Four years to the day since their last full-length studio release, the Weakerthans’ newest album, Reunion Tour, has been released to the swarms of scrabbling, glassy-eyed hipster zombies hungering for a new album. Despite the misleading title, and the length of time since their previous album’s release, Canada’s favourite indie rockers haven’t broken up, although the release of Reunion Tour was a surprise to almost everyone—including the band.
“I guess [the release of Reunion Tour] really came from happenstance, in a way,” explains guitarist Stephen Caroll. “We went into the studio to record a couple songs in the middle of the winter. When we came out, we came out with a full record.”
The album is both the most mature, and most experimental for the band. The imminently familiar Weakerthans’ folk-punk has been altered and re-worked with a more laid-back, melancholic slant to the music, a change from a tried-and-true musical style that comes just as much as a surprise as the new album itself.
“It comes from a lot of places, like our current interests and what kind of ideas we want to see represented on the record,” explains Caroll. “It also comes from the producer [Ian Blurton] and his influence on the sound. We all make our contributions, and everyone influences everyone else’s part. It’s also the studio too, the place where we recorded it.”
Recorded above a factory that produced cases on the fringes of Winnipeg, this new sound can be found in the experiences recording in the studio.
“It was an interesting experience to work overnight on the outskirts of Winnipeg, in this industrial complex surrounded by this field,” explains Caroll. “Even though the city extended around it, you felt like you were still off in the prairies somewhere. You’d be driving home at night across these snowy plains and there’d be this weird dim light. I think that’s all on the record.”
The Weakerthans are known for songs devoted to the common men and women, as well as the references to Winnipeg. Songs like “Civil Twilight,” a song that tells the sad tale of a bus driver remembering his lost love, and “Elegy for Gump Worsley,” a song dedicated to the memory of a lovable, hard-assed, wise-crackin’ hockey goalie that was idolized by Canadian youth. Recording in the factory, a working factory that would produce cases in the day, gave the band a unique opportunity to meet with people.
“We’d show up at four, and the place would be shutting down for the day,” says Caroll. “We were friends with the owner; when we came it’d be shutting down and then it’d be ‘rum o’clock.’ So these factory workers would be ending their day and they’d be having rum and cokes.”
After taking a hiatus from touring to record the new album, the Weakerthans have gone back to the road in full force in support of the new album. Unlike other bands, where they sacrifice their rich back catalogue to play an entire show devoted to their album, the Weakerthans are not afraid to delve into the depths of their critically acclaimed previous works. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not excited to support their new album.
“When I go to a show, I don’t like bands playing new songs,” laughs Caroll. “It’s exciting to play the [new] songs live; it’s challenging, because in our minds they’re pretty good songs. We really don’t know how people will react to them. We figure one-third of our set of new stuff is a good number.”
Although the tour has just started, the group hasn’t been afraid to test out its new material before the album was released, to somewhat amusing results.
“We played a show in Saskatchewan in August with songs that have never been played live before,” says Carroll. “They’re on the new record and they haven’t been released at all—and people were singing along. I thought to myself ‘oh, so busted.’”