THE WEAKERTHANS with BILLY BRAGG opening for LOWEST OF THE LOW at the Molson Amphitheatre (955 Lakeshore West), tonight (Thursday, August 2). $25.50-$32.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
don't expect a follow-up to theWeakerthans' stirring 2000 disc, Left And Leaving, any time soon.The Winnipeg pop/punk foursome have been on the road now in North America and Europe for almost a year straight, and vocalist/guitarist John K. Samson sounds flattened.
The exhaustion in his voice is clear when he runs down the band's last few commitments this summer before the Weakerthans take a break.
It's no surprise the rail-thin bookworm, whose time has also been gobbled up by his Arbeiter Ring book publishing collective, slept in an extra hour before picking up the phone.
"I'm tired of it," a cheery Samson admits from Arbeiter Ring's office. Weakerthans open for Lowest of the Low and Billy Bragg tonight at the Molson Amphitheatre and then headline at the Reverb August 9.
"Physically, we're wrecked, and I think the songs need a break. We always get a big rush out of playing, especially in places where we've never been before, but it's really hard to keep things interesting.
"It's also a matter of having lives, and right now these aren't really working. It's hard to focus on what actually matters, which may or may not be rock music."
Samson also admits that aside from playing side stages at massive European festivals and then spending the afternoon watching rock stars, the peripheral benefits of touring the planet have started to creep up on him.
Left And Leaving was the Weakerthans' second critically acclaimed album, a remarkable mix of raw energy and intelligent, almost poetic songwriting. It's also been very successful, especially for an independently released record, and this is starting to do Samson's head in.
"This whole process can distort people's views of themselves and other people," Samson whispers. "It's been different in the past little while because the record's been successful.
"I'm not comfortable with praise in the first place, but it can really be counterproductive at a certain point. You start to ask yourself, "How are we going to do anything else that anyone's going to like again if they like this so much?'
"We have been writing a lot, so we'll see what happens. Right now, everything we're doing is really quiet."
In the meantime, Samson's most excited about not being in rock music for a while. He babbles excitedly about a recent trip to visit his family roots in a tiny town in northern Iceland, and is getting set to trade in his guitar for a book bag in the fall.
"We're all going to do some different things for the winter, and my thing is going to university," Samson laughs. "I went for six months 10 years ago, so I'm going back to take a few politics courses.
"I'm looking forward to the life of a starving student. Not that school's easy or anything, but it'll be a nice break and a shift in focus. Right now I think everyone in the band needs that."