WHITEHORSE with LINDY VOPNFJÖRD at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Friday (May 8), 8 pm. $19.50-$59.50. masseyhall.com.
Many touring artists face hitting the road with a mix of anticipation and dread. For an established act like Whitehorse, the husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, there’s the comfort of knowing an ever-growing audience for their twang-rock noir is out there – but there’s also the reality of being away from home for long stretches at a time.
Their solution? Bring home with you – namely, their nine-month-old son, Jimmy, and Luke’s 19-year-old daughter, Chloe, who’s looking after the little one as Whitehorse make their way across North America.
“Touring’s not always fun,” admits Doucet, a road-seasoned vet who’s been wielding his remarkable guitar skills across Canada since his teens (including with Vancouver 90s group Veal and in Sarah McLachlan’s band).
He’s calling from a van heading to their gig in Milwaukee. “There are rough patches, and people get cranky. That’s usually because you’re leaving someone behind. But I’m lucky that everyone I really care about is with me. It’s pretty idyllic.”
A good thing, given that Whitehorse are touring all spring and summer behind their fine sophomore album, Leave No Bridge Unburned (Six Shooter). Working with an outside producer, Gus van Go, for the first time, the duo distilled their guitar-and-voice approach to its essence, focusing on their knack for narrative-based songcraft. It’s a combination that’s found eager ears, from CBC Radio listeners to country fans in Nashville.
“In the States we’re playing in smaller bars, so it’s very rock ‘n’ roll, and in Canada we’re playing the bigger theatres – the kind of music we make, we can handle both,” muses Doucet. “It’s kind of what we do.”
Those who’ve seen Whitehorse play live are often astonished by the duo’s seemingly virtuosic abilities – eschewing a full band, the two swap and loop instruments to recreate the rich, layered sound of their records.
“Beyond playing guitars and singing, we’re not very good at the other things,” Doucet chuckles when commended on their technique. “But we’ve been working on this for two years now, so we’re getting better. The thing about doing it this way is that we never get bored. It’s kind of the most intimate two people can be with their clothes on.”
As they make their way to Massey Hall for a return engagement following their triumphant sold-out appearance in 2013, they’ve been reflecting on their rise as a duo after years of slogging it out as solo artists.
“These things aren’t reliable – it’s the music industry, after all,” Doucet points out. “But for now, knowing that we get to play a place like Massey Hall when we come home is kind of a dream come true.”
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