Windomâ€™s golden wave
Sometimes an IPod is considered a band member
By Dean Lisk | The Daily News
With a rotating lineup of nearly a dozen people playing on his newest CD, Stephan MacLeod has to rely on some fancy musical footwork when he plays live.
â€œBasically, we use an IPod that has drum machine beats cut together with a few keyboard samples,â€ said MacLeod, who is the founding member of Windom Earle. â€œWe just try to build music on top of that.â€
Known for its energetic live shows, the Halifax-based band has just released its newest album, Gold Wave. It is a collection of 10 songs â€” nearly all instrumental â€” that mix synthetic and natural beats.
With everything from piano and horns to drum-machines, the bandâ€™s sound sometimes comes across like insane Nintendo music, other times like a fun combination of new wave, emo, surf and synth-orchestral pop.
â€œI wanted to reflect what happens live more than the older material I did,â€ said MacLeod, who explains the album is a selection of previously released songs, and material that has become of staple of the bandâ€™s shows.
â€œI am trying to get sounds that are unique and new to me, and making things sound different then they are suppose to sound â€” things you donâ€™t usually hear together.â€
MacLeod calls his process of working the kitchen-sink method; throwing all kinds of music and instrument into the mix and stirring it into something cohesive.
â€œSome of my songs sound like movie soundtracks,â€ he said. â€œI had one guy comment that he puts on Get On Into It while he is driving, and he feels like he is being chased by cops so he starts speeding.â€
Windom Earle started in 1996, when MacLeod was listening to bands like The Chemical Brothers and Beck, and experimenting on his home computer.
â€œI was sampling things, and cutting and pasting songs together,â€ MacLeod said. â€œAnd then, as I started gradually learning to play instruments, and sample myself instead of blatantly stealing other peopleâ€™s songs.â€
With him playing guitar, MacLeod formed the bandâ€™s first lineup in 1998 while at the University of Prince Edward Island, and brought the band name to Halifax after his graduation in 2002.
Membership has evolved ever since, with each new member bringing a new sound to the band. Halifax, he said, has a great pool of talent to pull from.
â€œBecause it is a home recording project first and foremost, you had the ability to record dozen of different tracks â€” keyboard, guitars and stuff â€” but trying to translate that live always has a different result.â€
â€œI am limited to what I know how to play, so whenever someone else comes onboard, I learn more. They always leave an influence on the future of my songwriting.â€
The live sound translated this time because MacLeod was enrolled in the recording-arts program at the Nova Scotia Community College, which meant he had access to a studio where he could lay tracks.
â€œThe main thing with recording was making this album as loud and big as we could â€” sort of like a party album.â€
Party is the key word.
Windom Earleâ€™s live show is known for videos of air guitarists and aerobics montages playing on a screen behind the band, and karaoke performances of Kelly Clarksonâ€™s Since U Been Gone and A-Haâ€™s Take On Me.
â€œWith the karaoke, everyone becomes part of the show all of a sudden,â€ he said.
â€œEspecially when its a small town where people are wondering â€˜Who are these guys without a drummer and with an IPod?â€™
â€œEven people you wouldnâ€™t expect to find it funny are dancing with you and stuff.â€
- THE FACTS
- Windom Earle is named after a character on Twin Peaks.
- Gold Wave is the bandâ€™s fourth album, and has gotten rave reviews across Canada. Copies are available at Sam The Record Man and CD Plus.
- Playing on Gold Wave are Stephan MacLeod (guitar/beats), Greg Boone (bass), Matt Packman (keyboards), Amanda Bambrick (bells), and eight guest musicians.
- The band has been asked to play the South by Southwest festival in Austin this March.