1. How did you came up with the name of the band?
Dave (guitar) came across a time-lapse video of a whale fall (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQbGk4sHROg), which for those who do not know is the term that refers to the process of a deceased whale which, coming to rest on the ocean floor, spawns a sizable community of sea life who thrive on its nutrients. We liked the sound of the phrase and what it represents, so we went with it unanimously, which is notable in and of itself as so many of us have seen our previous bands nearly break up over trying to choose a name.
2. Do you have a standard procedure of creating a song? Do you just jam around or is there a main riff and the track is build up on it?
It is a bit of both, usually the former. More often than not we will just be messing around and Tokle might throw out a bass line spontaneously and everyone will just start chiming in and it sort of takes a loose shape. Often we record these initial jams on Zoom and come back to them. Most never see the light of day again (though they may yet) but others get refined over time. Usually they are not fully arranged until it is time to record or play a show. Less commonly, as with “Onsen,” “Kodiak,” and “Depth of Field” from the first record, and “I Shall Sail No More (No More Shall I Sail)” and “Heart Space” from The Madrean, Dave or Ali (guitar) will come in with a riff or set of riffs written at home and that will become the basis for a song. This was more common with the first record, which was initially written before Tokle and Aaron (drums) joined the band, whereas these days the jamming model dominates.
3. What are your influences and what kind of music do you hear when you are at home?
Our influences, as may be apparent from listening to our music, are very wide ranging. As with just about anyone, we have all been through many phases in our music listening lives going back before adolescence, and all of it probably gets in there somewhere. That more subliminal swath would include, depending on the band member in question, anything from metal and punk to folk to 80s and 90s alternative to Americana, to name a few. To be more specific about more direct influences, the main thing that caused us to find each other and come together as a band was a mutual appreciation of instrumental bands, whether ambient or more uptempo, in the vein of The Dirty Three, Mogwai, Godspeed, Johann Johannsson, Rachel’s, Labradford, and, well, we could go on and on… and on... We have a penchant for the transcendent and otherworldly. That said, on The Madrean and to some extent on the debut record, some folkier Americana flavors and even a touch of norteño managed to seep in, which, we assume, derives from our shared geographical heritage in the American Southwest (specifically southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, for respective band members). What we listen to at home does not always coincide with this. For example, J-Matt (trumpet, keys) has been on a classic Motown kick this week.
4. Which is the one album you can’t live without?
Well, you are talking to five individuals, so that is hard to answer in unison. I think it is fair to say that the artist we cannot live without would be Radiohead, and there is a good deal of healthy dispute as to which album is the most indispensable. OK Computer, In Rainbows, and Hail To The Thief have all garnered votes.
5. What’s the first record you've ever bought?
A randomly selected unnamed band member with initials JMG says: It was a 7-inch of KC and The Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It),” at the age of about 7 (and on a side note he knew he found his soul mate when he learned she had the same first record). I challenge anyone to detect that bright and snappy influence among our darker and rounder tones.
6. Name a band that you would like to share the stage or tour with?
There Is No Teenage Love.
7. Did the internet and especially the blogs help to spread your music around the world? Name a place (country) that you were surprised to know your music has reached?
Emphatically yes, as to the first question. The five of us lead busy lives outside of music, between our various careers and families, and so while we would love to tour and bring our music straight to the people, our ability to do so is very limited. So the timing of the internet age and its now-dominant role in the music world has been an indispensable boon for our exposure, and we are certainly very grateful to all the bloggers and net denizens who have helped us to reach a wider audience (so thank you!). In terms of the unexpected, we recently received a SoundCloud comment in Arabic. We are left to guess what it says but will have to assume it’s complimentary.
8. Do you support the idea of Bandcamp where fans can decide the price or services like Spotify?
We strongly support the former and have serious reservations about the latter, although at the time of this writing, and amid ongoing discussion, our music can be heard on Spotify and other subscription services, and we have to acknowledge that for less-established bands like us these do offer a useful outlet for exposure.
9. Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Making more music, playing more shows, recording more records, and, in terms of a specific longer term goal, increasing our involvement in creating music for film. We have been honored with the inclusion of two songs in the documentary Code Black, and are hoping to branch out more in this area.
10. Is the artwork of an album important nowadays in the digital era?
We strongly feel it is. As an instrumental band lacking lyrical content, visuals are in one sense what takes the place of lyrics in terms of telling a fuller story that we want to convey. This being the case, we went all-out for the artwork on The Madrean, enlisting Jordan W. Lee, an amazing visual artist and designer, to create eight conceptualized photographic images, one for each track, as well as an overall packaging concept for the double vinyl LP. The vinyl version, currently in production, will have full page versions of each image in a glued-in booklet, and digital versions of the images are available for all interested parties (but we still recommend the vinyl). There is caveat to the foregoing, however, which is that our music and arguably all instrumental music stimulates mental visual imagery for many listeners, which is a highly personal and valuable experience, and one can argue that album artwork might interfere with that organic process. Ideally, listeners will allow this to occur in an unfettered way when listening, while still being able to enjoy the artwork as a separate experience.
11. What is your favorite album cover?
One band member polled says: Wish You Were Here, and honorable mention to all of the 23 Envelope covers for the 4AD label.
12. It seems that a lot of people are turning on vinyl again. Why do you think that is and which is your preferable media format?
It seems to be a reaction to the over-proliferation and overreach of digital media which lack any tangible component. Something valuable has apparently been lost along the way, which probably includes the tactile, visual, and even motoric experience of holding and playing records, the importance one places on something by virtue of acquiring and holding onto it rather than it being invisibly transmitted from an inexhaustible list on some remote server, the thrill of sifting through LPs at a record store to find the hidden gems, and, again, the appeal of viewing the 12-by-12 artwork. For these reasons we do have a preference for vinyl in terms of sharing our own music, but, truth be told, it is the response within the brain of the listener that matters, so any medium that gets the music to the 8th cranial nerves will do just fine.
13. What's the most vivid story or moment as a band?
In terms of a moment, probably the creation of the last section of the track “The Madrean.” We were in the recording studio making the album and knew we needed another section, but the changes we had been jamming on weren’t working. Then Tokle came up with that bass line and everyone started playing along, and we recorded the first or second take. It just somehow came together with no rehearsal, with most of us improvising our parts on the spot. That was a magical moment for us, especially listening to it back off the tape, and to tell the truth, try as we might, we have never played it that well since (but aim to by our next show).
Whale Fall recently released their second full length album "The Madrean".