by Melanie Macpherson
One of the things I love most about indie music is the often impossible task of genre labeling. When a band lets a creative vision lead, you never know what direction things will go. New sounds erupt and change the sonic landscape forever. With a sound that defies categorization, Whale and the Wolf is a fantastic example of this genre-defying anarchy in action.
I really only discovered this band a couple of years ago, and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Is it rock? Pop? 80’s New Wave? Alternative? 90's Grunge? Funk? Hair Metal? Psychedelic Space Opera? No, no and no? Yet elements of all of these exist within the indescribable sounds of Whale and the Wolf.
While not up to my normal photography standards, these pics are the best I've got from three concerts. I can't wait until the next show so I can stockpile some good ones.
I recently had the pleasure of getting on a Zoom call with Ryan Maier, Joel Jeschke and Lucas Holt of Whale and the Wolf and we discussed the idea of genres and how they describe themselves.
Ryan: Obviously… indie, alternative, but there are so many subgenres within them and most of them are made up. Ours have always been made up. When we first started we considered ourselves erotic rock, just to turn a head, you know what I mean? It was very wet, sultry, steamy, but mixed with alt rock. But since our first EP we’ve kind of evolved, and our most recent thing we’ve been going with is hard pop. We’re a heavier band that plays melodic laden songs that have very pop centric elements to them…. I don’t know what we are.
Joel: We’ve been leaning into grunge tinged pop music. We were noticing a lot of relation to the 90’s grunge scene in the new music, so somewhere between 90’s grunge and everything else in between?
Lucas: I’m glad you did bring that up, because since the beginning of this band we’ve kind of made an effort not to stick to one specific type of genre, not venture away from songs that don’t fit into a category that everyone wants us to play. I’m glad you can’t put a thumb on what we are, because that’s kind of what we’re trying to do, just write authentic and genuine music.
Ryan: We don’t want to be bored by what we’re playing, and we don’t want to be stuck in the rut of ‘this is our sound’ and if we start writing something fun and it's a song we feel good about we don’t want to stop dead in our tracks and ask ‘does this really fit the mold of what we’re supposed to be?’
Lucas: You can really lose a lot of creativity if you’re just following a specific formula. We know what a Whale and the Wolf song should sound like. To put that into words? We still don’t really know, but we know how to put it into music.
Whale and the Wolf referred to themselves as hard pop, but I'm not sure that's quite either. As a drink, hard pop brings to mind something like vodka and 7, but that's a little uninspired to represent these guys. With a knife-sharp edge, Whale and the Wolf couldn't be anything so tame and responsible as vodka, it should probably be the king of bad decisions, tequila. And 7-Up is pretty syrupy sweet, and these guys need a sharper edge than that, maybe something like lemonade or lime juice. Hmmm.... its almost starting to sound like a margarita. Sweet, salty, sour and ready for trouble margaritas, are getting closer but its still missing a certain sexy heat.... we'd have to add some spice, maybe a hot pepper or something. That's it! From now on Whale and the Wolf should be known, not as hard pop, but as Jalapeno Margaritas. Do you think we can get it to catch on?
And so, with the impossibility of describing what Whale and the Wolf is in any way but with music, you will just have to listen and find out. If you are just looking to get your feet wet, start with either ‘Veins’ or ‘Midnight Riot’ as the guys agreed that these two songs were probably the strongest representation of who they are as a band right now.
If what you're looking for is a swim with the whales, then check out their new album, Envy. Like the unholy offspring of an orgy between New Wave, Funk, Rock and Grunge (which may or may not have taken place in space), Envy is an adventure as difficult to describe as Whale and the Wolf themselves.
But if you’re ready for the full dive into the deep end of the whale tank, what you need to do is catch these guys live. Better yet catch them with me at Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon on January 20 where we can enjoy them with a Jalapeno Margarita in our hands. The perfect combination. Even better, Checkout Queens and Valley Bandits, both fantastic local bands, are opening up. That's only a week away, so make sure you get your tickets soon. This will be my fourth time seeing Whale and the Wolf, and while hard to describe, they are just so incredibly fun to see.
Whale and the Wolf is made up of Ryan Maier (vocals), Brandon Yaggey (guitar), Joel Jeschke (drummer), Keenan Kirk (piano), and Lucas Holt (bass).