The province of Manitoba is perhaps most commonly associated with The Red River Rebellion, The Guess Who, and Teemu Selannes rookie season with the Jets, but The Waking Eyes are trying to change that.
The Waking Eyes are some of Winnipegs hardest rocking sons. Formed in 2001, the band began writing and recording original material and eventually released their first album, Combing the Clouds, in the same year. In 2004, they released Video Sound and followed it with a rigorous tour schedule. And now, after a four-year wait, they have finally released a new album of original material.
A lot has changed since 2001, and their new album Holding on to Whatever it is is testament to that fact. The album fuses garage rock, synthesizer melodies, and tightly packed vocal harmonies which creates an atmospheric rock n roll album that becomes instantly memorable. We made a lot of mature decisions, explains Matt Peters, the bands vocalist and guitar-player. It feels like we took the next step in our musical career.
The maturity is audible on Holding on to Whatever it is, and the album is most certainly a new benchmark of the bands skills as musicians and artists.
We knew that we really wanted to do something different from the last record, and we came into the record wanting to take the best songs we could and forget discretion. If we had a bizarre idea, we went with it. It is this process of free-spirited creativity that can be heard on tracks like All Empires Fall, the albums most up-tempo song, and Boyz and Girlz, an orgy of synth-sounds that makes that Casio keyboard your parents got you for your eighth birthday sound like a toy. The diversity of sounds is nice, but a bit scattered in terms of some kind of singular definable sound — but hey, who wants predictability? Tracks like Digital Glue and the albums namesake are powerful examples of the bands maturity and their ability to meld thoughtful lyrics and complex arrangements.
This free-spirit extends to the bands live performances as well. Their show at the Horseshoe Tavern on February 6 was a raucous occasion that had the crowd moving, singing, and inevitably spilling their drinks on themselves in the process. On tour with The Arkells, The Waking Eyes played material from their new album which featured a bevy of
instruments that were visible on stage. The bands musicianship was impressive, and showcased a rotation of instruments, including a trumpet and squealing harmonica that almost deafened the crowd. Despite some minor P.A. system glitches in the first couple of songs of their set, the show went on to prove that they are indeed just as good live as they are on their most recent album.
The album and tour are not the bands only ventures — its a busy time for The Waking Eyes these days. Not only are they constantly writing, recording, and touring, but they all have various side projects that keep them busy in their spare time. The alternative ventures range from Peters side project Royal Canoe to a night of covering Weezers Blue Album in its entirety. This is our life. If youre not continually working on music and writing then you can loose your sanity at times. The side projects are just another outlet to stay creative and active, says Peters.
Despite hailing from Winnipeg, a Canadian city not exactly known for its rock n roll lifestyle, the band doesnt feel the pressure of moving to a bustling city centre like Toronto or Montreal like so many other musical acts. They are quite content to still be living and working out west. However, the band is not unaware of the benefits major cities present for up-and-coming bands. We tried to keep everything on our record done in house but youve got to go where the people are.
The Waking Eyes are not simply interested in having the next number one album in the country, but in continuing to make music and playing it for as many people as possible in Canada and abroad.
This band has been around for a long time, and there have been a lot of different transformations, and we try to move forward without losing sight of who we are, explains Peters. Its this authenticity that blends with their music making them both refreshing and entertaining to listen to.
The Waking Eyes are continuing their tour with The Arkells until March 1, and then will head back to Toronto for Canadian Music Week. Do yourself a favour: buy a ticket to their show and dispel the notion that everything from Winnipeg is frigid.