We recently had to opportunity to catch up with Boston's Winkler and talk about their latest album, 'For You, Now'! (Out 2/17) Be sure to check it out!
1. What have you been listening to lately?
Neil Young, Youbet, Beach Fossils, Cate le Bon, Devendra Banhart, Sparks, Jonathan Richman
2. One of my goals for 2023 is to take a trip to Boston to visit the Cheers bar. Any other places that I should check out while I’m in Boston?
Yes! The Arnold arboretum is a beautiful place to be around lots of trees. The Silhouette is a chill dive bar. Cafe Mirror has cheap and plain breakfast (and good vibes). Music at the Lilypad!
Here’s a local tip! If you go to the cheers bar they love it if you ask if cheers is there!
3. Y’all think Kelly Rippa is gonna listen to your new album?
I think she would love it but we don’t know how to get it to her. Would love an email address if possible.
4. I heard a rumor that your new album is inspired by/dedicated to me. Is that true?
Yes! That is a rumor!
5. Roast me.
“I dont know how to roast him.. I dont even know u”
6. Can I rent out the Cheers bar and put on a music festival? Y’all trying to team up and do that??
If you rent it out, we’ll do anything you want us to do there!
7. What would you be a world champion at?
Freaking chilling. Being casual, hanging out.
8. What bands have been influenced by you?
Sabbath, stones, Beatles, I heard Dylan liked “Sarah and the Moon” but we’re just honored to be in the game.
9. At what age should I give up on my dream of becoming a professional skateboarder?
Fourteen, that's when Christian gave up. I Regret it everyday. Can you kickflip?
10. Any Boston bands that you’d recommend?
How are you doing?? The last time we talked was back in March of 2022, what have y’all been up to since then?
Doing okkkkk you know how it is, you know? Trying… we have been playing music and working and cooking and chilling and doing our best to get through each day without losing too much of our soul to the fucked up stuff.
Congratulations on your debut album, For You, Now! How does it feel to finally be able to share it with the world?
It feels very good! We are elated to be done with it and set it free. The songs are all very special to us and encapsulate much of our friendship and memories.
What was your mindset going into making this album?
It was mostly a practice in trusting the naivety of our younger selves; that the songs were worth it. By the time we got to actually laying down the tracks (around 2021), we had procrastinated for literal years, and most of the songs had been written around 2018-19. They were no longer the object of what really excited us musically. We are always sharing new ideas and “fucking around”, which is the best- and going back to the album felt like homework. But with each song, once we got in the flow, the excitement and drive came from seeing it unfold in front of us. Each song I feel like, regained a spark upon recording that set the fire under us to actually finish. While the difficult part was the drag of obligation, the joy came with granting our 19 year old selves the gift of fully realizing the ideas that were so new and exciting then, which we hadn’t executed. Around that time we had always talked and fantasized about our “EP”. I think we had very high expectations, but it was sort of a blurry vision of something we could feel but couldn’t see. We procrastinated so long, which for a time caused loss of morale among the band. But now I feel like it was necessary to allow the ideas to ferment. When we finally got to tracking, our level of musicianship and knowledge of recording was much higher than it had been in 2019. Even so, this album feels sort of like the first pancake, and there are many imperfections that taught us lessons that will help the next release sound even closer to the soul of our vision. But we hope that those imperfections reveal our humanity and effort, and may even be part of what somebody likes about it!
Can you talk to us a bit about the inspirations behind the album? What was the writing/recording process like?
It’s a bit different for every song. We wanted each song to occupy its own space, like how each Twilight Zone episode is independent from the rest. Sometimes when I listen to an album the songs start to blur into each other. We tried our best to make it so that someone might be surprised by any given song! Most of the songs are inspired by our friends, lovers, and the feelings of being. Mostly, either Justin or me (Christian) will have an idea we bring to each other. Sometimes the song is finished before we show each other, for example, “Wonderful Photography” and “Nothing but Time” were not any different than the form that Justin initially wrote alone. We worked together on arrangement and melodic infusions, but the form was there from the get-go. On the contrary, “Jellyfish” had more of an evolution. I had thought of the first half of the song a long time ago, and it was a stalemate around where all the synths come in. Every time we sat down to figure out what we were gonna do, a little piece of the puzzle was unlocked, and right before we pressed RECORD, some of the last few chord changes were settled into place. Each song was a bit different in this sense! In terms of recording, we recorded all the songs between the basement in our last home and the basement in our current home. The room was always thick with incense and the lighting was always dim and moody. Without such conditions we are useless! We started almost every song with a live take of drums/guitar/maybe bass. That feeling when you’re playing live with each other, is what it’s all about, and we didn’t want to sacrifice that. That something that’s in the air between musicians while listening and having fun with each other is the heart and soul of it all, so we tried to have that as a basis to overdub on top of. We weren’t able to start with live takes for Sarah and the Moon because we didn’t have a piano at that point. And Nothing but Time we had to record to a click to be able to send it to our friend recording cello remotely. But we did our best to infuse those with life in all the other ways we could. The mess of cables was often testing our patience but we did our best to stay zen.
Did you have an idea of what you wanted the album to sound like before writing, or did it kind of take shape as you went along?
We knew we wanted it to sound very straight forward and dry, sort of like Neil Young “After the Gold Rush”, that was a big inspiration. I was heavily inspired for years by early Devendra Banhart recordings, like the album “oh me oh my…”, and Of Montreal’s “Early four track recordings”. So much of the tracking was done in a sort of haphazard way with cassette recorders of varying clarity in hopes we would stumble upon good sounds. For example, piano sounds cool all warbly (especially blended with acoustic guitar) so we recorded the piano and some other parts of “Sarah and the moon” through our little crappy 4 track. Other tracks like “City Rain” we wanted to be a bit cleaner so we recorded most of it on our best functioning 4 track which actually sounds pretty good and clear. Many songs have different elements recorded on different machines to get our desired amount of clarity/dirtiness for each particular instrument. The ranking (dirtiest to cleanest) goes 1.) little blue 4 track (dirty, warbly, muddy) 2.) the gray 4 track (still a little broken sounding but cleaner) 3.) Big blue 4 track on low speed (even cleaner but still with an element of grit) 4.) Big blue 4 track on high speed (almost digital sounding) and 5.) audio interface (for some string and vocal stuff we didn’t want to risk having permanent undesirable muddiness in.
What did you personally take away from the process of making this record, and what do you hope other people get from it?
Now we know how to more consistently get the drums to sound how we want them to, as well as many other nuggets of recording wisdom to help us actualize our ideal tones. We also learned that it’s easier to start and finish a song before starting a bunch of other songs, because it’s easier to stay in the zone while getting closer and closer to finishing something. And when there’s like 6 songs that all need a bunch more it feels overwhelming and you don’t know what to do first. Also we learned it’s safer to store important music on tapes than on the computer! About halfway through recording the album our house got broken into and the laptop with the songs on it got stolen and we had to re-do many things. For some of the songs, we still had the basics of it on tape, and re-bounced that to the computer and overdubbed the stolen parts again, (and better!).
Do you listen to alot of other music while writing/recording? Or is that more of a distraction?
We don’t have any sort of aversion to listening to music in general, even during a period of time where we are doing a lot of writing or recording. We’re not really reinventing the wheel here, and we love how other people roll. There’s so much to be inspired by.
Something that really stands out to me about your music is how well you’re able to convey a feeling as well as create a sense of nostalgia. Do you have a formula when it comes to songwriting or is something that you just kind of feel out everytime?
I guess we just feel it out everytime. The feeling of nostalgia for us came from the memories around the songs. In terms of the sound, it does have that “nostalgic” sound. But it was less a product of us wanting it to sound “lofi” and more a product of us enjoying the use of non-computer gear. It’s easier to visualize everything you’re doing, and it’s a lot of fun! However having said this, the sound that this leads to is indeed something that we really enjoy and we anticipate the finished product sounding this way.
Is there a memory that you think you’ll always associate with this album?
There’s a good memory I think of, where I went over to Justin’s apartment around 2018, having just thought of the idea for “City rain” at a rehearsal space. Justin helped me flesh out the form and we made a little demo on the 4 track. I remember sitting in his room with the mic set up on the desk, trying the chorus over and over again. In fact, here is a picture from that day (or week). There’s many fond memories that come to mind. We were still in college and partying and having school crushes and the like. It feels like a different, more simple time. Our next album is gonna be more like “what the fuck?” Also, when our friend Kely Pinheiro sent the cello tracks for “Nothing but time” it was amazing to hear that idea come to life! For so long, we were just like “yeah, we should totally have cello on that, that would sound sick”, and then one day it was there and it was beautiful! We were all like “woah!”
This may change the more I listen to the album, but I think my favorite track is Nothing But Time. Can you give us some background on that song?
Justin sent me a demo of that song he made while he was home for summer break. I really loved it and listened to it all the time in the text window. It felt timeless like a song that I had known in a past life. Oddly familiar, my song of the summer! -Christian
I had this melody in my head for weeks walking around Boston once the weather started getting nice, just humming different words and writing down the good ones. Fueled by a little crush in the summer of 2019, what made it in the song was a little message about taking all the time you need for yourself trying to make the best of a situation. It felt like something I would never say in person but I figured anonymously through folk rock was about the safest way to do anything. Now listening I just like the general message of the song as any sort of reassurance for anyone who feels potentially overwhelmed or stuck. Also Christian put some dope flutes in the chorus so that really takes the credibility up a notch! -Justin
You have an album release show on February 17th! How would you describe a Winkler show to anyone that hasn’t been?
Lots of ups and downs, this album has forced us to chill out a bit more on stage. Winkler as a live band was birthed in the basements of Allston MA and that has always led us to compile our most energetic songs for our live sets. Most of the songs on this album we felt wouldn't hold the attention of a rowdy basement crowd and so most of these songs have not seen the light of day in a live setting. We are excited for anyone who may be potentially surprised by the sound and feel of this record. But don’t worry, Loser, we still love to rock ok?
Any plans to do any touring for the album?
Yes! We’ve got four shows booked around the east coast immediately after the release show, as well as another small run of shows in april!
Are you coming to Texas? Or do you hate Texas?
We love Texas, we hate airplanes, but get us on a boat to Austin and we’re there.
Is there anything that you want our readers to know?
If you start watching Die Hard while thinking you’re watching Walk hard, you don’t start having serious questions regarding the plot for at least the first half hour. Only then will you start asking questions like, “ was Johnny Cash a New York cop in the 90s?” or “ which one’s Elvis?”
To wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
What’s your deal? Your vibe? How’s that thing you were telling us about on the phone the other day? Does it still Reek?
I don't get it. Is this a reference to something? Y'all, I'm old. I've been doing this for six years now.