JUNO Award-winning Vancouver band Said The Whale have kept busy over the past year, despite not being able to tour as usual. Their new single “Honey Lungs” is a pop rock banger, doubling as an empathetic anthem for today’s fraught political climate. We caught up with vocalist / guitarist Tyler Bancroft to chat about the song, what the pandemic has been like as a parent, and the band’s superpowers.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Honey Lungs”.
Said The Whale: Honey Lungs is a song about empathy and kindness. It’s been a really hard year for everyone. From COVID quarantine, to the death of George Floyd which re-ignited the BLM movement, followed by the consequent mainstream rise of white supremacy and the storming of the US capitol…A lot of hard conversations have been taking place throughout it all. When people are emotionally invested in something it can be easy to default to defensiveness or vitriol especially when these conversations are taking place online. This song is about approaching all interactions with kindness, grace, humility and empathy. Trying to understand other people, their intentions, and how we can find common ground are important first steps to repairing what feels like an extremely divided planet.
This song was born from the SCRAPPIEST demo of all time. Ben came up with this bizarre 30 second clip of a song with nearly inaudible vocals, janky boom-bap beats, and aggressive guitar licks. His lyric was “I always wanted to be Tom Waits!”. And while that lyric was abandoned, the tone of the demo was SO powerful that it gave birth to an entirely new song. We (Ben and me/Tyler) wrote all the lyrics with our acoustic guitars by the backyard fire at Steve Bays’ studio in New Westminster. We don’t do that often – we tend to write alone, in solitude. Which is great. And necessary. And it’s our process. But it’s also nice to open up and collaborate once in a while. And I’m really pleased with the results here. While writing, politics were on the mind. We had literally just pulled out of a festival as a show of solidarity to a group who didn’t believe the city we were contracted to play for had been doing enough to fight racism. Personally, I was engaging in a lot of intense conversations with friends about race and racism. So the lyrics reflect all of that. And the intensity of the song feels appropriate.
I’d like to speak briefly on the bridge, which you may have noticed we’ve been focusing on….we were sitting there by the fire, wracking our brains trying to come up with the perfect bridge for this incredibly emotional, and equally raucous song. It was really hard. So, as I often do in hard writing times, I consulted the notes app. Deep in the archives I discovered one note, which I remember writing while watching my son gleefully toddling through the world as I was going through a particularly hard day: “You can find the joy in every agonizing moment of existence on this planet”. It was the perfect place to land for a song that we knew, in the end, was about hope. Honestly, the best and worst things about kids: they feel every feeling, for better or for worse. It’s really incredible to watch. (And incredibly difficult to diffuse, at times). If I was a superhero, I would want my superpower to be the ability to identify the precise moment when a person was about lose their innate sense of wonder towards the world, and then swoop in and try to stop it. Captain Wonder, at your service.
FTS: This past year must have been especially different for you, as you’re usually touring all over. What are some positives and negatives about having to stay in one place, and not playing shows?
Said The Whale: From the perspective of a parent of two young children, I will say that this year has been extremely hard in terms of lost productivity. Especially at the start of the pandemic, I feel like I was inundated with people talking about all the new hobbies they had taken up, while my partner and I ( having lost all our childcare options) were just trapped at home drowning in squirming kids with cabin fever. That being said, I really believe that we will ALL look back at this time with a degree of fondness. For me it’s that I was able to spend more time than I ever have with my kids. For some it will be that new hobby they learned. For others it might be just SURVIVING, or learning how to live with themselves in a way they never previously thought possible. I think everyone will emerge from this pandemic a changed person in some way.
FTS: How did the band get started 14 years ago?
Said The Whale: Said The Whale started as a musical collaboration between Ben and I after high school. We used to play open mics together at Cafe Montmartre on Main Street. After a couple years of home recording, we decided to take a real swing by recording a studio album in 2007. The band was born from necessity when we booked our first tour in 2007, and we haven’t looked back since.
FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Said The Whale: Growing up for me it was all Elvis Presley with a healthy dose of 60’s pop. A lot of 60s mixtapes with The Ronnettes, The Supremes, Beach Boys, etc. Currently it’s a pretty diverse mix…I discovered SAULT this year, and was blown away. HAIM’s latest is probably my most played of last year. And The Fruit Bats are a band Ben and I can always agree on.
FTS: If each member of Said The Whale had a superpower, what would it be?
Said The Whale: I’m sticking with my answer above – if I was a superhero, I would want my superpower to be the ability to identify the precise moment when a person was about lose their innate sense of wonder towards the world, and then swoop in and try to stop it. Captain Wonder, they’d call me. Ben would like the ability to freeze time. A classic answer from a guy with a 1 year old, I’d say. Freeze time and get so much done! Freeze time on all the cutest moments! Freeze time and get a full night’s sleep! Jayce tells me she’d like the ability to cause plants to grow instantly. She tells me her reasons for this are to solve climate change and end world hunger, and while I don’t doubt her good intentions, I have a sneaking suspicion there’s an element of “I want my apartment to look fucking dope” entering into the equation.
Check out the new single from Said The Whale, “Honey Lungs”!