Giddy up

Local duo Whitehorse no one-trick pony


This is the story of a boy who met a girl. Only, in this rock ’n’ roll version, local musicians Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland knew early on that they not only wanted to be with each other in sickness and health and all that other crap — they wanted to be in each other’s band, man. The result of their mutual musical inclinations is Whitehorse. It is bold, unbridled and set to gallup into the Winter Garden Theatre on Feb. 24.

“We’re married, and we have acknowledged each other as our strongest musical assets, so it was sort of obvious that at some point we would find a way to ensure that we had each other trapped, musically at least,” says Doucet. “What we weren’t expecting was how much new music and creativity would blossom from calling ourselves a band and accepting that we were a collaboration and not simply each other’s part-time employers. It makes for a really different dynamic when you surrender to the fact that your artistic instincts are subject to a partner’s veto.”

Both artists have had significant and fruitful careers pre-Whitehorse. Doucet fronted Vancouver band Veal before going solo and garnered a Juno nomination in 2006 for his album Broken (and other rogue states). His last album, Steel City Trawler, was released in 2010. McClelland has released four studio albums in addition to touring with Sarah McLachlan. So why tempt fate?

“We know we are breaking a cardinal rule, call it ‘mixing work and family’ or ‘dipping the pen in the company ink’ or what have you, but the truth of being an artist is that you don’t compartmentalize your art as distinctly separate from your life,” Doucet explains. “They are one and the same. Live by the sword … (How many more bad metaphors can I co-opt?).”

The result has a vintage feel — think “Frankie and Johnny” by Elvis Presley meets the Kills.

“I don’t think we thought of ourselves as a rock ’n’ roll band initially. Terms like that hadn’t really been discussed. We knew we wanted to do things in an authentic way, which for us means play our instruments and sing our songs like humans with minimal interference from computers,” says Doucet. “We draw from vintage country, blues, rock ’n’ roll, folk … mariachi … whatever. I don’t think we have much choice. If we tried to make modern pop music or some kind of clever indie thing it wouldn’t sound authentic. It’s not what we’re good at.”

Whitehorse released an eight-song recording last fall and will release a full-length album in 2012. There has been some serious momentum following their first release, and their relentless touring schedule is sure to garner them further notice and acclaim.

“We are having fun. We made sure that, when we started Whitehorse, we would hit the ground running … so we wouldn’t have to sit around wondering if starting a band was a colossal mistake,” says Doucet. “Of course, there’s no way to account for people’s taste, but they are coming out to the shows, and nobody has asked for their money back yet, so that’s good. But it’s all a bit scary.”

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