When Said the Whale's Ben Worcester introduced the song "BC Orienteering" on Bowen, he joked that he had created the song about the island. Was he really kidding? The song cautions listeners to take a map while hiking (while the area isn't specified, it surely could be Mount Gardner) because cell reception is not always reliable (any local knows that the reception in some areas is sporadic at best), and that you might even meet a bear. Sounds familiar?
This "little" Vancouver band is very well loved not only on Bowen, but all over BC and now even beyond, their music reaching places all over Canada and also internationally. Last month, they played a concert to benefit the sister school of IPS. Despite the unseasonable rain the show had a huge turn out.
The secret to the band's success is not only the impressive organizational skills of the people behind the events, but can also be credited to the lovable and good-natured spirit of the group who decided to do the show after IPS student Kai Tocher approached Worcester at his day job with a letter.
Speaking of day jobs, Said the Whale band member Tyler Bancroft says in an interview that if anyone in the music industry wants to quit his or her day job and focus on music, making it in America is crucial (as demonstrated by Canadian artists such as Feist, Arcade Fire and Tokio Police Club).
Winning America, a documentary that follows Said the Whale on their first American tour, was created by two directors who each have a special Bowen connection. Both Brent Hodge and Thomas Buchan have family on Bowen and visit often.
Hodge says that Bowen is the place he loves to visit to rejuvenate when he's stressed - and the man has plenty to be stressed about. In addition to the debut of his first film, he also works at CBC Radio 3 and has many side projects. Hodge says that as he becomes more connected to the music scene and the communities, it inspires him to become active.
This is part of the reason why he thinks Said the Whale was such a good choice as a subject for the film. He has nothing but praise, emphasizing that they "picked the right band" and how good they are with people.
Hodge tells a story that happened in Texas. Band members were handing out tapes when a woman came up to Spencer Schoening (the drummer) and sprayed mustard all over him. Hodge laughs as he admits that he would have reacted a lot differently than Spencer who managed to stay calm.
Hodge also talks about how well the band embodies Vancouver and the West Coast. Even their lyrics are specific to Vancouver - they refer to Howe Sound and English Bay. In his film, he highlights this by using shots from their home town - including a lot of footage of Bowen Island (he says to pay particular attention to the shot of the sunset which is used quite frequently and shows the views from his parents' home on Windjammer).
The specific Vancouver references, Said the Whale's messages and sound were not lost in translation even when they played at the largest American live music festival.
The film premieres July 23 on CBC at 7 p.m.
Special to the Undercurrent