Said The Whale have earned their place in the Canadian music pantheon. They’ve won a Juno Award, topped the alternative radio chart, and amassed a devoted base of fans who affectionately describe themselves as “SaidHeads” — all the while maintaining their resolute independent spirit. Already in 2021, the Vancouver band’s scorching pop-rock single “Honey Lungs” has cracked the Top 10 on the Canada Rock Chart.
All this has culminated in their most ambitious album yet, Dandelion, which fully realizes the band’s vision with towering hooks and sweeping orchestrations. The album came together during pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, when Said The Whale booked a string of short sessions with producer Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, Mounties) at his Tugboat Pl. Studios in New Westminster, BC.
“Dandelion is an optimistic title,” says the band’s Ben Worcester. “Dandelions are everywhere. Some people see them as nothing but a garden weed, but to many others they are a beautiful flower whose bloom marks the first sign of spring. Not to mention they are edible from root to flower, and have many medicinal properties. They grow whether or not you want them to, so why not focus on the positives?”
Like dandelion seeds spreading through a garden, Said The Whale let their creativity run wild, gradually writing songs through a series of happy accidents, spontaneous experiments and lush overdubbing. Some songs were carefully cultivated at home and then brought to life in the studio; others blossomed on the spot, with little forethought. There was no grand design other than: if it feels good, keep going.
Singer-guitarists Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester share the mic on soaring anthems that blend giddy pop hooks with open-hearted lyricism. The dual songwriters bring an empathetic perspective to today’s fraught political climate on “Honey Lungs,” and they wrap their arms around the world on the euphoric rallying cry of “The Ocean.” Keyboardist Jaycelyn Brown takes centre stage on the instrumental piano composition “February 15,” one of several songs featuring strings from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and bassist Lincoln Hotchen and drummer Spencer Schoening offer a rhythmic masterclass on the dizzying twists and turns of “Sweetheart.” The album doesn’t directly respond to the pandemic — although the vintage pop alchemy of “Everything She Touches Is Gold to Me” and the sweetly domestic “Dandelion” reflect a time when the hard-touring band were forced off the road and stayed within their family bubble.
Roaring guitar distortion, fragile toy piano, giant-sized synths and baroque flourishes — every moment blooms with bright, vivid sounds and subtle details thanks Steve Bays, who produced and mixed the album during all-night sessions while much of the world was shut down. “Steve is an incredibly detail-oriented producer,” says Tyler. “Sometimes we would work until four or five in the morning. Then sleep at his house and work the next day until late into the night. It was exhausting, but each song came to life in such an amazing way with so many layers.”
Dandelion will be out on October 22 through Tyler’s label, Everything Forever. Over a decade into their career, Said The Whale refuse to bask in success — they’re swinging for the fences and holding nothing back in their relentless pursuit of pop-rock perfection.
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