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.
Chart performanceReunion 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.