PREVIEW: The Weakerthans: stockholm has no syndrome on us

Posted by on 13 August 2008

Jacqueline and Dario Hudon-Verrelli, Beatroute, July 2008

The Wikipedia entry on The Weakerthans tells of two possible histories when describing the origins of the band’s name. 1. The 1992 film The Lover, in which the protagonist exclaims, "Go ahead, I'm weaker than you can possibly imagine.", and 2, from a Ralph Chaplin lyric from the song “Solidarity Forever": "What force on Earth can be weaker than the feeble strength of one?" Take from it what you will, but to guitarist Stephen Carroll, the name holds as good a reason as any.

"Names of rock bands are reductions of ideas to something that's least offensive and harmless,” he tells us while speaking via VoIP at Kägelbanan, in Stockholm, Sweden. In less than four hours, they would play a variation of their embodiment that is in no fashion, a weaker metaphor to the strength of John K. Samson's lyrics or their collective as a whole.

The endearing qualities of their inoffensiveness, as it were, is one that has brought Winnipeg's favourite sons across the world several times, and to Carroll, a view by which to see it.

"[As a band] we have a balance we try to keep, to have a normal friendship and relationship. It's kind of hard when you've been touring in a small vehicle for 10 years together," he says. "I always say that our constant sense of humour is what keeps us together, if you can't laugh at the little stuff and the big stuff that gets thrown at you, and keep good spirits in the endless travel and frustrations, it's hard to maintain a collective.”

Perhaps it's this 'laissez passé' mindset that has brought the opportunity to write for such a large contingency of people, and at the same time keep it so very personal. But to Carroll, any statement referring to him or his ilk as accomplished is met with the answer of a painter not yet finished his work.

"I don't think anybody ever really does [feel accomplished], and if anyone ever says they are they're likely very arrogant, and a dick you don't need to know", he says. "I think insecurity and self criticism is very important to the arts, and I think in the end, it makes for stronger art."

It's that same criticism of the self and his surrounds that has brought Carroll into the political spectrum.

"I'm beginning my career as an active NDPer and recently attended my first nominations meeting," he admits. "We try to participate in the politics of our province and city as much as we can, and support worthy organizations such as RAY [Resource Assistance for Youth, the Winnipeg community-based social service organization committed to helping at-risk youth and young adults find their way off the streets].

"We try to be conscientious," Carroll says proudly. "We also try to run our business in a conscious way and make conscious decisions that don't have political ramifications, while still having idealistic values that don't compromise our careers."
These decisions include not riding tour buses, which got the slam during last year’s Live Earth, where despite raising awareness for the environment, had over 20 bands tour in a caravan of diesel emitting tour buses effectively creating their own footprint to help erase the pasts.   

And it's in this way that The Weakerthans still belong to us, as the small town projects who help each other grow. Staying a part of the community, no matter how over-sized your personal world becomes. The coming back home never stops, and it never will. A part of us will always remember, "I'm back with scars to show/ Back with the streets I know/ They never take me anywhere, but here."

Who: The Weakerthans
Where: Calgary Folk Festival
When: July 24th