The Wilderness of Manitoba is one of those bands that is constantly evolving. As it starts a new chapter in its creative life, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Will Whitwham explains, “Every band is a collective whose body of work is defined by those involved at certain points in time. I’ve often written songs intended for specific people and their strengths.” With vocalist/violinist Amanda Balsys now fully integrated into the Toronto-based band, there is more of an emphasis on their duo lead vocals. Balsys also brings another songwriting voice and a wide range of influences. Drummer Sean Lancaric says, “This band always has and always will rely on inspiration to produce anything. New voices start new conversations.”
One such conversation lead to the recording of the Wilderness of Manitoba’s new EP, the Leslieville Sessions. On a particularly long drive on their recent western Canadian tour, talk turned to how bands used to record live-off-the floor with no overdubs. That no safety net approach brought an immediacy to the recordings. “We spent one day, from noon to 1am, recording these songs,” says Balsys. “We really wanted to put out something that reflected the feel of the live band with its new members.” Along with bassist Wes McClintock, they went into Revolution studios in the Leslieville area of Toronto and recorded five songs including three songs written by Whitwham, Yellow Yard by Balsys and a John Martyn song called Head and Heart.
The Leslieville Sessions EP features another painting by Toronto artist Sean Lewis. “Every band needs to lock into some kind of specific sound and an artist in many ways is no different. Sean has a specific style that spoke to us and we felt that it meshed well with where we were currently at aesthetically speaking,” describes Whitwham. Although the band doesn’t want any of its albums to be similar, they aim to create a mood or cohesiveness in everything they do. “It felt as though we’d already made folk records and it was time to experiment with what that means. There are elements of folk happening throughout the EP, but it is in no way a folk record; although, it is definitely a Wilderness of Manitoba record. ”
In its four year existence, the band has released three albums and toured the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and the US. The highlights ranging from their UK live debut at the End of the Road Festival where they received a standing ovation to playing the Philadelphia Folk Festival and meeting Levon Helm; from their first shows in Berlin, Hamburg and the Netherlands to touring the U.S. opening for acts such as Cloud Cult, the Head and the Heart, Other Lives and Aimee Mann; from playing the WOMAD festival in the UK with artists like Robert Plant to performing at SXSW in Austin. 2013 promises to be just as exciting as the band returns to Austin for SXSW and starts a monthly residency in New York. The Leslieville Sessions will be released on April 9th in the US.