Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Weakerthans

I've had the pleasure of interviewing and writing about the Weakerthans, one of my favourite bands, several times. This one was for Monday Magazine.

Talking poetry with the publisher
Discovering hope with the Weakerthans

If there was a gun to my head and someone was demanding what my favorite band is (and why do I imagine that will happen someday?), I would have to say The Weakerthans. Over the course of three albums, the group has touched me and many others in a pretty profound way for a lil’ rock band from Winnipeg. And although the music itself is wonderful, it’s the lyrics of singer/guitarist John K. Samson that help so many people feel so strongly about the band.
Samson, who has had his poetry published and helps run Arbeiter Ring, a book publishing company, penned his most uplifting lyrics so far for the band’s last album, 2003’s Reconstruction Site. “I was kind of conscious of it as I was writing it,” says Samson. “The theme of the record is, like the title suggests, trying to build a life worth living with the tools at hand. There are some dark moments on the record, but I think the overall message is one of trying to act, trying to be active and to move forward in a way.”
Speaking of moving forward, after a debut album that was lyrically despondent (1997’s Fallow – sample lyric being “with so much left to seek/the lease runs out next week”), a follow-up in 2000’s Left & Leaving that had a bit of hope in Samson’s words but was still tentative at best (“you said ‘true meaning would be dying with you’/and although I wanted to/I did not smile”) and the aforementioned inspiration of Reconstruction Site (“I’m so glad that you exist,” Samson sings through a smile), what direction is his writing taking for the next album?
“I’m not entirely sure,” he ponders. “I think the idea of usefulness and action are the themes I’m thinking about, and a kind of more directly politicized idea. I mean, these are very politicized times, so I’m trying to figure out a way to write about that. It’s a challenge.”
For Samson, his lyrics are a way to synthesize his thoughts and connect with people – something he insists everyone does, whether they realize it or not. “It’s not just people who are seen as strictly creative that do that. I think people do it in their everyday lives and their conversations and their interactions with other humans, and their interests and hobbies and desires. This just happens to be the way that I do it.”
-Greg Pratt

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