Said The Whale with Cartoon Spirits and Megan Johns

October 22, 2017 - 9:00pm

On Sunday, October 22, the Community Center for the Performing Arts and University of Oregon Campus Radio 88.1 FM KWVA proudly welcome Said The Whale to the WOW Hall along with Cartoon Spirits and Megan Johns. 

Long before Vancouver’s Said The Whale became a JUNO Award-winning, radio chart-topping indie rock band, it was an exploratory songwriting experiment led by high school friends Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester.  Now, a decade since their 2007 formation, they have taken the project back to its freeform roots while simultaneously venturing forward into uncharted art-pop territory.

As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is the group’s fifth album, and it was recorded amidst a period of turnover. Following the success of 2013’s hawaiii, which spawned the Canadian rock/alternative #1 hit “I Love You”, bassist Nathan Shaw and longtime drummer Spencer Schoening both left the lineup.  Now operating as a trio — with frontmen Tyler and Ben and keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown — the group briefly considered making separate solo records before ultimately deciding to enter the studio with no preconceptions and no concrete plan.

“It’s a return to how Tyler and I used to make music, which is just experimenting with anything and everything,” Ben remembers.  “We started out using Casio keyboards and drumbeats on our computers, and then we turned into a rock band.  This is a return to being free to make anything.”

Recording took place in various Vancouver studios, with We Are The City’s Cayne McKenzie serving as producer and helping to guide the record’s organic synth textures and unpredictable structures.  Arrangements were chopped up until they became unrecognizable from their original form, scratch vocals were soaked in effects and used in the final mixes, and assorted song fragments were gutted and stitched together.  The sessions were briefly interrupted by the birth of Tyler’s son, and Jaycelyn got married and had to record some of her parts while on honeymoon in Southeast Asia.

And yet, regardless of the piecemeal recording process, the result is the most focused album of Said The Whale’s career to date.  Thick bass grooves and shimmering electronic tones unify the album and permeate the space once reserved for guitar strums.

“This is the most cohesive record we’ve ever made, between my songs and Ben’s songs,” Tyler says. “Musically, there was more collaboration than ever before.”

Previous Said The Whale records highlighted the contrast between Tyler’s eclectic rock influences and Ben’s salt-of-the-earth folksiness.  Here, their styles become one: Ben-sung lead single “Step into the Darkness” rides a giddy drum loop towards its towering pop chorus, while Tyler’s “Confidence” sets soul-searching lyrics about the harsh realities of adulthood against a sublime backdrop of dance beats and deconstructed synth stabs.  “Emily Rose” is an aching tribute to a friend who passed away in a car crash, and “Heaven” is a bittersweet eulogy propelled by swaggering blasts of electronic bass.

Despite the album’s many adventurous sonic forays, it remains true to the spirit of Said The Whale’s classic work.  At its core, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is a singer-songwriter record, guided by introspective lyrics and alchemical group harmonies from Ben, Tyler and Jaycelyn.

“This is our most personal, earnest record for sure,” Tyler says. “Even the upbeat songs are lamenting and sad.”

After so much change and uncertainty in recent years, Said The Whale has emerged as a unified force.  While some listeners are bound to see the overhauled sound as a reinvention, it’s really just the latest step forward.  They’ve evolved, but the DNA is the same, and the group’s musical partnership is more fruitful than ever.

 

THE CARTOON SPIRITS

 

Cartoon Spirits are determined to bring power pop back to the Pacific Northwest.  Gray skies and drizzle can only be battled with hooks, fuzzy guitars and raspy harmonies.  The Portland band has just released its debut recording, Crustacean EP. 

Bandleader Michael Faherty is an R&B singer in rock clothing.  He’s also a prolific songwriter whose song “Bridges” was in the 2014 documentary Riot on the Dance Floor (featured on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart).  He’s performed in supporting acts nationally for Goo Goo Dolls, Buzzcocks, The Posies, Ween and many more.

Bassist Loredana Corallo is a native Australian who moved to the U.S. in 2010 to join the Americana band The Rosannas as stand-up bass player and singer.  She switched to electric bass to join Cartoon Spirits and pursue her first love of rock ‘n’ roll.

Jeff Davis is from the bash-them-hard, make-them-pay school of drums.  He’s performed as a member of the Santa Cruz cowpunk band Big Medicine Head, opening for The Tubes on their 30th Anniversary tour. 

 

MEGAN JOHNS

American experimental folk-rock singer-songwriter, Megan Johns, originates from a small urban oasis -- surrounded by endless fields of Illinois corn and soy.  At age 16, she recorded her first album, which was written secretly in early adolescence.  Comparisons to Fiona Apple and Neko Case were common, with one reviewer describing the record as, "Alternative folk rock with unlikely flashes of Mazzy Star."   soon began receiving press and collaborating with artists such as Mountain Goats bassist Peter Hughes, Zoot Suit Riot engineer Billy Barnett, as well as accomplished string and horn players and emcees.

Johns has played hundreds of shows in the last decade, including internationally.  Her latest full-length solo CD, Hey, Lonely, recorded by Adam Schmitt, encapsulates a solid 10 years honing both her guitar skills and inventive songcraft -- showcasing emotional themes and unique vocal melodies -- all underpinned by heavy downpicking of metal-like rhythms. Comparisons swing more to Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos and Cat Power.

Megan Johns is currently based in the Pacific Northwest. Her mission is to share and instill love, healing, understanding, positivity, epiphany and the value of creativity via music and imagery. She is recording a new project with friends, James Treichler and Shannon Swords, and performs solo, with a full backing band, and alternately as MoonWish.

 

Door Time: 
October 22, 2017 - 8:00pm
Cost: 
$12 Advance, $15 Day of Show