The Wilderness of Manitoba have a reputation as being some of the nicest guys (and gal) in the Toronto music scene, so it’s no surprise that when we asked our Canadian Music Week questions of band member Will Whitwham, he focused almost exclusively on name-checking other bands he thought everyone should check out at the festival.
Since Whitwham was too selfless to talk at length about his own band, we’re happy to give you the crib sheet: the “chamber folk” outfit, born out of late night sessions in local musician’s haven Delaware House, has spent the past year touring extensively on the strength of their debut LP When You Left the Fire. One of the few music acts to be featured a second time on influential video series Southern Souls, The Wilderness of Manitoba have two shows over CMW 2011—an 8:30 p.m. slot at Lee’s Palace tonight, and opening the third and final day of the Live Near Bellwoods afternoon sessions on Saturday.
Torontoist: Why should we see you at CMW?
Will Whitwham: Because we will be bringing the louder side of ourselves to Lee’s Palace Thursday, and the quieter side of ourselves to the Live Near Bellwoods series on Saturday. We’re excited to be playing two contrasting sets within the course of two days at CMW.
Another reason is because you won’t want to miss Miracle Fortress right after us at Lee’s on Thursday (Graham Van Pelt is so moving, with his “Brian Eno meets Brian Wilson during the recording of Pet Sounds-eque” nostalgia). And Aidan Knight right before us on Saturday! Aidan is from Victoria, B.C., and has been writing beautiful music on the island for years. I’m so happy to see him on this side of the country.
What’s your favourite Toronto venue, and why?
I would have to say Lee’s Palace, because of the range of different shows I’ve seen there—it’s never let me down. You can stand anywhere in that place, hear and feel the sound, and still see the stage equally. Some of my favourite touring bands usually stop in there as well (including Mark Kozelek on Tuesday, March 22).
What’s your favourite Toronto band, and why?
Mmmmm … this is a difficult question to answer, albeit a good one. Can I give you a few for different reasons?
Snowblink, because I’m a long-term fan of the everlasting beauty and awesome musicianship throughout their songs, live and on record. A must-see for anyone who hasn’t.
Brian Borcherdt, for his hauntingly pretty sound and well-crafted songwriting with a sprinkle of the ’90s. His music just moves the hell out of me.
Elaine Kelly and Dave Scanlon—the violinist from Irish band Halves—make up Carnival Moon. Elaine is a wonderful songwriter, harpist, and fiddle player who will be releasing her debut album in the coming months, which I am quite excited about. It’s been a while since I’ve heard something this magical and refreshing—you aren’t able to hear it yet online, but the good news is that you can get a preview of her songs Friday at the Central’s upstairs stage! Stefan Banjevic and myself have the pleasure of accompanying Carnival Moon; also playing are Foxes In Fiction—beautiful reverberated electronic nostalgia—who I am also excited about seeing. Don’t miss this!
What are you excited about seeing/doing and adamant about avoiding at CMW?
I’m adamant about seeing Miracle Fortress, and Aidan Knight, and Carnival Moon.
Also, Olenka and The Autumn Lovers Friday afternoon at the Live Near Bellwoods series, who’ll take you on a romantic and thoughtful storytelling journey, through parts of historic eastern Europe that you won’t want to leave, forgetting where you are for the duration of her set. Seeing her live is a must.
Oh, and The Barr Brothers [at] Czehoski Saturday night. They’re an extremely terrific band from Montreal. Incredible songwriting? Check. Lovely instrumentation? Check. They’ve got it all, in spades.
What are the best and worst things about these monster-sized music festivals?
The best thing is that you never feel like there’s a lack of live music to catch on any night of the week. Wherever you go, you’re bound to be surprised and fulfilled. The worst thing is that there are so many bands and so little time—you’re probably also missing something great happening just around the corner!
What’s happening for you/the band after CMW?
We’re playing a few shows with the wonderfully talented Basia Bulat, and also making touring plans in preparation for our debut album release of When You Left The Fire (with tinyOGRE) across the United States on May 10.