WINTERSLEEP with BRIAN BORCHERDT and DOG DAY at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Thursday (November 23). $12. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Wintersleep are weirdos. They'll gladly undertake the most arduous of rock's duties, yet shun its most basic formalities.
Touring, for instance. The quartet have crossed this country four times in a year. That mileage'd make most T.O. bands shudder, but it's non-debatable for these hardworking Haligonians. They love the road; they've clocked the kilometres to prove it.
But banal band requirements like photo shoots? Nah. They've been using the same publicity stills for two years now. No wonder the mere sight of them makes bassist Jud Haynes sick.
"The one where we're in the clothing store I can't even glance at now," says Haynes. "We can't stand doing shoots, but the photos we've been using I know we've really milked. The new ones (including the one pictured) weren't even planned."
The other small detail of rock band code for which Wintersleep shows disdain is album titles. They've released two albums so far (both on Dependent), one in 2003 and the other last year. There's a Weezer-like difference between the blue album (2003) and the red album (2005), or, Led Zeppelin-style, you could call them I and II. Retailers surely must hate it, and new label Labwork will likely have something to say about the naming of their next record, due out in the new year.
"We hate album titles," says Haynes. "We've thrown around titles for the next one, so who knows? Everything just sounds so silly."
Perhaps this indifference to biz conventions stems from the fact that Wintersleep weren't ever supposed to be a real band in the first place. Singer Paul Murphy started the group somewhat accidentally. He left his heavier noise band to make a stripped-down, folky solo project, intending to have a few backup players helping out.
When Haynes, guitarist Tim D'Eon and drummer Loel Campbell entered the picture - all of whom played in louder bands at the time - Murphy's original vision shifted, evidently to his liking. This explains why album I, written almost entirely by Murphy, is softer, oscillating between brittle and bombast, while its sequel, written collectively, is more aggressive.
Haynes is reticent about where album III falls on this spectrum. But chances are good that volume trends will continue their upward trajectory, while brood levels may very well dip.
"It's hard to predict, but I'd say, and I hope the guys don't kill me for this, it's going to be more upbeat and fast," he ventures. "Not quite as dark. That was the thing about the second record. We might've taken that a little far.
"We don't want to make an album of singles; we're not interested in that. We have so many new songs already, it's more about finding the ones that match to make something cohesive."
So why go out on yet another Canuck tour now? Can't they just chill out in the studio for a while, grow their beards and drink some discount beer like normal indie rock slackers?
"Touring does wear on you, but no one in the group looks on it negatively," insists Haynes. "I used to dislike touring when I was in other bands. But in this group, everybody does what needs to be done. And even though (the band) didn't start out serious, we've come to like doing this."