Artist Profile: Wilderness of Manitoba (part 1)

So, I've been living in this city for 10 years. I had job for a year where I delivered and assembled furniture all around the GTA, I pride myself on knowing my way around. But for some reason, when I was to meet the crew from Wilderness of Manitoba, I couldn't remember when Delaware St. was. I thought it was in Kensington Market... why? No idea. I walked, in the rain, through Kensington, finally made a couple phone calls and was informed that it's over by Ossington. I walked, there, and realized I didn't have the address. And no contact number. After a series of phone calls to friends, I finally found someone who could look up Delaware House (WoM's recording studio/venue/living quarters) online. I arrived half an hour late to find three of the members (Scott, Mellisa, and Stefan) surrounded by paper and CD's. I got my trusty H4 going and Mellisa took note of my Nancy Sinatra T-shirt

Mellisa doing her thing shot by Cody Walker

Mellisa- Oh my God that's an awesome T-shirt!

Oh, thanks!

m-That's totally from the Lee Hazlewood Period, I love that stuff that she did.

Yeah, me too!

m-And the videos for it are hilarious. You can see them on Youtube, like, Lee on a horse on a beach singing "Strawberries, cherries and an angles kisses..." It's the best! There was a really good tribute album done in 2003, or 2004.

A tribute to both of them?

m-It's a tribute to Lee Hazlewood. Lambchop is on it, and... that swedish guy... It also has in the liner notes, Lee listening to the artists do his songs, and his reactions.

Did he hate any of it?

m-Some if it, he was like "I don't know about this!". I think Colexico is on it to.

Scott- Those are brilliant, hey? (referring to my H4)

Oh yeah they're great

s- When Will and I... well when we were all out in September, Will and I where up at like 3 in the morning at this cottage. It was whisper quiet. We walked to the end of the dock, recorded with that thing. And after we were done we were like "fuck, we had mics. we could have XLR-ed in, and actually recorded. Cause we had mic sends..

Did you use any of that for the bird noises and stuff on the album?

Stefan- didn't Will take it out to High Park and record a bunch of the stuff? So we did use this, but not those sounds. The stuff we did at the cottage was after the album.

S- All of that stuff was captured, or Will took, from different places. He does sound design, for documentaries and films, so he has this whole catalogue of sounds that he just sort of keeps. I don't know if you heard the Provincial Parks album, but we have a subway on it, we've got an ice creme truck.

So, the band is relatively new, you started a year ago?

St- pretty much

S- yeah, we started writing songs in October. As we started going out and playing shows, we began picking people up. Our Myspace was registered in February. I don't know if that counts as day one of a child band. Seems like it got going at the end of Janurary. The show with Robert Hedge was the first at the Tranzac.

m-Then we had another show that was close to that one.

St- at Rancho.

m-and Stefan had just joined.

S- Stefan just hung out here!

St- We met at the Rock Lottery at the end of November. I just hung out here all Christmas because I was here on break. I was literally here everyday, we were recording and messing around.

m- And I was away and I felt so left out. And then when I came back they were like "We got all these songs!"

Aw! But it worked out in the end! So did it start with Will and you, Scott? from Provincial Parks?

S-Housemates as well. it's probably more significant. Will and I lived here with Pete from Provincial Parks. And our guitarist, he moved out, Stef moved in... Melissa never leaves!

M- ha

S- But we love you

M- I know you do. I like going home.

It's nice to get away for a while! When did you join?

M- I guess, December. They kind of made me jump in. I had a solo show, and had asked Scott and Will to play something with me so it wasn't just a girl with a guitar.

S- it was Helplessly Hoping.

M- Helplessly Hoping! And while we were rehearsing..

St- I feel like that song sort of started the band. I heard you guys play it and said "that was really good! Did you guys write that?" and you guys were like "Um... no".

Ha,some guy named Neil Young.

M- Then they came to my show... you guys had me sing on some of the Wilderness songs. You said, "you can be a guest on the Wilderness show!" So I plugged their band... and on stage they said "aren't you the newest member of the band Melissa?".

S- That was the first time the three of us played together.

Well, it's a great cover you guys do, when I saw you at Sneaky Dee's I thought it was a great cap on the night. I really enjoyed it.

M- and the Cello really adds to it.

You guys picked up, Sean as the drummer, he was the last guy

Scott shot by Cody Walker

S-I think, Will and I started writing the tunes, when we started getting asked to play live, we didn't know how we were going to recreate everything. As we started getting more shows we started picking people up, and the snow ball gets bigger.

You begin filling it out

S- yeah to figure out what comes next.

And you all have other projects as well. Provincial Parks, and Stefan you play with Brooke as well

ST-Yeah, I play with Brooke Manning, that's pretty recent. I used to play with Key Witness and Carnival Moon.

And Mellisa, you do the solo thing?

M- I still do the solo thing once in a while.

Is this sort of the main focus right now? Or are guys still trying to juggle?

St- this is the main focus

M- definitely the main focus. Which is weird, because it didn't start out that way, it was a side thing.

S- I find that bands go through phases. If you invest yourself in one thing all the time, it becomes... it seems like you love it so much you start to kill it. Breaks are great. We found ourselves on a break with Provincial Parks, and this started gaining steam. Key Witness was kind of petering off. and this sort of fit into our existing lives. Main focus, maybe, but only because...

It happened more naturally.

S- yeah.

Well it seems like you're picking up steam. It seems like you're getting a lot of attention. Do you guys notice it? that people are really digging on it?

St- It's been overwhelmingly positive. Which is strange.

M- but amazing

St- you email 3 bloggers and 3 of them write you back the next day saying "I love it and I"m putting it up on my blog" what?! How is this possible at all!

S- I think we've been really fortunate and lucky in a lot of things. We played Over the Top and Pitter Patter, the RAA show at the Horseshoe, Wavelength... for such a young band we've gotten a lot of things! And I think we're just trying to live up to that kind of caliber of band that opens for RAA! It's been a crash coarse in music, it's been a quick ride.

St- I also think it's been all the experience we've had.

S- yeah, we're a young band, but we're not young musicians.

St- Nobody wants to wait. We just know, I'm doing a project now, and I want to do it right. We made, before the RAA show, we got our CD mastered 4 days before that. So in those 4 days, we got the artwork together, made a screen print, put them together, he burned...

S-don't say that on tape!

ha, he professionally ordered!

St- he burned enough CD's just for that show. Like 70 or something. Wow, I'd never seen a band that full of people who have their shit together. I've been in so many bands that are like, "Yeah, we'll get it done" and nothing ever happens and it's like "Oh, we just played North By North East and we didn't have any CD's!" Which actually happened.

Oh man! That must of sucked!

St-Great opportunity and we have nothing to show for it! It's nice to be in a band where that doesn't happen.

That makes a difference! That's good that you found a group of people who are committed.

S- that's the thing, we're all moving at the same speed. we're all on the same page, generally more often or not. Decisions are easy.

I see, even tonight, you guys are here and you've got pages against the wall with like... weird things all over them..

M- it's all the things we have to do. Making CD's

St- Making CD's, festivals.

S- using the scraps to make lists.

It's pretty intense. And how are the CD's doing for sales? Even just getting them out there, are you finding, you're moving a lot right now?

S- yes. Which is a blessing and a curse. We're struggling to keep up.

M- Someone is like, I want 10 of your CD's! It's like... sure... um.. quickly go home and make 10 up.

S- But do we have enough tape!? Yeah, I'd love to do that, but we need to screen more! I don't think we anticipated this.

Sc- We sell a lot of merch at gigs. It's unbelievable.

I haven't actually seen the Case yet. I just have the digital copy, but I noticed today just how much I miss having the package. I just found out the last version of Evening is by Will's mother. It really adds a whole new level to the album, when I hear it over again, after knowing that. How'd you guys approach doing the cover of that song?

M- I think Will always wanted to do songs that his mother had written. But it came about when Stefan was here over the holidays. He rearranged it into a different key.

S- We were sponges then too. We were jamming together for the first time, the three of us. Will's mom gave him a bunch of recordings that she did in the late 60's for his 25th birthday. He always wanted to do these songs, but he didn't know how. and last October she passed away. So come December, we're all in a real creative head space, off work for Holidays. We were all in the basement experimenting. and that's when the song came out.

St- I took it home and recorded a version with just me and a banjo with reverb on it.

S- then he brought it back, and Elise from Whale Tooth was here, because [to Melissa] you where gone. and the first recordings we have of the song are with Elise, it took like an evening. Because Will's mom wrote the song, you can hear the passion, it makes the song still relevant. It's nice to be able to honor his mom in that way. She was a musician, she supported Will in doing it, supported us in doing it. She'd come over and make bread and muffins for us. It was nice.

Was there a bunch of music that she'd recorded? Have you guys heard the other songs?

S-She's our top friend on Myspace!

Will and Stefan shot by Cody Walker

Check in tomorrow for Part 2!


Joel said...

you're a hell of an interviewer, mr. clarke. I love reading these!

historyjen said...


edit: Melissa

Shawn William Clarke said...

Thanks Guys!