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Wintersleep guitarist talks Folk on the Rocks

Loel Campbell, Chris Bell, Paul Murphy, Jon Samuel, and Tim D'eon of Wintersleep will perform as headliners at Folk on the Rocks this Sunday. Photo Courtesy of Chelsea Brimstin

Wintersleep’s Sunday evening Folk on the Rocks performance will be the band’s first in the North.

Fresh off the March release of their album, In the Land Of, the indie mainstays’ journey to Yellowknife is the northernmost stop on an exhaustive tour to promote the new album.

"All of us are super excited," guitarist Tim D'eon told Yellowknifer, saying the band plans to linger in the North for a few days and take a fishing trip.

“We’re sorry we didn’t make it up earlier,” he said.

Loel Campbell, Chris Bell, Paul Murphy, Jon Samuel, and Tim D'eon of Wintersleep will perform as headliners at Folk on the Rocks this Sunday.
photo courtesy of Chelsea Brimstin

In the Land Of, is a long meditation on the concept of place and land, whether it’s longing for their home province of Nova Scotia or frontman Paul Murphy reflecting on how Canadians have benefited from the mistreatment of Indigenous people in the track "Beneficiary."

Guitarist Tim D'eon said these themes were reflections of the band’s interest in "exploring our place, no matter where we are."

"A lot of the themes on this record all relate back to Nova Scotia," he said. "Even if we all don’t live there anymore."

A song like “Waves,” he said, is a tribute to life on the coast, and features D’eon’s experimentation with spacey guitar work to mimic the lapping tide.

“We’re all right next to the ocean. If you’re born there and you move away, the ocean calls you back,” he said. “It feels like home.”

The album can be a balancing act between place and personal drama as Murphy sings over the Pacific Ocean’s “floating garbage patch” that doubles as In the Land Of’s album cover.

This social and ecological consciousness is interwoven with the personal relationships that sustain the band's music.

While the band has changed over the course of nearly two decades, you can still hear “the way we sort of learned to play together,” he said.

For D’eon that experience lends itself to a calmer, more democratic songwriting process. Where each member once tried to play as much as possible, they’ll now swap instruments or back-off as needed.

“It’s probably more relaxed than ever,” he said

It shows: In the Land Of is a more mature showing from a band that had its first taste of wider success with their 2007 radio hit “Weighty Ghost” and similar attention for the 2016 protest song “Amerika.” The intervening years have allowed the members of Wintersleep to become more thoughtful musicians.

“We’re still really good friends,” he said.

Coming back from multiple tour dates, the members phone each other to meet up, he said.

“We’re lucky. It’s like our second family,” said D'eon, joking it may be their first, considering their touring schedule.

While the band’s songwriting and recording process calms, he said Wintersleep’s live show is “still pretty rock.”

He can tell early on if a particular show will be special, judging off the audience-band interactions, but it's ineffable, he said.

After almost two decades, D’eon can just tell.