The Weakerthans performing in Winnipeg, 2007
|Origin||Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada|
|Genres||Indie rock, folk punk, folk rock, post-punk|
|Years active||1997-2014 (on hiatus)|
|Labels||Epitaph, ANTI-, G7 Welcoming Committee, Sub City, B.A. Records|
|Associated acts||FemBots, Jim Bryson, Painted Thin, Propagandhi, Right Away, Great Captain!|
|Members||John K. Samson
|Past members||John P. Sutton|
The band was formed in 1997 in Winnipeg, Manitoba by John K. Samson, after he left the punk band Propagandhi to start a publishing company. Samson joined forces with bassist John P. Sutton and drummer Jason Tait, both from Propagandhi's Winnipeg-punk-scene mates Red Fisher, and created The Weakerthans as a vehicle for a more melodic and introspective brand of songwriting than their previous projects.
One origin story for the band's name, as quoted in the liner notes of Fallow, is a line from the 1992 film The Lover: "Go ahead, I'm weaker than you can possibly imagine." The band's name may also refer to a Ralph Chaplin quote from "Solidarity Forever": "What force on Earth can be weaker than the feeble strength of one?" The band alludes to this line in the song "Pamphleteer" from the album Left and Leaving.
The band's debut album, Fallow, was released in 1997 on G7 Welcoming Committee Records, and garnered positive reviews from Canadian music critics. Guitarist Stephen Carroll, formerly of Painted Thin, subsequently joined the band, and Left and Leaving was released in 2000.
In 2003, the band moved to Epitaph Records and released Reconstruction Site. The album was met with rave reviews from Canadian and international critics for its ambitious combination of punk, rock, folk, country and sonnets. It also became the band's best-selling record to date, as well as its airplay breakthrough on Canadian radio. It was the second Weakerthans album to be produced by Ian Blurton.
Sutton, who played on the band's first three albums, left in August 2004 and was replaced by Greg Smith.
In 2005, Left and Leaving was named one of the ten best Canadian albums of all time in Chart magazine's reader poll. In the same poll, Samson wrote the capsule review for another top ten finisher, The Lowest of the Low's Shakespeare My Butt, which he cited as a major influence on his own music.
Reunion Tour was released on September 25, 2007 in North America by Epitaph and ANTI-. The band released a video for "Civil Twilight", which consisted of a single, unbroken camera shot of the band on a Winnipeg Transit city bus.
Epitaph also re-released the Weakerthans' first two albums, Fallow and Left and Leaving, in Canada on November 6, 2007.
In February 2009, the band participated in Barenaked Ladies' annual Ships and Dip cruise. In a subsequent interview with Canwest News Service, Samson clarified that the band would be taking some downtime over the summer of 2009 before deciding when to start working on their next album. Shortly afterward, Samson announced a series of solo 7" releases about Manitoba roads, which he planned to release over the next 18 months. The first, City Route 85, was released on October 30, 2009 through Epitaph and ANTI-. After a second EP, Provincial Road 222, in 2010, the project instead evolved into Samson's first official solo album, Provincial.
In January 2010, the band announced that they would release a live album, Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre, on March 23. At the same time, they also announced that they were recording material with Jim Bryson for his album The Falcon Lake Incident, which was released on October 19, 2010.
In an interview conducted during his European tour in November 2014, Samson reported that The Weakerthans were inactive at the time, and he was unsure of their future as a band, commenting "I don't know, frankly. I'm not sure... I think the songs will sort of dictate what will happen, but all those guys are doing other things right now for the foreseeable future, and I'm doing other things. So, for the foreseeable future, I don't really see it, but I would never say never. Yeah, it could happen." In July 2015, media began to report that Tait had announced the band's breakup on Twitter. The band's social media accounts have been updated in accordance to the claims, defining themselves as "cryogenically frozen". Both Tait and Smith collaborated on Samson's 2016 solo album Winter Wheat, which Samson described as feeling in some respects like a new Weakerthans album.
Reunion Tour debuted at No. 22 on the Nielsen SoundScan chart for Canada in its first week of release, and at No. 4 on the alternative/modern rock chart. The album reached No. 181 on the United States Billboard 200.
The Weakerthans became the first band in the history of CBC Radio 3's R3-30 charts to reach No. 1 with two different songs. The band's cover of Rheostatics' "Bad Time to Be Poor" reached No. 1 the week of June 21, 2007, and "Civil Twilight", the lead single from Reunion Tour, hit the top spot the week of November 15, 2007. As of 2009, "Civil Twilight" remains tied with Arcade Fire's "Black Mirror" as the longest-running No. 1 in that chart's history. "Civil Twilight" was also the No. 1 song in The R3-30's year-end Top 100 chart for 2007.
- John K. Samson (lead vocals, guitar)
- Jason Tait (drums, percussion, vibraphone, keyboards)
- Stephen Carroll (guitar, pedal and lap steel, keyboards)
- Greg Smith (bass)
- John P. Sutton (bass)
Live show help
- Jim Bryson (general support). Joined as of September 10, 2007.
- Christine Fellows (keyboards/background vocals)
- Brian Poirier (acoustic guitar and backing vocals)
- Tyler Greenleaf (trumpet and trombone)
- Rusty Matyas (general support) – performed with the band for the 2009 Rolling Tundra Revue
MacKinnon and Poirier also have their own band, FemBots, and were previously associated with the bands Dig Circus and Hummer. Both Bryson and Fellows are solo artists in addition to touring with The Weakerthans; Fellows and Samson are married. Matyas is a member of the bands The Waking Eyes and Imaginary Cities.
- Studio albums
- Samson frequently collaborates with his wife, Christine Fellows.
- Tait has recorded and performed with Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think.
- Tait, Samson, and Fellows collaborated with poet and filmmaker Clive Holden on his multimedia project Trains of Winnipeg.
- Carroll appeared on The Details' Draw a Distance. Draw a Border. and The Original Mark EP. He co-produced a couple of songs on The Original Mark EP as well as their upcoming full-length (2011).
- In 2006, all of the Weakerthans except Samson performed on Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin's second solo album, Cold as the Clay. They also toured with Graffin on a tour supporting the album.
- In 2000, the Winnipeg Free Press released a spoken word album by Catherine Hunter that included a bonus track featuring the Weakerthans doing backing instrumentation while Hunter read her poem "Rush Hour".
- Outstanding Independent Album – Reconstruction Site – Western Canadian Music Awards (2004)
- Outstanding Songwriter – John K. Samson – Western Canadian Music Awards (2004)
- Artist of the Year – The Weakerthans – Verge Awards (2008).
- SOCAN Songwriting Prize – "Night Windows" (2008)
- Best Alternative Album – Left and Leaving – Juno Awards (2001)
- Video of the Year – "Psalms for the Elks' Lodge Last Call" – Western Canadian Music Awards (2004)
- Alternative Album of the Year – Reconstruction Site – Juno Awards (2004)
- Video of the Year – "The Reasons" – Juno Awards (2005)
- 2008 Polaris Music Prize — Reunion Tour
- "MySpace Band Member Description". MySpace. August 30, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-31. Check date values in:
- "The Weakerthans: biography". AllMusicGuide. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
- "Album Review: The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site". Toronto Sun. August 22, 2003. Retrieved 2007-02-06.
- "The Top 50 Canadian Albums and Songs of All Time". Chart, Issue 164. March 2005.
- Spinella, Mike (October 17, 2007). "Video Premiere: The Weakerthans, "Civil Twilight"" (Web). Spinner. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- Van Evra, Jennifer (October 24, 2007). "Epitaph To Re-Release Weakerthans Classics" (Web). CBC Radio 3. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- "The Weakerthans make plans for no plans". Canwest News Service, April 20, 2009.
- "The Weakerthans' John K. Samson Reveals New Seven-Inches Series in Honour of Manitoba Roads". Exclaim!. Retrieved 2009-09-21.
- "The Weakerthans Set Release Date for New Live Album". Exclaim!, January 7, 2010.
- "Jim Bryson Recruits the Weakerthans for The Falcon Lake Incident". Exclaim!, September 23, 2010.
- "Weakerthans 'done,' according to band member". Winnipeg Free Press, July 15, 2015.
- "John K. Samson Returns with 'Winter Wheat' Solo LP, Shares New Single". Exclaim!, August 15, 2016.
- Billboard, Allmusic
- Lawrence, Grant (September 10, 2007). "Bryson Rapidly Weakening" (Web). CBC Radio 3. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- "Weakerthans stick to their punk rock roots". The Brock Press. March 30, 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- Wheeler, Brad (September 25, 2008). "Weakerthans, Hey Rosetta! win Verge Music Awards" (Web). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
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