Loel Campbell reflects on the making of In The Land Of
You know you’re doing something right as a band when you’ve been around for almost two decades. Nova Scotia-based Wintersleep have been refining their sound since the release of their debut self-titled album in 2003, and haven’t slowed down since.
Ahead of In The Land Of, their seventh full-length album release, The Ontarion caught up with Loel Campbell, the drummer of Wintersleep, for an interview.
Karen K. Tran: With your upcoming album, In The Land Of, did you and the rest of the band set out to write an album with a political message?
Loel Campbell: No, we didn’t set out to do that, but I guess when we put it together, we noticed that there were a couple of songs that referenced timely issues, but it wasn’t a politically-fueled or conscious thing.
KT: The album title has been described as an incomplete thought where you can fill in the blank with different places, words, and sounds. Were you and the band thinking of a certain place during the writing of this album?
LC: I think we were thinking of where we were at. The title directly references a lyric in the last song on the record, “Free Pour.” We thought it was a good umbrella for all the songs to live under because a lot of them have geographical images. We thought of it as a map for all the songs to occupy.
KT: The newest single, “Beneficiary,” is described as a personal reckoning of an individual who doesn’t want to continue to be part of the problem, regarding the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Do you have any advice to listeners or would you be able to share some of the ways you or the rest of the band have been addressing this problem?
LC: The song is a frustrated thought, I suppose. The main thing is that we all do have the power within us to make small changes.
I grew up in a town in Nova Scotia called Stellarton which has been in a lot of national media lately because of the pulp mill there, Northern Pulp. It’s been running for about 50 years and when it began, the company tricked the local Indigenous community into signing over a body of water on their land and tricked them into having it become the dumping grounds for all the effluent from the mill. It’s killed their fishing economy and has been harming them for years. I just try to talk about it and try to support them. This has been happening in my own backyard my whole life and you just know that it’s wrong.
There are so many simple things we can realize and try to mend — just try to do the right thing.
KT: Could you tell me about how you all decided on the album art with the plastic garbage floating in the ocean?
LC: We were looking through the lyrics when the album was all finished and a vivid image that really popped out was from the song “Never Let You Go.” It talks about what will be left after we all leave the Earth and it says “the garbage of 100,000 years floating in the great Pacific,” which is a reference to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We thought that image tied into the record well because it’s basically the by-product of our existence.
KT: What’s a piece of advice you would give to the 2003 version of yourself when Wintersleep was just starting out?
LC: I would probably tell myself to learn to play to a metronome, to sing more, to keep writing music. I guess I would just tell myself to keep working hard.
I also know a lot more about music theory and recording techniques so that would’ve been good to know, but these things just come with time, I guess.
KT: What’s your favourite song off the new album and why?
LC: I really like a song called “Waves.” It sounds really different for us and every time I hear it, it feels like a summer breeze and I feel like I’m in transit to somewhere beautiful, and it’s very comforting.
In The Land Of by Wintersleep released on March 29, 2019 via Dine Alone Records. Wintersleep will tour across Canada from March 20 to May 3.
Feature photo by Chelsea Brimstin/Dine Alone Records