Q&A: Whitehorse’s Melissa McClelland on The Band’s Bond Vibe

Last month, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, the Canadian husband-wife duo of singer-songwriters performing under the banner of Whitehorse, released Leave No Bridge Unburned (iTunes, Amazon & Spotify), a follow up to their romantic 2012 album The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss. The pair’s latest collection continues the theme of adventurous songwriting that won them attention from the beginning, but its amplified this go round. And the album layers in percussion and guitar riffs to create a sense of seduction and mystery – like something you’d typically find at the opening of a Bond movie. This is especially true in the album’s first single, “Sweet Disaster,” which tells the tale of one rich man’s quest to send a couple to Mars. I recently caught up with Melissa and asked all about that.

“Sweet Disaster” and a few other tracks on the new album feel like they could soundtrack a Bond movie. Is that a vibe that you were going for?

I think the Bond vibe has always been present in our music – mostly because of Luke’s approach on his Gretch White Falcon, and maybe because of the keys and tempos of our songs.  We worked with producers for the first time on this record (Gus Van Go & Werner F) and they wanted to extract more of this sound from our music by adding big, epic drums, certain reverbs and allowing for a ton of space in the production.

The original demo is more of a lilting country song and [Gus] injected some Zombies in there, as well as the Bond spy vibe.  He really took it to a whole new place, but ultimately made it sound more like Whitehorse than the original demo.

A rich man’s quest to send a couple to Mars? Where’d that idea come from?

I unintentionally scrambled two news stories together. One is a nonprofit in the Netherlands looking for two astronauts to launch into space on a one way journey to Mars where they will live out the rest of their days.  The other is the hunt for an average couple who will be hurled into space with the intention of returning (hopefully!).  I loved the idea of this ‘all or nothing’ journey to unchartered territories.  I like to think of this as some kind of epic metaphor for the way Luke and I live our lives.  It’s ultimately a love song & an ode to our journey, as we navigate our way through an uncertain universe.

I love the video, which only continues the Bond vibe.

We filmed the video eight weeks after we had a baby.  I was in a state of extreme and constant hormonal fluctuation and my entire paradigm had shifted.  This was the first time Luke and I had done anything ‘Whitehorse’ in months – and here we were suddenly singing this love song to each other.  Our baby was 10 feet away from us watching us perform and I couldn’t seem to get through a verse without becoming a mess of tears.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a Sinead O’Conner crying performance and it didn’t make it into the final cut.

Whitehorse tours the Southeast this week, with a show at The Basement in Nashville on Thursday, another in Memphis on Friday and hits Birmingham on Saturday before heading to Texas for SXSW.