Windom Earle
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Windom Earle

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | SELF
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"P.E.I. Band brings Rocktronica to Halifax"

by
Jessica Whyte
Arts Contributor

Named after a surrogate villain from the canceled second season of Twin Peaks, the band has outlived its namesake and been active for the last seven years. In their present and most basic form, the collection is Stephan MacLeod on guitar, Greg Boone on bass, Matt Packman on keyboards and an unnamed boom-box of prerecorded backings.

Greg and Stephan share much of the songwriting. That said, their live set often plays host to a rotating roster of guests and theatrics. During live shows, they play over a compact disc of prerecorded cut-and-paste beats and samples, creating a sound that is driving, punchy and always on time.

"What we're doing over the [prerecorded] music live is mixing sounds that are appropriate for the feedback of the beats. We never really overplay on it. There's no guitar solos, and no fanciness... it's almost like taking dance music and trying to make it sound more live,"? says MacLeod.

"Windom Earle is essentially a karaoke outfit,"? says MacLeod, and it fits, as both Boone and MacLeod are self-proclaimed karaoke junkies. If you're lucky, you may catch them getting gonged off the stage at Cheers on a Monday night, waving their souvenir "I Got Gonged"? XXL T-shirts proudly. According to them, they've never made it through a karaoke session without being ushered from the stage by host Jackie Smith, and yet they keep going back.

Karaoke may bring to mind images of young women belting along tunelessly to Whitney Houston numbers, but in Windom Earle's case, it is three men with instruments racing along musically to self-created booming throbs and shakes. They provide live accompaniment to canned music, but those prerecorded songs are their own, and that added element of required precision that comes with accompanying an unwavering and unchanging recording is impressive and unique to a city that is starving for diversions from the standard rock quartet.

There's also an underlying desire to keep the band lively and entertaining both for the audience and its members, despite the occasional drawbacks of constant boisterousness. "Windom Earle has a certain element where its always staying fun, and its been the bane of our existence,"? says Boone. "A lot of times when we just need to be serious for once, none of us can do it."? It's not just a tag line either, the band really does come across on stage like they're having a blast, and they engage the audience to join along with them.

Their latest physical? release, entitled A Series of Minor Personal Tragedies, was put out under the name The Windom Earle All Stars. But The Windom Earle All Stars are not Windom Earle. It's a moniker used to cover all the projects of which MacLeod has been a part since 1998, including the Jeff Coll 5 and Operation Impact from Prince Edward Island.

MacLeod describes the group release as "what happens when three bands that share the same members don't have enough material to make separate albums."? It's confusing to sort out one man, three projects and four names. MacLeod did try to explain it: "The Windom Earle All Stars is what happens when we do all of the bands. Windom Earle is when its just me, Greg Boone, Matt [Packman] and whoever, and its just instrumental.

That "whoever"? is crucial to the attitude and lineup of the band as it could be anyone, and it defines a Windom Earle performance. Windom Earle has taken the stage with multiple drummers, extra guitarists, random dancers and general merrymakers. "Windom Earle is such a collaborative thing,"? says Boone, "especially the live shows. If we're playing with a good drummer or with musicians we respect, like Special Noise at the ECUA's, it makes it better."?

Boone and MacLeod were both born in the Halifax region and live here now, but met each other and Matt Packman on Prince Edward Island. MacLeod works at an adult video store in Dartmouth while Boone studies at NSCAD. Windom Earle is Stephan's only project, but Boone and Packman both play for Sharp Like Knives, dividing their time between the two bands and other projects.

The disc is in constant rotation at CKDU, and it has already been requested by campus stations across the country as word-of-mouth spreads about this unique collection of wonky electronirock. Minor Personal Tragedies will be in local record stores, but is also available for free on the Windom Earle website, www.windomearle.com or through the Polygon Network at www.polygonnetwork.org

You can also obtain Windom Earle's own release, The Things I Do For Girls, through their website or from the Polygon Network's releases section. The Polygon Network is a net label featuring electronic music by Atlantic Canadian artists, and it is a perfect fit for the outfit. The move to release the album on-line resulted in a brief affair with fame in Germany. Windom Earle's status may not compete with that of Hasselhoff's, but the band was featured on a German download site, and attracted over a - Dalhousie Gazette


"Khyber, Windom Earle, CKDU, Special Ed"

On December 15, all should prepare themselves for the utter delight of supporting not one, but two of the city's most treasured resources: The Khyber Institute for Contemporary Arts and CKDU. The Khyber's annual Holiday Toast is partnering up with CKDU (which makes it extra awesome) and the night is packed to the rafters with eggnog-soaked fun. Beginning with an all-ages rock 'n' roll bonanza with Matt Reid, A History Of, Brent Randall and his Pinecones and Windom Earle (the show will be also be projected into the Ballroom Gallery where there will be a holiday sweater contest and the End of Term exhibition closing party), and wrapping up with a dance party (for those 19 and over), this may be the night you will still be talking about well into 2008. It may also be your chance to see some stellar local musicians doing their own rendition of the Sobeys' "Star of Christmas" commercial. "I did dust off "Carol of the Bells' at practice like I do every year, but I'm not sure it will happen," says Matt Reid. "We are playing a Joe Jackson song with Laura Peek, though."

Windom Earle also have some special holiday plans. "We're going to attempt a video set," says Stephan MacLeod. "And I thought I would spruce it up with some Christmas videos. If that plan fails, I'll just tape cotton balls to Nathan Pilon's face." A

Windom Earle video set is always a treat, and MacLeod says he intends to make them more of a regular occurrence beyond this holiday show. "We want to incorporate more videos into the live set. I would love for the show to have that same sort of dynamic as Weird Al, Picnicface or Tim and Eric. I've been watching public access television clips on YouTube and feel like the amateur talent show aesthetic suits our approach to putting on a show," says MacLeod. "We usually don't know what will happen during a show and I will inevitably be singing bad karaoke, wearing a superhero suit, or both."

Proving that MacLeod has more Christmas magic in his little finger than most folks I know combined, Windom Earle recently contributed a track to zunior.com's An Instrumental Christmas: The 2007 Zunior Holiday Album featuring classics and originals by some well-loved indie bands like Great Lakes Swimmers, Royal Wood, Mike O'Neill, Ben Gunning, The Bicycles and more. All proceeds from this digital-only album will go to the Daily Bread Food Bank. "I was pretty excited to try and do something like the Jingle Cats," says MacLeod. "When I saw that Mike O'Neill, Great Lake Swimmers and The Bicycles were also going to be on it, I was just honoured to be a part of it." Seeing as most Christmas carols give me a pain in my brain (except for "Good King Wenceslas"—that's a banger), this sounds like the perfect remedy. - The Coast


"The Coast CD Review"

June 8, 2006

The Windom Earle All-Stars
A Series of Minor Personal Tragedies (Independent)

What is arguably the most exciting live act to surface recently in Halifax backs it up on record. Windom Earle, the Jeff Coll Five and Operation Impact arrived from PEI a few years ago and are featured interchangeably here. Stephan MacLeod is a creative force in all three. An ’80s retro drum-machine foundation is corrupted beautifully by eccentricity. Who knew the rhythmic power that lay in the phrase “Horrible physical features”? The instrumental “Screw Wave” has an obsessive-compulsive urgency in its groove. Windom Earle gives techno such a wedgie, it might be more human. — Doug Taylor - The Coast


"Windom's Golden Wave"

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.

"Basically, we use an IPod that has drum machine beats cut together with a few keyboard samples," said MacLeod, who is the founding member of Windom Earle. "We just try to build music on top of that."

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 - nearly all instrumental - that mix synthetic and natural beats.

With everything from piano and horns to drum-machines, the band's sound sometimes comes across like insane Nintendo music, other times like a fun combination of new wave, emo, surf and synth-orchestral pop.

"I wanted to reflect what happens live more than the older material I did," said MacLeod, who explains the album is a selection of previously released songs, and material that has become of staple of the band's shows.

"I am trying to get sounds that are unique and new to me, and making things sound different then they are suppose to sound - things you don't usually hear together."

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.

"Some of my songs sound like movie soundtracks," he said. "I 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."

Windom Earle started in 1996, when MacLeod was listening to bands like The Chemical Brothers and Beck, and experimenting on his home computer.

"I was sampling things, and cutting and pasting songs together," MacLeod said. "And then, as I started gradually learning to play instruments, and sample myself instead of blatantly stealing other people's songs."

With him playing guitar, MacLeod formed the band'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.

"Because it is a home recording project first and foremost, you had the ability to record dozen of different tracks - keyboard, guitars and stuff - but trying to translate that live always has a different result."

"I 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."

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.

"The main thing with recording was making this album as loud and big as we could - sort of like a party album."

Party is the key word.
Windom Earle'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 Clarkson's Since U Been Gone and A-Ha's Take On Me.

"With the karaoke, everyone becomes part of the show all of a sudden," he said.

"Especially when its a small town where people are wondering "Who are these guys without a drummer and with an IPod?"

"Even people you wouldn't expect to find it funny are dancing with you and stuff." - The Daily News


"Disc-overy of the Week"

Gold Wave (Boost Ventilator) * * * * The thing about being from the east coast is that you can be pretty sure the rest of the country will ignore you until forced not to. Mostly unknown due to the gaping cultural void between Fredericton and Quebec City, Windom Earle has been an instrumental synth-rock staple in Halifax for four albums now. A home-recording project for man-about-the-North-End Stephan MacLeod, Gold Wave is the band's most delirious outing yet. Opening with an oddly garage-rocky version of "Get On Into It," (which appeared on a MacLeod-curated compiIation last year), they turn in the highly original "Forked Wrist Waltz" before getting all squishy and delicious with "Guitorgan." Not only worth seeking out; worth writing the band to beg them to tour this way (www.windomearle.com). HS - Eye Weekly


"Exclaim CD Review"

If there was a concert to see which band in Halifax has the coolest name, Windom Earle would win hands down. Taking their moniker from the bad guy in cult TV show Twin Peaks, they..ve been making cool indie dance music under the leadership of Stephan MacLeod since the late ..90s. Their reputation has been built on their raucous live shows, but they..ve also been slowly building a solid CD library, most of which can be downloaded from their website. Goldwave, their fourth album, doesn..t quite manage to capture the energy of their live show, but comes close enough on occasion that anyone who has been lucky enough to see a concert won..t be completely disappointed. Combining equal parts the Go! Team, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and New Order, Windom Earle make music that makes you want to dance. The majority of the tracks are instrumentals, driven by a mix of synthesisers and guitars although the occasional glockenspiel and trumpets helps to fill out the sound .. that..s the advantage of having 11 people on hand to help out. Goldwave might not be a classic album by any means, but it is a lot of fun and a good way to pass the time until the band pass through your town again. - Exclaim


"Windom's Golden Wave"

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.

"Basically, we use an IPod that has drum machine beats cut together with a few keyboard samples," said MacLeod, who is the founding member of Windom Earle. "We just try to build music on top of that."

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 - nearly all instrumental - that mix synthetic and natural beats.

With everything from piano and horns to drum-machines, the band's sound sometimes comes across like insane Nintendo music, other times like a fun combination of new wave, emo, surf and synth-orchestral pop.

"I wanted to reflect what happens live more than the older material I did," said MacLeod, who explains the album is a selection of previously released songs, and material that has become of staple of the band's shows.

"I am trying to get sounds that are unique and new to me, and making things sound different then they are suppose to sound - things you don't usually hear together."

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.

"Some of my songs sound like movie soundtracks," he said. "I 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."

Windom Earle started in 1996, when MacLeod was listening to bands like The Chemical Brothers and Beck, and experimenting on his home computer.

"I was sampling things, and cutting and pasting songs together," MacLeod said. "And then, as I started gradually learning to play instruments, and sample myself instead of blatantly stealing other people's songs."

With him playing guitar, MacLeod formed the band'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.

"Because it is a home recording project first and foremost, you had the ability to record dozen of different tracks - keyboard, guitars and stuff - but trying to translate that live always has a different result."

"I 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."

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.

"The main thing with recording was making this album as loud and big as we could - sort of like a party album."

Party is the key word.
Windom Earle'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 Clarkson's Since U Been Gone and A-Ha's Take On Me.

"With the karaoke, everyone becomes part of the show all of a sudden," he said.

"Especially when its a small town where people are wondering "Who are these guys without a drummer and with an IPod?"

"Even people you wouldn't expect to find it funny are dancing with you and stuff." - The Daily News


"Mirror CD Review"

Yup, this Haligonian affair boasts 11 members in the CD credits, and yes, glockenspiel figures prominently. But chamber pop this ain’t. The one proper song, with vocals and standard structure, is “Kitten vs. Pegasus,” which unfortunately comes off like a Modern English number, and that we don’t need (the macho-meltdown joke of “Ted Nugent” wears thin fast too). But the rest isn’t songs so much as motifs worked to perfection, grafting together surf, new wave, math rock and the aforementioned orch-pop element to excellent, energetic, harmonious effect. The propulsive “Get On Into It” bears shades of Shadowy Men, “Guitorgan” is pumped up and powerful, and “You Can’t Dance to Dreams,” playing a sweet piano pattern off explosive drums, closes the record with class. 8/10 (Rupert Bottenberg) With Thundra, Gambletron 2000 and Sharp Like Knives at Playhouse, Sun., July 30, 9 p.m., $6 - Montreal Mirror


"Mirror CD Review"

Yup, this Haligonian affair boasts 11 members in the CD credits, and yes, glockenspiel figures prominently. But chamber pop this ain’t. The one proper song, with vocals and standard structure, is “Kitten vs. Pegasus,” which unfortunately comes off like a Modern English number, and that we don’t need (the macho-meltdown joke of “Ted Nugent” wears thin fast too). But the rest isn’t songs so much as motifs worked to perfection, grafting together surf, new wave, math rock and the aforementioned orch-pop element to excellent, energetic, harmonious effect. The propulsive “Get On Into It” bears shades of Shadowy Men, “Guitorgan” is pumped up and powerful, and “You Can’t Dance to Dreams,” playing a sweet piano pattern off explosive drums, closes the record with class. 8/10 (Rupert Bottenberg) With Thundra, Gambletron 2000 and Sharp Like Knives at Playhouse, Sun., July 30, 9 p.m., $6 - Montreal Mirror


Discography

4 More Years (2009)

Goldwave (2006)

A Series Of Minor Personal Tragedies (2003)

The Things I Do For Girls (2004)

The New Technology (2000)

Standard Equipment (1998)

Photos

Bio

No matter where Windom Earle plays music, a karaoke dance party inevitably breaks out.

Windom Earle is a collective of friends and musicians who play a mixture of instrumental new wave synth pop and indie rock.

Currently based out Halifax, NS, Windom Earle is comprised of Stephan MacLeod (guitar), Matt Pollard (bass), Nathan Pilon (synth), James O'Toole (guitar), and Jen Clarke (synth).

Windom Earle has showcased at SXSW, Pop Montreal, Sappy Fest, and The Halifax Pop Explosion. They have shared the stage with Buck 65, The Death Set, Thunderheist, Akron/Family, Japanther, and Books On Tape.