Tyler Bancroft recalls recruiting a random bass player from Long & McQuade, the bliss of complete ignorance and that “magical moment full of camaraderie, collaboration and celebration”
Posted May 12, 2022
In Vancouver in 2007, a thriving new pop rock scene was just beginning to take shape. Mother Mother released their first future classic Touching upwhile Dan Mangan signed to File Under: Music for the label release of his 2005 debut, Postcards & Reverie. Hey Ocean! had released her debut album the previous year, as had Lotus Child (which a few years later would morph into Zolas), while Hannah Georgas was a few years away from releasing her debut EP. It was a tight-knit community that the following year found a champion in new radio station 100.5 The Peak, with playlists that seamlessly blended mainstream alternative rock and local indie suitable for the radio.
At the heart of this scene was Said the Whale. Initially a duo formed by high school friends Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester, they released an album of acoustic house demos under the name WordsOverMusic before renaming themselves Said the Whale for another collection of house demos, 2006. Let’s make some sound. By 2007, the two prolific singer-songwriters had gathered enough momentum to put together a makeshift backing band and enter the studio with local producer Tom Dobranski (the keyboardist of Lotus Child, later the Zolas).
They came out with Take Abalonia on May 15, 2007 – an eight-song collection that’s long for an EP but a little too short to be an actual album. It displays some of the quirks of the duo’s home recordings: “Better for You” is a curious patchwork of canned cello samples that coalesce into an acoustic pop serenade, while “Fish and Stars II” is a bubbly ditty that is played in just 60 minutes. seconds (and that includes the battery false start). But mainly, Take Abalonia lays the foundation for the upbeat sound the band continued to explore throughout their career: Worcester bring their rich, earthy vocals to “The Banks of the English Bay”, setting a precedent for many later Said the Whale songs on Vancouver, while Bancroft dabbles in Shins-esque indie rock on “Live Off Lamb” and screaming emo on “Plans for the Future.”
In 2008, this EP was repackaged as part of the official debut album How it sounds / Taking Abalonia. More importantly, it helped kick Vancouver’s indie rock scene into high gear – and soon the rest of Canada started to take notice.
To celebrate 15 years of Take Abalonia, he exclaims! caught up with Tyler Bancroft to discuss hiring a random bassist at Long & McQuade, the bliss of complete ignorance and that “magical moment full of camaraderie, collaboration and celebration” on the Vancouver stage.
When recording Take Abalonia, Said the Whale’s lineup was just you and Ben with no backing band. How did you come up with these full band arrangements for the album?
Initially we thought we’d just need to hire a drummer, so Tom Dobrzanski called Cary Pratt [a.k.a. Prairie Cat], which nailed the entire EP in one day. For some reason Ben and I thought we could handle the bass duties ourselves, but it immediately became apparent that we were both terrible bass players. So on a routine trip to Long & McQuade, we wandered into the bass department and struck up a conversation with a guy named Aidan Rantoul who agreed to come into the studio after his shift and follow the bass on each song for $50 and a case of beer. All piano and keyboards were played by Tom, who set the bar extremely high for us in terms of finding a full time player. Looking back, Tom’s playing was actually an incredibly formative part of our overall sound as a band and shaped how we wrote and recorded music into the future.
Before that, you made albums of personal recordings. How was the transition to the studio?
Our transition from home recording to studio recording was very easy. We’d both spent some time in “real” studios before, but overall it was a happy, “we’re actually doing this!” type of energy. We were easy to please, didn’t know what something was “supposed” to look like, and had no expectations. I’m sure Tom was secretly smiling at our blissful ignorance the whole time.
Listening now Take Abaloniawhat stands out?
For me, it’s simplicity. There’s not much more to these recordings than the songs themselves, which is probably just a product of our inexperience at the time and not really knowing what was possible in the studio. – in terms of the degree of experimentation with sounds and recording. techniques. I think that’s what gives this record its charm. It’s such an obvious “first album” when you listen to it alongside everything we’ve released. You can hear the inexperience on this album – and I mean it in a good way. Any band’s inexperienced debut album is something that can never be replicated, and as a music fan, I love revisiting those albums from my favorite bands. I hope our fans can experience this record with a similar fondness.
This was your first official Said the Whale release. Is there anything you wish you had done differently, or is there anything about it that you wish you had carried over to later versions?
Honestly no! I love how this release went and I love where it sits in our history as a band. I wouldn’t change anything. In terms of things to postpone, I think what made us most happy during this record cycle was the complete lack of expectations. And it is also a life lesson. The less you expect – from your career, from your friends, from your loved ones, from anyone – the happier you will be.
Around 2007, many of the now famous Vancouver bands were just getting started, such as Hey Ocean!, Mother Mother, the Zolas, Hannah Georgas and Dan Mangan. What do you remember of the Vancouver scene at that time?
It was a magical moment full of camaraderie, collaboration, celebration, sharing space and friendship between a distraught but ambitious group of artists who all had common goals and always did their best to uplift each other. . It’s impossible for me to say if this was a really special moment in the Vancouver music scene or if it was just me – like, “These artists are all in my a class of graduates, and therefore no other class of graduates exists. “When I look around Vancouver right now, I see a lot of newcomers acting the same way, so I’m actually very optimistic that there will always be an exciting new class of artists looking for a [another] and work to create a scene in this city, despite the obvious hardships everyone faces. And, as an “old” here, I think there’s a certain responsibility for us to do our best to help out these young artists, which I think about all the time.
What’s next for Said the Whale?
We have summer festivals planned, maybe fall tours, and then honestly, I don’t know! Possibly a little more writing, recording?! We make music, we play it live, we are grateful to those who listen and engage. Rinse and repeat.