Optimistic prairie punks

If you’ve heard the Weakerthans, you’ll acknowledge that they fill a unique niche. Yeah, that phrase gets written about every band, and I’m sorry I started this article that way. In fact, forget that I wrote that–let’s start over.

If you haven’t heard the Weakerthans, you haven’t heard one of Canada’s best under-represented acts. From a firm emo/punk base, the band layers on pop, rock, folk, and country until you just can’t call them anything, which makes writing about them very difficult.

“We are four gentlemen, three of whom were born and raised on the prairies, and one of whom was born in New Jersey and raised on the prairies,” is how guitarist Stephen Carroll describes the band, offering absolutely no insight into the music they perform. To make matters worse, the band’s official website identifies the group as “Three quarters Icelandic,” which might make you think of Sigur Ros or the Sugarcubes.

Together since 1997, the band just finished recording its third album Reconstruction Site, due out later this spring.

“We celebrated our sixth anniversary on Feb. 23,” Carroll points out. “It went pretty much unnoticed. We were on a break from tracking [the album].”

It’s been three years since the release of Left and Leaving, the band’s “latest” album. Carroll offers a few excuses, but no apologies, for the drought.

“[Lyricist/vocalist John K. Samson] is legendary for focusing a lot of energy on making sure the lyrics are perfect before the song is done,” Carroll explains, adding that the band toured extensively for Left and Leaving.

“It slowed down last year. We were playing a show every three days for the first two years, but we only played 60 shows in 2002.”

Carroll promises the new record will include “sweet rich rock tones. It will be a nice companion record to the moods presented in the first two albums.”

There will be a slightly different tone to Reconstruction Site, however.

“Optimism pervades,” he confesses. “It may not be as angst-ridden as the first album, and not as depressed as the second.”

Carroll has a particular love for the new songs.

“There are lots of guitar solos,” he snickers.

When the Weakerthans drop into MacEwan Hall this weekend, it’ll be part of a special Alberta-only sneak preview tour.

“There will be some songs that we’ve only played live once,” Carroll says, “and probably some that have never been played at all.”

Given the chance to add anything else at the end of the interview, Carroll laughs.

“Does anyone ever take advantage of that?”

When told that yes, many artists take the opportunity to plug their latest release, he replies “It always makes me think of on wrestling, when the guy says “yeah, that guy’s dead meat… it’s kind of like a Don Cherry moment.”

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