Ianspotting consists of brothers Shaun (guitar, vocals) and Andrew (guitar, vocals) Weima, Rob Radford (percussion) and Lee Casement (bass). Since the 2008 release of their first full-length album, the reggae-influenced rock band has experienced some remarkable highs, however their resolve has also been taken to the brink by some some truly tumultuous lows. Now that Ianspotting has turned a pivotal corner and announced the release of their long-awaited sophomore effort, Something Building, they are looking at Kingston and beyond to chart a course to the hearts and ears of old and new fans alike. I caught up with brothers Shaun and Andrew for a candid discussion about the band’s origins, the passion and patience that’s helped them weather the storm, as well as the path that lies ahead.
1. Ianspotting earned the local spotlight after winning the Bandslam competition in 2007. How did this success affect the band’s initial trajectory?
Andrew Weima (AW): We made it through the Kingston portion of the Bandslam competition and traveled to Toronto to compete against eight other bands for the grand prize package. Although we didn’t advance far during the Toronto portion of the competition, winning locally and making the trip to Toronto [as a band] was an amazing experience that energized us and got us really motivated about putting time in at the studio. Winning kind of signaled that we were onto something, getting us all on the same track and putting in more time as a band.
Shaun Weima (SW): The Toronto portion of the Bandslam competition was also our first gig with our drummer Rob Radford. Rob’s involvement in Ianspotting came by chance, as our original drummer, Tony Overveld, couldn’t make the trip to the Toronto portion of Bandslam due to work commitments. In the end, Rob turned out to be a really good fit for the band, and he’s been committed to playing with us ever since. One of our prizes as a result of winning Bandslam enabled us to start recording our first album at a studio in Trenton. We also won a drum kit, which we sold to a local church to help us pay for more studio time as well as the CD pressing.
2. After Bandslam, your debut album, Good Question, went on to receive positive reviews from critics and fans alike, which led to a tour across Canada and opportunities to perform at various festivals. What are your fondest memories from life on the road?
SW: I would have to say playing the Mariposa Folk Festival was one of the biggest highlights. We played their 50th anniversary, so it was a great year to be part of the festival. Ianspotting created a buzz throughout the weekend, as we played 5 times, which allowed us to perform in front of an assortment of eclectic musicians and people. Aside from playing the festival, it’s the little things that go along with it, which make a lasting impression.
AW: Mariposa is also my best memory from the road, as it really made us gel as a band. We all have full time jobs and personal lives here in Kingston, so getting away from it all, traveling to, rehearsing for and hanging out together at Mariposa made us tighter. I guess one of the problems was that we didn’t push ourselves further after the festival was over. I remember when we came home from that festival, we were all very stoked, and ready to get back into the studio to start working on our second album.
SW: It was just an awesome time for us musically. Away from the actual festival we had an opportunity to jam with people like Dan Mangan, Elliot Brood and others at the hotel. We really got to meet so many interesting people, and again, share the experience as a band away from whatever distractions we had back home.
AW: We met a lot of musicians and cool people during that experience, like Sheila Rogers from CBC. I also remember a wedding taking place in the hotel we were staying at; they must have been occupying half of the hotel. There were all these jams taking place outside wherever people felt like it. We initially thought that the wedding party might not appreciate the noise, but they came out and asked to listen in and join us. I remember sitting in a huge circle outside for hours, jamming with these people, with Sheila Rogers quietly sitting on her balcony overlooking the group, enjoying every minute of it. She actually came up to us the next day and told us how much she’d loved it.
3. Your newest album, Something Building, has been nearly 2.5 years in the making. During the process, you’ve had to overcome a number of discouraging events and challenges. What was the most rewarding lesson you learned?
AW: After we completed this album [Something Building] in October 2011, we were really hoping to get back out there, start performing and begin to recover some of the money we invested in studio time. But then our bass player quit, so we hit a wall where we couldn’t play any gigs, which caused us to keep pushing back the release date. We made a video around the same time, which also put us out some money and added to the financial strain. The band remained pretty level headed about the loss of our bass player at such a critical time. And we pressed on, trying out new people in an effort to find someone talented who was, above all else, motivated to being an active member of the band. The search for a bass player ended when we found Lee Casement, which eventually got us to a place where we could confidently set a date for our album release. As a member of other bands, Lee has always been an organizer who isn’t afraid to offer input and put in the effort required to truly make a go of it. I think the most valuable lesson we’ve learned is that you have to find the right people, and that takes time.
SW: I agree that the most challenging obstacle would have to be going through 3 bass players, trying to get them to become part of the band, and truly feel like an invested and valuable member. We’d been put in a really difficult situation, and forced to take a time out as a result of losing such an important part of the band. I guess maintaining relationships with former band members, our friends, has also been a part of the challenge. Lee seems to fit the mold best of all so far. We absolutely want to keep this lineup in play for as long as possible and start to recover what we’ve invested in this project. It’s time for people to hear it.
4. Building on your creative diorama that served as the backdrop to the first album cover, the cover art for Something Building features a sculpture of found objects assembled by the band members. How important is it for you guys to shape creative details right down to hand crafting your own album art?
SW: It’s always been important to me to have interesting album art since I’ve been in bands. I’ve always been a fan of cool album art, and for the last 7 or so years, I’ve worked with a Kingston artist, Cameron Tomsett, to create album art that is unique and has an interesting story that’s worth telling. This album cover was Cam’s idea, and like the last one, it gave the band a chance to work together to create something and spend some time together. The idea was simply to put together a bunch of random things. Cam drew out the original plans based on the idea that our new album would be titled Something Building. We definitely didn’t build it exactly to the plan, but that’s partly because of what materials were available to us, as well as the fact that we all really got into it and let the thing grow naturally.
AW: We went out into the woods behind Rob’s house, he has tons of property that extends pretty far back. Everything that you see on the album cover is from there; we think might have been some sort of junkyard way back when. There are license plates, an animal skull, random pieces of metal, and chicken wire wrapped around the whole thing to help keep it in place. We built it around a pole and had to put a large number of rocks at the base to keep it in place. We spent just over three hours building, with a couple of beers. We were done when someone said “I don’t think it needs anything else”, and we all kind of took a step back and agreed. It’s really cool. There was a huge windstorm about a month later that actually blew the whole thing over. It’s a mess, but it’s still looks really interesting. Our initial idea was to go back to take more photographs and display the deconstructed version on the back cover. Come to think of it, we still might do it now that the snow is all gone.
5. Something Building was recorded locally at North of Princess Studios, which has earned a solid reputation from glowing reviews from a host of Kingston bands. Having spent so much time there, what kept you going back to finish this project? What sets it apart from other studios?
SW: Making an album isn’t cheap, especially if you re-record things like bed tracks three times. But I’m super glad that we took the time to get it right. All that time meant that we racked up a decent bill, but we all contributed what we could and invested in something we’re proud of. I ended up working some of the bill off by putting in time at Zane’s studio, helping other musicians record their projects. For Ianspotting, I was also able to to go in and mix things whenever. Even now, after the bill has been settled, I’m still working back in the studio. I love studio work, and Zane’s handcrafted space is beautiful. It smells nice, and feels really organic in there.
AW: At first we were going to split up recording between Zane’s and Shaun’s. Zane really convinced us that he was interested in our project, and that he would do whatever he could to help us get here. Zane sat down with us and really listened to what we had. He made a lot of great suggestions and the songs are the way they are on the album because of his direction. For one song he convinced us to play something we really liked at half the speed, and it totally worked. He pushed us exactly where we needed to go, he was really good at that. Zane can sense when it’s time to take a break from making music and just relax. It’s not the sort the place you rush to, record, then go home. We were really able to build a respectful working relationship and friendship with him.
6. With the album launch finally on the horizon, what else is Ianspotting looking forward too?
SW: Releasing the album is great, but what can you do if you stick to just one city? I find applying to festivals to be a terrible process, as most rely on Sonic Bids, which you have to pay to use. As we’ve been focused almost entirely on finishing the album and everything that goes along with it, we don’t have any prospects in terms of festivals we’re looking to play this summer. We have to get on that soon. We need to get out there.
AW: I agree that we’ve realized that we have to get out of the city, and not necessarily get paid, in order to have people listen to our music. We all have to suck it up, and put our time and money into it. We can’t just sit back and pick and choose gigs based upon how much or little they pay. People’s schedules also come into play. Some of the guys in Ianspotting play in more than one band, which puts pressure on our schedules from a lot of different angles. I would love to go on another cross-Canada tour, but we need to do things differently. We learned a lot from our last trip. In the short term we need to get better at defining what needs to get done, dividing up the work and setting deadlines. That’s part of what’s behind finally setting our CD release date, and getting our new website ready to launch. I mean, we hadn’t updated our old one in two years, which really doesn’t look good to people who may want to hire you. This summer we want to venture outside of Kingston, outside of town, and get more people interested in our music.