City of potential

The Weakerthans continually intrigued by their hometown

Weakerthans guitarist Stephen Carroll describes Winnipeg as a city of opportunity and potential. Brooks Reynolds

Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans may be busy playing sold-out venues all over Canada, in some cases having to add more shows to meet the high demand for tickets, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost touch with their hometown.

“We love our town. It’s what defines us, and intrigues us, and continues to give us hope,” guitarist Stephen Carroll said by phone last month, just one day before embarking on their current coast-to-coast tour that also includes fellow Canadian rockers Constantines on the bill.

“It’s a city of opportunity and potential. We have, more than any other city, the chance to change and shape it,” Carroll said.

“The way the bureaucracy is set up, you could be living next to your city councillor and it wouldn’t be a big deal. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto you don’t get that anymore.”

The band’s latest album, 2007’s Reunion Tour, is a wintry affair that takes off where the band’s previous release, the critically acclaimed and Juno-nominated effort Reconstruction Site, left off.

We love our town. It’s what defines us, and intrigues us, and continues to give us hope.

Stephen Carroll, The Weakerthans

Laden with cultural references to curling, Big Foot, potholes and a song about a Winnipeg bus driver whose route takes him by his ex’s house every other hour, the album was recorded mostly overnight during a few frosty weeks in March of 2007 in an old St. Boniface industrial park factory-turned-studio.

“We draw a lot from our community, crowd and our friends,” Carroll said of the band’s songwriting. “The writing process took a long time. We were touring a lot, and it’s hard to write when you’re touring. It took a while for us to get to the point where we could say ‘let’s look at going into the studio.’”

The subsequent video for their song Civil Twilight featured a single, uncut shot of the band playing in a Winnipeg Transit bus and took home a Western Canadian Music Award for best video of the year.

Teaming up with local charity Macdonald Youth Services, the Weakerthans will donate part of the proceeds and merchandise sales of their upcoming Winnipeg gigs later this month to help support underprivileged youth and their families.

“It’s really important for us to maintain a strong tie to the community. We believe strongly in the youth of our city.”

Along with giving back to the community, the band also hopes to give back to the environment by finding ways of cutting back the high environmental impacts of a cross-country tour, such as rewarding fans for carpooling to the show, taking public transit, or using human power instead.

“It’s high time the music industry started looking at how it operates, and the artists themselves should lead the charge in trying to reduce their environmental impact,” Carroll said.

“That being said, it’s really tough to travel efficiently. But if we push the boundaries and challenge ourselves we’ll maybe work towards finding a better way to travel.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 26 of The Uniter (April 2, 2009)

Related Reads