It’s the evening of Halloween, and the Needle Tavern is exceptionally spooky. Cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns adorn the wooden walls. A witch has taken to the stage with an acoustic guitar.
Ryan Maier, lead singer of Edmonton band Whale and the Wolf, walks in, and he’s all smiles, wearing a burgundy floral dress shirt. He sits down with me at the back of the tavern to ponder the mysterious correlation between a whale and a wolf.
“It conjures up imagery of where we live,” he says. “Whales, wolves– Western Canada: we got ‘em both.”
The four-piece band is made up of Maier, guitarist Brandon Yaggey, bassist Lucas Holt, and drummer Sean Waddingham. Each member has different musical tastes ranging from sappy acoustic guitar ballads (“I’m a loser for that,” laughs Maier) to math metal, a genre that plays with the mathematical rules of music—but they make it work in a genre they coin as “erotic rock.”
“A lot of (the genre) derives from our guitar sound,” says Maier. “It’s a very wet, drippy … sexy-sounding guitar. Some of the songs, some of the content and themes are of a bit of a lusty nature …. I think that our live performances are very raw; we’re pretty energetic and there’s a bit of a lusty vibe involved there.”
Earlier this year, the band released their debut self-titled EP along with their single “Domino,” and toured around Western Canada. Three days before Halloween, they played one of their biggest shows yet: the Halloween Howler at the Shaw Conference Centre.
“It was weird playing to people in costume,” laughs Maier. “We got a T-Rex, we got Donald Trump, some Stormtroopers … the cast from Stranger Things standing off to the side. They seemed to be digging it.”
Production-wise, the band was in awe of the amount of work that went into the lights, the stage and the sound when compared to their last few gigs.
“Playing (that gig) was a window into a well-oiled machine that is a big production show,” says Maier. “So you play, and you’re like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot that went into this,’ and you have more of an appreciation for it.”
After playing smaller venues like the Needle Tavern over the years, the Howler was a huge milestone for the four-piece group.
“When you play a big room like (the Shaw Conference Centre), the first thing that really makes you feel great is the sound of your drummer’s kick drum,” recalls Maier. “(It’s) loud and thunderous, and it rattles your bones.”
But with such a busy year touring, and with a humongous gig to end off the year, the band feels ready to begin focusing on a new album.
“People forget about you really quickly,” says Maier, “so you gotta be in their (faces), and you gotta have interesting content coming out pretty often.”
While the band takes some time to record, they want fans to look forward to a possible New Year’s gig – and a music video shot at the Howler.
“I’m looking forward to recording. We all are,” says Maier. “We don’t have another gig, which is really kind of relieving and kind of weird … this entire year has been always thinking about the next gig, which we always had, and (the Howler) was always top of mind for the last three months … and then we played it, and the next day I’m like, ‘Wow. That’s done.’”
The band finally has time to breathe. For now, Maier is more than happy to swap stories, kick back a beer and hang out at the Needle Tavern.
Cover photo courtesy of Whale and the Wolf.