Woolworm can simultaneously be considered local veteran indie-rockers and up-and-coming phenomenon. With a wide range of influences from Sonic Youth, Metallica, The Chameleons and The Jayhawks, and their journey has taken them from their earlier years on Hockey Dad Records to their latest achievement of signing to Mint Records. Woolworm is comprised of vocalist Giles Roy, Alex Pomeroy on guitar, Heather Black on bass and Nick Tolliday on drums. All of their hard work comes to a head with their latest LP Deserve to Die, released on August 25. The record is equally abrasive as it is lush, with themes of sensationalism, plenty of fuzz and reverb, and hooks that linger in the back of your brain for days, or likely longer. While I didn’t get a chance to talk to the whole band, I met with Roy on the idiosyncratic but practical condition that we conduct our interview while walking his dog, Ludo (a Mexican mutt, part labrador retriever, probably a bit pitbull, and maybe a hint of chihuahua), around Trout Lake. I excitedly obliged.
Aidan Danaher: Congratulations on signing with Mint Records! How has it been being on a big record label?
Giles Roy: It’s been a lot of action, all the time. In the early years of the band, all we did was write music and focus on that. Now, somebody does everything for us, at least all of the stuff I don’t like doing. I mean, I’ve always like doing the music part, but I never tried to get any publicity or that stuff. But it’s been nonstop, since a few months ago.
[…] The main thing is that more people are going to hear us now. It’s nice to know that people might be listening. It has always felt like a couple of people were always listening. Obviously, that’s why you make a band, right?
AD: So what’s it been like, musically?
GR: Well, we recorded the album last year, and we didn’t expect anything out of it. It had been almost three years for it to come to fruition, so it was almost like a last attempt to see what would happen when we sent it to Mint [Records].
[Ludo, hyper and full of post-pup / pre-adult excitement, runs in circles around us as we’re walking.]
GR: Do you mind if we sit over there? Just that area is better for meeting other dogs.
AD: Yeah, of course! Do you have any concerns that come with getting more attention and popularity being on a larger label?
GR: I’m not too concerned. In terms of whether or not it’s cool to be on a label, I’m way past that. Obviously there are some bands that I love, like Weed for example, who are totally D.I.Y. and one of the best bands in the world, as far as I can tell. And there’s lots of bands like that… “cool bands.” I like “cool bands” as much as the next person, but I no longer care about being a “cool band.” I’m just being myself. All of us are. And I’ve always wanted to be on a label. I’ve always been in a band for the sake of the music, but there’s this whole side of the music industry that I don’t want to think about or deal with. To have somebody else steer that particular boat… it’s really nice, to be honest! I’m actually enjoying much more than I thought I would.
AD: Do you think you’ll get to the point, eventually, where you’ll be able to be full-time musicians?
GR: It has become easier to imagine, to be honest, [especially] in the last few months. That will always be what I’ve wanted: to quit all my other jobs and lock myself in the studio, that’s the dream to be able to afford that. We’ve always worried about money, everything always costs money for bands. any people prey on bands, and that’s what I’d like to get away from. I definitely don’t feel preyed upon with Mint.
AD: Have you been preyed upon in the past?
GR: No, I’ve always just avoided it, thankfully. We’ve had offers in the past, but I’ve had this idea in my head of how it ought to be. We’ve always said no. But I’ve always wanted to be on a label, and Mint has always been there. […] It’s a very Canadian label. I’m no nationalist, but unfortunately we are stuck in Canada. We are not allowed into the United States.
AD: Even to tour?
GR: Even to tour. There’s some legal issues with one of our band members, which I can’t really explain. But I have toured the States before. […] If you go to California, you could take a week [to complete the tour]. In Canada, you have to take two or three weeks minimum. That’s time off work, money is an issue. Also, a three-week tour across a barren landscape is an entirely different vibe than a quick little jaunt down to paradise, which is what California is to me.
AD: One of the things I feel about being a Canadian band, especially in Vancouver, is that a lot of bands can’t go down to the United States, legally anyways. It costs way too much just for a performing permit, and you can’t easily go much further east than maybe Calgary or Kelowna.
GR: And people end up here, it is a final destination for musicians across Western Canada. Some of my best friends are from Edmonton and Calgary. Heather is from Kelowna.
I think of us as a Vancouver band. There’s something about this city and the way our band is. It’s sort of a mix of everything.
AD: Your new album gives that impression.
GR: At any given time, we’re ripping off four or five different songs; rarely is it a whole band. I like trying to do everything at once and seeing what happens.
Even though we’re ripping off so many people, we’re not into throwback music, where a band will come out saying they sound exactly like The Cure. We’re trying to avoid that. We want it to come from all different places at once.
AD: It reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote, “Talent borrows, genius steals.”
GR: That’s very flattering… it’s too flattering. Another thing about that “everything at once” approach is trying to reach as many ears as possible — to include as many people in our listenership as possible. I know this is weird, but I try not to exclude anybody. With lyrics, for example, I want everybody to be able to relate. Obviously it’s coming from me, Giles’ emotions and his heart, but I try not to use gendered terms or reference specific situations in songs. I want it to be more like broad, cathartic advice.
AD: You have said you would rather be in the studio rather than touring…
GR: Yeah, but that’s just me, personally. And the other three members, I think, would want to tour. I’m sure they’ll humour me and spend as much time being there as time will allow, but I think I’m going to get dragged out on the road a fair amount.
AD: So if you’re going to tour and be limited to Canada’s long cross-country commute, that could put a lot of stress on a band.
GR: My greatest fear with this band is that we’re going to write a bunch of music while we’re playing together, but then what if we break up before we’re sick of playing those songs? In general, every band is a family and every family stays together. I’m not particularly worried at the moment, but if we did break up, we’re still musicians and we’d still be family, and I’d still be playing music with those three people, maybe in a different capacity. And I know for certain I’m going to be writing songs until I die.
[…] A big theme amongst our little family right now is living in the now. I sound like a hippy, but it’s like a wave that has washed over us recently: living in the present.
AD: At this point, having just released a new album on a new label, Woolworm has no reason to be stuck in the past.
GR: It took a while, I guess, but we definitely feel like the luckiest band around. We’re very grateful, for everything. We’re mostly grateful for the audience.
[To Ludo, who has a bunch of sticks in his mouth]
What are you eating? Don’t eat that!
AD: Anything you would want to write into this article personally, if you had the chance?
GR: I want to say that there’s always help for you, whoever you are, in the form of other people. You exist, they exist. If you’ve got people that are there for you, you can get through anything. And if you don’t have people who are there for you, they are.