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Whale Calling

Vancouver’s Said the Whale answers the Olympic call


The Olympics are coming and not even a $478 million in debt is going to stop it. So, to celebrate the impending 2010 Games, the folks at VANOC have arranged a 50-day cultural festival. Yes, the 2009 Cultural Olympiad is upon us.

With over 400 events scheduled from February 1 to March 21 (85 per cent of which are Canadian) this enormous arts expo promises to showcase a whole bunch of super-talented Canucks. Among the ranks of this year’s Cultural Olympians is a young Vancouver band by the name of Said the Whale. On March 6, the upbeat indie five-piece will play the Biltmore Cabaret along with Montreal-based Karkwa and Lucie Idlout from Nunavut.

Before diving into the studio to begin recording the band’s sophomore album, 23-year-old Tyler Bancroft (one of Said the Whale’s two singer/guitarists) shared what it’s like being a small fish in an Olympic-sized pond.

“It’s an honour to be chosen,” Bancroft said. “There are so many cool bands we’d love to share a stage with.”

Along with Said the Whale, other Canadian musicians slated to appear as part of the Olympiad include Joel Plaskett, Chad Vangaalen, Hawksley Workman, Tegan and Sara, Broken Social Scene, Shad, the Sadies, Cadence Weapon and Thunderheist.

“We’re definitely going to do our best to go to those shows,” Bancroft added. “We’re all big Hawksley fans.”

The Cultural Olympiad isn’t just a concert series, though. It also features a bizarre mix of multicultural performances and exhibits, from 10-foot ice sculptures and Japanese puppet shows to bhangra- Celtic dance mashups.

Indeed, the Olympiad runs the gamut of artistic expression, blurring the lines between genres and traditions. Other events include improvised street performances by French-Canadian burlesque troupe Toxique Trottoir, and a toddler-friendly stage production of Robert Munsch stories.

With opening acts harkening from both la belle province and the cold hard north, Said the Whale’s show is no exception to the Olympiad’s eclectic flavour. The diversity of the acts performing also promises to bring an equally diverse audience. Bancroft said he’s pumped about the opportunity to play for some new ears.

“We all have completely different styles of music, so there’s a bit of cross pollination of fans,” he said. “It’s keeping the bill interesting, for sure.” But a diverse set is nothing new for Said the Whale. “We’ve actually played with Karkwa before,” Bancroft explained. “And a band like us with a band like Karkwa is a perfect picture of how they’re trying to run the festival.”

While the early Olympiad events begin to unfold, Bancroft and his band continue to plug away at their new album, set for release in the fall. For the new record, Said the Whale is collaborating with producers Tom Dobrzanski and Howard Redekopp (who has also worked with the likes of Mother Mother and the New Pornographers) to hone their unique brand of easy going West Coast grooves.

When March 6 finally rolls around, Bancroft says his band will be wrapping up their studio sessions. “The majority of that show is going to be material from our new record,” he said. “Some of that stuff we’ll be playing live for the first time.” But Bancroft shows no signs of nervousness. “By then we should be playing those songs with our eyes closed,” he said. “We’re really excited for people to head them.”

Said the Whale performs with Karkwa and Lucie Idlout @ Biltmore Cabaret, March 6th, 2009. To check out the extensive Cultural Olympiad lineup, visit Vancouver2010.com/CulturalOlympiad.

Published March 2009.

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