Canada is no stranger to America’s collective indie rock consciousness. However, the bands of Winnipeg – the capital city and metropolitan hub of the central Canadian province of Manitoba – are often overshadowed by acts hailing from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Yet, the infectious indie rockers of Winnipeg’s own Salinas, with a growing catalog of songs, a clear focus and a tour schedule (that finds the band paying Milwaukee two visits within the last half year), is doing its part to re-introduce its province to those beyond the border.
While the band made its way down from the great white north to the sunny southern locale of Minneapolis, Music Notes got in touch with Salinas singer/guitarist Matt Austman to talk about his band, his last time in Milwaukee and, of course, Winnipeg’s other great band, The Weakerthans.
How would you describe Salinas to someone who has never heard you?
Our sound is evolving, but I think the best way to put it simply is that it's climactic, heart-on-the-sleeve indie rock. Most of our songs are based on strong melodies and an energetic rhythm section, and we love dynamics. I think that produces some real heartland rock overtones as well.
Admittedly, the only other band I know from Winnipeg is The Weakerthans. What's the music scene like up there? Do you ever encounter any strange stereotypes or generalizations when you play in America?
It’s not uncommon to hear that in the States. Most people are only familiar with them or Propagandhi, which is a hyper-political thrash band that's been going at it since the 1980s, and well. John K. Samson [of The Weakerthans] used to play bass for them, too. Sometimes I'm thankful for their fame because it's a great conversation starter and helps me ease into conversation with new people down south. ‘I love The Wearkthans. You do too? Great, let me sleep on your couch.’
Other times I feel confused because the music scene is really active and diverse up here. It's actually a tough market to break through because there are so many damn good bands, and a fair number of them actively tour Canada and the US. Royal Canoe, Imaginary Cities, Comeback Kid are the first three bands from Winnipeg that come to mind that have probably played Milwaukee in the past year. I'm sure there's others as well. Overall, the great thing about the music up here is that everybody knows each other despite the scene being so large. It's a really tight knit community, and there's lots of resource sharing as a result.
As for the stereotype thing, every show we've played in America has had a great response, but the stereotypes are quite common with things other than music too. Yes, it's cold up here. Yes, I like hockey. Yes, the [Winnipeg] Jets [NHL franchise] came back. No, we're not Windsor, Ontario. That's a different city that starts with W.
This will be your second time playing in Milwaukee in the last five months. What was your first time like here? Where did you play, and who did you play with?
Yeah, our first show here was pretty good, all things considered. I got strep throat the day before the show, which made the performance difficult, but we played at Riverwest Public House and they treated us like champions. I had drank some cheap beer, which helped the vocal chords and people seemed to really enjoy the music. Elusive Parallelograms closed the night out and they rocked it.
I see that you just release a song called "Elation" on your Bandcamp page earlier this week. Is that a sample for a forthcoming record, or did you just want to get something new out there?
Yeah “Elation” is its own release, and I don't foresee it being on a record later on. We intend on adding a B-side to it soon, but that depends on how the logistics of our next release unfold. We're in the planning stages for it and really want to make sure our fans are kept engaged in the meantime, as we sort the details and make our next big move.
Aside from the new song and handful of Midwestern and Eastern Canadian dates you have booked, what else does 2013 hold for Salinas?
As I mentioned, we're in the planning stages for a few things right now so it's tough to say when exactly everything will happen. But I can say that we'll be releasing a music video for “Elation” in March, then heading out to Canadian Music Week in Toronto the same month, so the spring will be busy for us. After that we'll hunker down on our next release, which is shaping up to be an EP, and then play a few festivals and a couple short tours over the summer to keep our live show in shape. Things will pick up again in the fall as we prepare for the EP's release. Then we'll tour again, and overtake The Weakerthans as Winnipeg's most famous and beloved band.
Salinas will share a bill at Riverwest Public House (815 E. Locust St.) with Heartland Wails and Okerlo Saturday. The show begins at 9 p.m. and costs $5 at the door.