ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Winnipeg's Weakerthans wanna be
Martina likes to get hands-on
Body fails to float in life's wake
Outside the Box
Cope debuts on top
Porn o' Plenty
Winnipeg's Weakerthans wanna be your Valentine
By Matt Pearson
John K. Samson's world is a web of connections.
|His choice of record label reflects his personal
politics, which becomes quite clear after listening to the dense
poetry of his lyrics based on – or perhaps reflective of – a lifetime
spent living in the isolated chill of Winnipeg.
The record label in question – G7 Welcoming Committee – is home to a
wide variety of musicians who subscribe to a left-wing political
agenda, including the (International) Noise Conspiracy, Randy and
Propagandhi. It's also home to Samson's uncompromisingly talented
band, The Weakerthans.
Gazette File Photo
Formed in 1997, the band is celebrating their five-year anniversary
with a small tour that includes a Valentine's Day stop in London.
Valentine's Day is a bittersweet occasion for The Weakerthans to play a
show, considering they perform some of the most wrenching songs about
loneliness and the endless search for a connection with another human
As for the band's connection to its label, Samson credits most of it to a
commodity he says cannot be over-estimated in the music industry – trust.
"We like their structure and the way they work," he says. "We think they
do a good job."
G7, which also operates out of Winnipeg, attempts to marry the world of
left-wing political ideology with guitar-soaked Indie-rock. The label's
diverse bank of musicians share what Samson calls a "common politic" and
it's a politic he and his band members are clearly in accordance with.
"There can be a startling range of genres and styles and they can all
share something in common," he says. "It takes all different kinds of
aesthetics – there is no political aesthetic, no Marxist aesthetic or
anarchist aesthetic – those are tools for understanding the world and the
form that takes when those things are translated into creative works are
as varied as the world is."
One of Samson's tools for understanding and relating to the world around
him is his songwriting, which places a strong emphasis on storytelling.
"I read more than I listen and that certainly affects the lyrics and
structure of the songs," he explains. "With songwriting, every song is
different – you start with nothing and build something."
One such building block is the narrative, which is often told through an
intentionally ambiguous second-person.
"There's a lot of confusion of who the narrator is, which is, in most
cases, purposeful. I'm not really interested in writing love songs, I'm
especially not interested in writing 'you done me wrong' songs anymore.
You can pretty much look at any songwriter and see their early work as an
attempt to enlarge who they are mostly because they are not sure who they
are. That's very valid, but it's not something I want to do anymore, it's
not something that interests me," Samson admits.
"I'm more interested in the world around me than I am with my interior
For 28 years, the world around him has been Winnipeg, a city that has made
an indelible mark on his life.
"It's shaped who I am and the way I interpret the world. I think the land
itself has a lot to do with that – the way the city was formed,
architecturally and geographically," he says.
But the city has also shaped Samson's coming-of-age as an earnest musician
and storyteller. "It's quite an isolated place and there's generally a
small degree of potential for fame and glory here so people just do
things. Maybe it's easier to be a little more genuine in what you're
creating when you don't have a huge chance of screwing a major record deal
or something," he says.
"There's a different impetus and I think it makes for an interesting
output from this city."
The Weakerthans play Call the Office tomorrow night with special guests
Elevator. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.