The Weakerthans: Curlers, Bigfoot-Spotters Unite The Weakerthans' members have built their careers around introspective, punk-tinged pop-rock. Their latest album, Reunion Tour, is full of songs that serve as short stories about bus drivers in Winnipeg, men in curling clubs, Bigfoot spotters and Edward Hopper paintings.

The Weakerthans: Curlers, Bigfoot-Spotters Unite

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

You'll find some lowly characters populating songs of the Canadian band The Weakerthans - a wayward cat, a medical oddity and a city bus driver lost in solitary thought.

(Soundbite of song "Civil Twilight")

Mr. JOHN K. SAMSON (Lead singer, The Weakerthans): (Singing) My confusion corner commuters are cursing the cold away. As December tries to dissemble the length of their working day.

BLOCK: The new album from The Weakerthans is titled "Reunion Tour," the band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. And lead singer John K. Samson considers the songs distinctly Winnipeg. He calls that city the filter that all his writing passes through.

Mr. SAMSON: It's just the place I understand best and the place that infuriates me and interests me and delights me. But I do think that - I think of myself kind of as a regional writer. And I think, you know, perhaps I have more in common with a writer from Fargo than I do with a writer from Toronto. So I know there is a Canadian character to my writing, but I think - I like to think of it as more - there's a regional character to it.

BLOCK: You must have known that at some point, you would write a song about curling.

Mr. SAMSON: I did, actually. Yeah. I've - it's always been kind of a bit in the back of my brain. And I've always loved the sport of curling. Curling is a really specifically Canadian thing. I read some figure somewhere that said that there are about a million curlers in the world and more than 800,000 of them are Canadian.


Mr. SAMSON: So, yeah. That's just a really strange thing. And I'm not sure why it is such a perfect sport. It's specially a perfect sport for the prairie provinces of Canada.

But in Winnipeg, for example, there are 17 curling rinks. And, you know, if you think that there's one in Chicago, you know, that gives you some kind of idea of what its place in our city means.

BLOCK: Yeah. Certainly you have to go.

Mr. SAMSON: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

(Soundbite of song "Tournament of Hearts")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) So Elvira brings my bottle, hold it up and let it bend -figures of two rinks battling an extra end. And I'm peeling off the label as they peel a corner guard. Dance down the sheet to the tune of Hurry, Hurry Hard.

Mr. SAMSON: Curling, I think, is kind of one of those last sports where I see the professional curlers and I recognize myself in them. I recognize the people that I know. They're slightly overweight, sometimes more than slightly. They have real jobs. They're accountants, they're schoolteachers. I can relate to them in a really super-direct way. I think a lot of Prairie Canadians feel the same way about this.

(Soundbite of song "Tournament of Hearts")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) Have to stop myself from climbing on the table full of empties to yell. Why, why can't I draw right up to what I want to say?

BLOCK: Do you think of these songs as little short stories?

Mr. SAMSON: I do, in a way, yeah. I'm - I've always been kind of a thwarted fiction writer, and I try and write stories and they end up being this kind of two-and-a-half-minute pop songs. I think, on this record, I really set myself the goal that I didn't want to write from the point of view of me, you know? Pop music has a neutral gear and it's the confessional. And so, yeah. I was trying to write form the perspective of other people.

BLOCK: What do you do when you're creating these characters? What do you do to sort of sink into their world and to see things through their eyes?

Mr. SAMSON: Well, I did a lot of research on this record, actually. A couple of the songs on this record are about real people. So I read about those people.

BLOCK: Is one of those songs the song "Bigfoot?"

Mr. SAMSON: Yes, actually. Yeah, it is.

(Soundbite of song "Bigfoot")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) I changed the oils and oiled the squeaks, patched the holes and fluid leaks, left dusk beneath a diabetic moon. And way to take the TV crews across the creaking ice. The news is howling to the timber wolves and soon.

Mr. SAMSON: A friend of mine made a documentary here in Canada about a man in Norway House, Manitoba, which is pretty far north and he saw Bigfoot. And then he was taken advantage of by everyone who could take advantage of him. His own community, kind of, made fun of him, and then "A Current Affair," the American, came up…

BLOCK: Cable-tabloid TV show.

Mr. SAMSON: …tabloid television show, yeah, it came up, flew in a bunch of people really to just make fun of him. No matter what actually happened, he genuinely believed he saw this creature. And He was terrified.

(Soundbite of song "Bigfoot")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) I'll listen to the south winds sigh with rumors and regrets. And I don't want to talk about it anymore. I'll go through it all again. Watch their doubtful smiles begin. When the visions that I see believe in me.

I think in the end, it doesn't really matter to him what other people believe. He believes it, and I think he believes that these creatures see him as well and are a part of his life, and in a way validate who he is.

(Soundbite of song "Bigfoot")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) When the visions that I see believe in me.

BLOCK: Do you ever went - when songs are done and the record is out and you're thinking about what you've written, do you ever rewrite it? Do you ever come up with a different ending or totally twist something around in your brain?

Mr. SAMSON: Yeah, I guess I do. You know, I love W.H. Auden, and he's kind of a big hero of mine. And he rewrote his poetry throughout his entire lifetime and was tinkering with his entire body of work. I like to think that I could do that. And the luxury of being in a rock band is that you get to kind of present the songs every night when you're on tour so you can alter them.

(Soundbite of song "Night Windows")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) In the stick count for the song with knowing you're gone.

I really cling to them for company in a way, like when I'm writing them I get to keep them with me or I walk around with them. And they're good company. They're - I talk to them and they talk back. And it really is comforting. So, you know, just walking around with a song in my head for six months or however long it takes to write the lyrics because to me, it's my favorite part.

BLOCK: What do you mean, you talk to them and they talk back?

Mr. SAMSON: Well, oh, I don't know. I mean, I think, I try and engage with them and the characters and, yeah, maybe I look weird on the bus just sitting there humming to myself. But in a way, I do feel it, like, it's a conversation, that these are imaginary friends for a little while and then, and then they're complete and I move on to the next one.

(Soundbite of song "Night Windows")

Mr. SAMSON: (Singing) Then disappears behind the clouds and leaves me under empty rows of night windows.

BLOCK: John K. Samson, it's been great talking with you. Thanks so much.

Mr. SAMSON: Thanks very much for having me.

BLOCK: John K. Samson of the group The Weakerthans. You can hear more music from their CD "Reunion Tour" at

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