

The foggy, rocky eastern shores of Canada are all too fitting a “Welcome” banner. It’s an ever-raging conflict, ‘twixt the unrelenting swell of salt water and the jagged, harsh rock that stands sentry to the cozy towns that dot the peninsular edges of our country. Best the savagery of the two unforgiving and embattled elements, and you’ll find the warmth and inviting familiarity of such locales as Halifax, St. John, Antigonish.

The overdrawn-well that is sea-to-coast clichés has been exhausted. Serving perhaps as better reminders of the wholly stern but serene beauty of the east’s natural settings, and to shame the inadequacy of the aforementioned clichés, is Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep. It’s an easy thing to give character and breath to a band by likening them to sweeping geographical similarities, but in certain cases, a grasping and worn thing.

Escaping the stickiness and mortality of definitions and labels much beyond “indie”, the band has clipped along for a decade, churning out five full-length albums, including 2012’s Hello Hum. It’s a remarkable feather in the cap of members Paul Murphy, Mike Bigelow, Loel Campbell, Tim D’eon, and Jon Samuel that they seem to wed such seemingly incompatible styles and moods with a mathematical proficiency. Just listen to “In Came the Flood” from last year’s release, and this becomes apparent.

“Growing up we were always into stuff that was weird time signatures and strange arrangements,” said Murphy. “[But] in general, we’re all really big folk music fans, so I guess that element definitely seeps into a lot of our records. That record in particular there’s definitely a coexistence of those two things.”

“When I was in high school, our bands sounded a lot like Rush,” he added with a laugh.

“It’s really just trial and error… When we’re mixing, we’ll strip things back a little bit and make something that feels musical. There are things that happen that we don’t even necessarily mean to even do.”

The mix isn’t one that’s easily come by. Traditional folk music is anything but progressive. A steady hand on the soundboard can come in handy for such tasks, and Wintersleep has found one in Scottish producer Tony Doogan, who has worked with the band since 2007’s Welcome to the Night Sky.

“We’ve done the last three with him,” explained Murphy. “There’s one main thing with Tony with us, is that he really tries to get a really well-structured thing happening. He’s really in on getting really good performances at whatever we want to do with the song, so I think there’s something really great about it, but not too invasive.”

“He works with what’s already there. He’s not trying to like change your song into something that feels different. He really zones in on how to make what you’re trying to do clearer or a little more impactful.”

Surviving the test of time is a struggle in itself. The sink-or-swim mentality really comes to life, but you’ve got to do more than just tread water. Wintersleep has been sure not to remain stationary.

“There is something in the back of our minds when we go onto making a record that’s like, ‘Okay, we can’t do the same thing, we have to switch it up.’ But at the same time, I think it’s also just trying to make something that feels good to us at the moment, and writing songs that feel good in 2013.”

Regardless of the progression, there’s an unmistakable constant through the years: “the spark”, as Murphy puts it. There’s no glossing over the revered lightbulb atop the head that finds a home over each talented songwriter; or in this case, a collection of them. The varied collection of vowels, syllables, words, or lines are humble beginnings for the group’s songwriting.

“Some of the songs, it is that basic where you’re just basically making a lyric out of the sounds that you feel should be there,” said Murphy.

The rest of 2013 will play out much like the past decade has; by ear, and in the moment. But between potential gigs and other appearances, there is one sure fact in store for the fall. Wintersleep will return to the studio, to create and illuminate once again.

Be sure to catch Wintersleep in Ottawa on June 14 at Maverick’s, along with Data Romance.


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