Over the course of almost two decades now East Coast indie-rock group Wintersleep have carved a very fine body of work. Fortunately for fans the latest effort, In The Land Of (out March 29), finds the quintet once again crafting criminally timeless nuggets that work smoothly.
Asking singer and guitarist Paul Murphy about the process to get to the finish line proves it wasn’t simply entering the studio and waiting for that moment of inspiration.
“I guess the only vision we would have is trying to go after new kinds of sounds and new rhythms,” he says before a show early on in the band’s Canadian trek supporting In The Land Of. “Other than that there’s no real idea behind it. You write a few songs and then something starts taking shape after you get three or four songs into the record.”
Murphy says the album’s cornerstone in some respects was the catchy arrangement of “Beneficiary” despite its stark lyrical content.
“That was one which was a little bit different,” he says of the track. “It kind of changed. It was a different thing for us to do a song like that. That was one that took the record into a different direction I think.”
The band also goes into each album with enough material to have plenty of choices, not building from the ground up but paring down to the finished product. This was quite apparent given the material here, whether the slowly brimming but later bombastic opener “Surrender” or the toe-tapping ditty “Never Let You Go.”
“A lot of the time it’s just picking the songs that you’re going to work on. We just generally try to write as much as possible and then you get to whittle it down to the 10 or 12 that you’re going to track. I think that’s the hardest thing to do because songs can really take shape in the studio. It was fun, we really enjoyed ourselves in there. You put so much work into it and you get yourself prepared for it so you can enjoy yourself when you’re recording instead of working out arrangements, that kind of thing.”
Wintersleep’s knack for arrangements came full circle of sorts on “Free Pour,” a song originating as a demo the group hoped to build from. Yet by the end of working on it, they realized the demo was essentially the keeper.
“We ended up trying to put stuff on that and trying to make it sort of an electronic sounding song,” Murphy recalls. “And it just didn’t really work and then we tried a few different versions of it in the studio that didn’t work. Then we actually ended up going back to the original demo and just tracking the minimal drums and bass and parts and it brought it to life. That was after we were officially done tracking.
“It’s funny because you bring this idea that you’re recording something new, you want to have something fresh. You’ve been milling around for a year or two by that point and you’re trying to think of something fresh to liven it up. But all of the versions that we had tracked while we were recorded were like that was okay but we went back to the demo. There was something magical about that original few hours we spent working on the song and then we wanted to build something off of that.”
The group, who hits Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on April 13, says the tour’s infancy has been great with fans responding well to the new material. Murphy says roughly half of the new songs will be performed with subsequent legs seeing the band playing other tracks from In The Land Of.
And in an age when many of their peers have called it a day or branched out into other projects, Murphy says Wintersleep is still an entity thanks to a few simple but integral reasons.
“We’re all friends and we’re all doing it for the love of music, we love writing music together as well,” he says. “At the end of the day that’s the main thing that propels it and it’s always been that way. As long as it’s still exciting for everyone.”