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Interviews, Music

Interview: Weaves’ Morgan Waters Talks New Music, “The Amazing Gayl Pile”, & Polaris Shortlist

By: Curtis Sindrey –

Weaves. (Photo: Brendan George Ko)

It’s been almost exactly a year since Weaves released their acclaimed debut LP. The self-titled album, which was short-listed for the 2017 Polaris Prize, was among the most anticipated of the year, and was lauded internationally upon its release for its exuberant approach to guitar pop.

With their forthcoming album, Wide Open (out Oct. 6th), and the album’s lead-off track, “#53”, it sets the tone for a record that sees the Toronto-based band embrace an expansive and ambitious sound that they have only hinted at on their debut album. Driven by an ascending guitar line and the frantic energy of the band’s rhythm section, who build to a dramatic crescendo that mirrors the intensity of singer Jasmyn Burke’s urgent performance.

Day jobs aside, guitarist Morgan Waters also currently stars in (and co-created) the hit digital series The Amazing Gayl Pile, which follows one man’s misguided quest to conquer the world of home shopping. Production on the fourth season began August 28th in Toronto, while Season 3 featured guest performances from the likes of Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer and The League‘s Paul Scheer.

In our new interview, Waters discusses the making of Wide Open, The Amazing Gayl Pile, his favourite shortlisted Polaris Music Prize albums, and more!

Tell me about your role in The Amazing Gayl Pile.

I’d say it’s a dark comedy about a guy trying to break out of his world of home shopping. This guy sells women’s clothing on the home shopping channel and he’s trying to do something with his life and find himself. And so he goes on different journeys of self-exploration and most of them are negative. It’s like Breaking Bad but without any stakes.

It sometimes has this Tim & Eric absurdist kind of quality that I really like too.

Yeah it has some Tim & Eric, but also melodrama, kind of like a soap opera.

Yeah I’ve noticed that it’s sort of a mix of a lot of different genres and it doesn’t really stick to just one thing.

No, it kind of moves around. You know, sometimes it has horror elements and disturbing elements, but then melodrama and romance, along with sex, violence, all the good stuff.

In addition to starring as the title character, you also co-created the series. What was the inspiration in coming up with the concept?

The initial inspiration was when you watch home shopping television, and the hosts are friendly and nice and talking about inane objects, like towels or air fresheners, and it’ll be like 3AM, and these people are talking live and they’re so friendly and you think ‘wow, I wonder what kind of darkness is going on in their lives.’ To be so friendly and happy all the time you must really be covering up something. The show is an exploration of what would be the worst thing going through these hosts’ minds.

It reminds me of the infomercials that Adult Swim has on at 3AM.

Yeah, I love all that. And Canada doesn’t really have that kind of messed up stuff in that same way. Stuff that’s distorted and disturbing, so it’s been fun that we’ve been allowed to make this series and have some cool cameos and people have been into this strange vibe we’ve been working on for four seasons.

Season three featured guest performances from Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer and The League’s Paul Scheer. How did those collaborations come about?

In the third season we had Paul Scheer come on board and he was a fan of the show and he helped contact people that we could get on the show, people like Jon Hamm, and Paul sent him an episode and he thought it was hilarious, and it was a really surreal experience.

Your other job is as a member of Weaves, and you guys are releasing your brand new album, Wide Open, next month. What was the writing/recording process like this time around?

We had toured for a year, and we came back and our singer Jasmyn wrote all these songs and we helped try to make them better. It was pretty painless, and we tried not to think too much about it, and just record some stuff. It was really exciting because we were all on the same page and the songs are really good.

Did you mostly record it live off the floor?

Yeah, mostly live off the floor. And we would half-learn songs and then go into the studio, and in some cases we didn’t learn them at all. But now that we recorded it, we’re trying to learn them so we can play them live because we played it once in the studio and now we have to figure out how to play them again.

How important was it for you to give up that sense of control and embrace being spontaneous in the creative process?

When everyone is equally comfortable to wing it, and when everyone is equally as bad at learning things, it’s a great combo at knowing what our creative decisions should be. Everyone in the band is a pretty good musician and we’re able to play off each other pretty well, and we tend to have better luck just going in and trying to find a moment of inspiration rather than ironing out every last detail.

What kind of lyrical themes did you focus on with Wide Open?

It’s not a political record, it’s a fun record, but especially with us being on tour when Trump got elected, and Brexit, it’s hard not to make sense of that and it’s going to seep into the music for sure.

Did you find that the first album was more political?

No, but I guess this album is. I think the first album was a bit more abstract, and this album is more direct, not just lyrically, but also musically as well, where our intention isn’t to hide behind anything musically or lyrically and just try to be direct.

You feature Tanya Tagaq on the track “Scream”. How did you guys get to collaborate with her?

We played Iceland Airwaves and she was there as well, and we had mutual friends with some guys in her band. We ended up hanging out with them for the whole weekend at Iceland Airwaves, and we had the song “Scream”, and we thought that it would be cool to add Tanya to the track, and she came in and she did two takes.

You guys are nominated for this year’s Polaris Music Prize with your self-titled debut album. If you had to choose this year’s winner, who would it be and why?

That’s a tough one, oh my god. It’s kind of weird to say that one record is better than another one.

Which records did you get into the most?

A Tribe Called Red’s music is so powerful and a party, but also kind of scary. It’s such a mix of contemporary sounds and non-contemporary sounds. And Tanya, her stuff is so heavy, and she’s one of the greatest musicians I’ve seen. BadBadNotGood are super groovy. The Feist record is an amazing record because it feels very intimate.

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