Known for quirky, atypical songs and frontman Mat Klachefsky’s markedly shrill voice, Winnipeg’s Boats recently celebrated the release of their third album, A Fairway Full of Miners. For those unfamiliar with the band, this latest recording steps ever-so-slightly closer to the edge of lyrical solemnity, and in between spouts of whimsical imagery, alludes to themes of loneliness, aging, and mortality.
Having embarked on eight previous North American tours, the band is currently on the road again, with a planned stop in Toronto for Canadian Music Week. Before departing, Quip spoke briefly with Boats’ Klachefsky to discuss their recent release and creative process.
Laura Eley: For anyone who hasn’t been to Winnipeg, what’s it like there?
Mat Klachefsky: In the winter it’s extremely cold and in the summer it’s extremely hot. It’s always unpleasant. A lot of things are very old, but they’re getting rid of those. I think we kind of made a deal with the devil to get the Jets back, because everything else cool in the city is being deflated.
LE: Does the city have a healthy music scene?
MK: Yeah, I mean as good as anywhere else for the size that we have. We definitely have a lot of good bands coming up and a lot of talented people. We have a really good support system in Manitoba for bands because there’s lots of government funding that’s available.
LE: I wondered if the album cover was in Morse code. What do the symbols represent?
MK: I wish it was Morse code. It was originally inspired by getting spam on your Blackberry from Asia. When you get the Blackberry spam from Asia it just appears as boxes. It’ll just say “box, box, box, box, Incredible Deals, box, box, box, box”. But then also it kind of started looking like the artwork at the old Winnipeg airport that was just torn down. It’s kind of an inside thing with Winnipeggers that every Winnipegger would know.
LE: You have a very distinct vocal style. How did you find it?
MK: I always thought it was normal. I never really thought I was being distinct until everyone told me how much they hated it. Some people hate it. I don’t care, that’s just the way I do it.
LE: How long did it take you to record your latest album?
MK: Very long. I can’t remember when we started exactly, but there was snow on the ground. I want to say in March. It’s a lot of back and forth to kind of get everything ready with the mixing, and recording the vocals took months. I think it was finished finished around September.
LE: Your lyrics are unconventional and a lot of interesting analogies are made. How do you create them?
MK: There’s a lot of free form writing that goes on, and sort of sifting through that. And then building songs around certain one-liners that I write or topics. Usually they all kind of grow out of one phrase or sentence.
LE: When song writing, is it a collaborative process?
MK: I write all the songs. I don’t really know how to make music with other people. I don’t know how to jam, I don’t know how to collaborate on songs, I’ve just never done it. I’d like to someday, but I’m really slow at learning parts and figuring parts out. And I don’t think anyone would have the patience for playing in a real band with me. I have to hear one part on a loop for about an hour before deciding on what I’m going to play.
LE: If you had the opportunity to record an album anywhere in the world, where would it be?
MK: At a waterpark. Somewhere where we could hang out with a Jacuzzi. We’d do a song in the Jacuzzi or going down a slide.
LE: Is there anywhere on tour you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
MK: Edmonton because they have waterslides. We always love anywhere that’s near an ocean because we’re from Winnipeg and we don’t get to see oceans. Anywhere warm is great, especially in the winter. We always try to go to New York just because it’s on TV.
LE: Are there any bands you find inspiring or think people should know about?
MK: Fergus and Geronimo are really great. Bands that aren’t performing as much anymore, I would say Barr. And then Casiotone for the Painfully Alone is one of my favourites.