Wintersleep back in Halifax

Wintersleep takes the back roads home for their big show at the Cunard Centre.

Headliners Wintersleep are happy to be top of the bill---but they’re modest about it

There are many things that can bring down spirits while on tour, even for a successful rock band like Wintersleep.

Homesickness, cancelled gigs and inner band tensions all are par for the course while the band promotes their new record, Welcome to the Night Sky.

Despite an overwhelmingly positive reception while on the road out west, nothing had prepared the Nova Scotia quintet for exploding wildlife.

"We were in a tour bus for out west, so we have a driver," explains drummer Loel Campbell. "We basically play the show at night, pack up all of our stuff into the bus and eventually go to bed and then, at some point, the bus starts moving. The driver's awake and driving us."

Wintersleep had finished gigs in Victoria and Vancouver with Wooden Stars. Both bands were on their way to a gig in Grand Prairie, Alberta. It's not exactly the kind of urban hub you would expect a band like Wintersleep to play, but the abundance of workers in the area from Atlantic Canada is slowly turning northern Albertan towns into prime touring ground for east coast bands.

"That's a really windy road from Kamloops to Grand Prairie," Campbell says. "We were driving for about two hours, I guess, and I woke up for some reason. All of a sudden I was getting pushed forward in my bunk, like we were getting pushed down really quickly.

"When you're laying in your bunk it's really claustrophobic, it's like a coffin. It's funny to visualize, 12 people laying down in this bus. So everybody's getting pushed forward and then all of a sudden it's like, "WHACK!' But we didn't stop.

"I guess about five minutes later we finally pulled over and we'd hit a deer. It totally ruined the front end of the bus. The deer basically exploded, which is terrible, I guess. Because the front end got knocked out, all the deer's fur, it just poured into the front area, the driver's area. So he had to pull over. He was really worried about ticks on the deer and he thought there were going to be ticks on the bus."

Despite the late night/early morning crisis, the band still had to play the gig the next night in a town unlike any they'd ever played. "So then we finally get to Grand Prairie. It's so weird, there's still like smoking in bars there...we've never been there. It's like an oil-rigging town and there is no culture there whatsoever. I kind of felt like I was in some parallel universe."

It seems that even the best bands have off-nights, including Wintersleep.

"That show wasn't so hot," Campbell concedes. "It was a rough day."

Wintersleep have trekked their way back to Nova Scotia, without any further run-ins with suicidal mammals. They'll be bringing their skull-crushing riffs and lush grooves home when they play the Cunard Centre Saturday night. "I think we're doing a good job with the new record. I guess we made it difficult for ourselves because there's a lot of sonic journeys on the record, but we've been doing a really good job of representing it live."

Campbell says that the band hasn't let the production values of their show get in the way of the music, partially because the comparatively smaller venues they've played in other cities don't really allow for an intense light show.

"We made some props for the tour. I don't know if it increases the production value, but we find it comforting."

It's the band's second time playing the hanger-like venue. They were Sam Roberts' opener when he played in Halifax last year. Campbell says that venue organizers have been experimenting with different PA systems since Wintersleep last played there, in an attempt to increase the sonic quality of the room.

While they're thrilled to be the headliners this time, it's safe to say their stature in the Halifax music scene hasn't gone to their heads.

"Big place, very big," says Campbell. "I hope that people come. It'll be kind of weird if it's just a big empty warehouse. I guess somebody thinks it's possible."

Wintersleep w/Basia Boulet, Saturday November 24 at the Cunard Centre, 961 Marginal, 9pm, $17.50adv/$22.50, 494-3820.

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