You may not have heard of Winston Audio, but that's OK. Down south, where the roots are deep and guitar is thicker, Winston Audio is a five-piece from Atlanta that's got soul and a 90's alternative influence they just can't shake. Their label home, Favorite Gentlemen, released a full-length earlier this year called The Red Rhythm and it's a grungy gem. AP.net had the chance to chat with Daniel DeWitt, singer and bassist of the band, while they were touring with label owners Manchester Orchestra. Here's what he had to say:
First of all, let's start off with the basics: What's your name and what do you play in the band?
Daniel: My name is Daniel DeWitt. I sing and play bass.
Since some AP.net members may not have heard of Winston Audio, why don't you give us a run down on how the band came to be?
Daniel: We're a mutt band. Nobody in Winston Audio now was in Winston Audio when it began. Really we've been three different bands. The band you know (or will know after you read this interview) started in 2006. Dan (vocals, keys, guitar) moved from Michigan to join our band, and we were all inspired to write a bunch of songs that didn't sound anything like the songs we were writing before. We just could never come up with a name that was better and worth the hassle of changing.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard Winston Audio before?
Daniel: Southern grunge. We love 90's alternative rock and are heavily influenced by our (mostly) southern roots. It just creeps in. It can't be helped and I like it that way.
I've read that it wasn't until 2006 that you started writing in the Winston Audio style that we hear now. What was the band like before 2006, and how did you guys progress to what we're hearing on The Red Rhythm or your previous EP, Come On Hibernate?
Daniel: It was pretty natural. The initial instigator was having Dan join the band. Before he moved we spent hours on the phone and AIM talking about and rewriting our songs. We discussed the direction we wanted the band to go, specific influences we wanted to bring out (we love all sorts of music but you really can't put them all directly into one band), stuff like that. Also we just grew up. We spent a lot of time trying to write in a style we saw as "cool". It hit us one day that we should just write songs we would want to listen to now and ten years from now.
The Red Rhythm, which is your newish full-length, is out and about, and it's a gem. Talk to me about the album - did you guys have a theme or voice that you were trying to portray?
Daniel: First off, thanks. There's a definite theme. Concisely put, it's all about the different cycles of life, with heavy emphasis on death and rebirth in all of its various capacities. I was thinking a lot about the idea of spiritual rebirth being reflected in nature. I think I was subconsciously dissecting my own faith by looking for all of these parallels. Sonically we wanted it to be dark and loud and aggressive. Past that it was really whatever the song demanded of us.
Talk to us about the recording process for the full-length.
Daniel: The recording process was simultaneously really fun and really frustrating. We were working around Dan's (Hannon, our producer) schedule so we'd have a month here, two weeks there, two days here, with big breaks in between. Not the most ideal situation, but it allowed us to really think about how we wanted the songs to sound, how we wanted them to work together as a record. I'd almost say it was too much time. There was definitely a propensity for over-thinking, but in the end the scrutiny helped the record more than hurt it. I stand by it completely.
You've said that there were a bunch of songs you scrapped because they didn't fit into what you were going for with this album. Is this an indication that the next Winston Audio release will be something that strays from the heaviness of The Red Rhythm?
Daniel: I don't know. In addition to those songs we've got rough sketches for another twenty or so songs and we haven't really been trying to write for the next record. I don't know if the songs we cut for the first record will see life later on or even if the ones we've written in the last few months will be on the record. It's too early to tell.
I'll say this though: we wanted to make a very particular statement for The Red Rhythm. Straightforward songs with a lot of melody and a lot of aggression. Now that we've done that I feel like we could stray a bit more. We're a versatile band and I'd love to be able to show our depth on future records. Case in point: all this year we've been releasing one song every month to people who sign up for our mailing list (you can sign up at myspace.com/winstonaudio). It's basically another album's worth of material, most of which is more stripped down, more acoustic. I'm really proud of what we've put out so far and it's totally different from what RR sounds like.
The artwork for the album is phenomenal too. How does it tie into the tunes?
Daniel: Daniel Bressette (who designed the cover, a great friend and artist) really took the time to go over the lyrics and without any nudging or explaining from me, really got to the heart (no pun intended) of what the record was about. The lines running through the heart and the veins on the inside of the case are kind of reminiscent of rivers or some sort of running water, kind of marrying the human to the natural, which is very important to the record. That we all have a place in this world, and our whole life is spent trying to find that connection.
Two things I've noticed about your music: it's masculine and it's easy to relate to. With that said, how do you think you fit in with the fabric of indie rock or just rock of today?
Daniel: I'm not really sure. We're out on tour with Manchester Orchestra and FUN right now, both of which have "indie rock" draws, and we've had a really encouraging response. We grew up in that scene so we're comfortable there. I think we've got a mainstream quality to our music too though. I'm not apologetic about that. It was designed that way. We want to reach as many people as we can.
You're on tour with Manchester Orchestra right now, which, in my opinion, is a great fit for a bill. What other bands could you see your band touring with in the future?
Daniel: The second band on the bill is a band called Audrye Sessions. We'd love to do some more touring with them. Dead Confederate and The Whigs are bands we think we'd fit well with. Pipe dreams include bands like Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam.
You guys are from Georgia. How do your southern roots influence your music?
Daniel: It's inescapable. I never went out of my way as a kid to listen to southern rock or blues, but when I sing melodies it's just kind of what comes out. As I got older I cultivated it more, and the other guys all have different experiences with it growing up. It's something we all have in common. And with Dan being from Michigan we get another perspective on that type of music which I think keeps things fresh.
How did you guys hook up with Favorite Gentlemen?
Daniel: We've been friends with the Manchester guys for a while. Andy came into the studio while we were working on the record (Dan worked on their records as well) and was into it. They started Favorite Gentlemen a while later and I guess we were on their minds. It's an amazing community to be a part of. O'Brother, another band on the label, are some of our best friends, so it's really just one big family.
Future tour plans?
Daniel: We're doing some short southern and east coast dates in July and August and hopefully another national run before the end of the year.
I'm a big fan of recommendations - can you give us a few bands and/or artists that we should check out?
Daniel: I mentioned Audrye Sessions before. They're an amazing live band and their record is solid as well. I just picked up the new Jeremy Enigk record OK Bear and I've been enjoying it a lot on the road this week. Our label mates O'Brother just put a record out called The Death Of Day. It's massive. Definitely check that out.
Any last words?
Daniel: The LOST season finale blew my mind. I can't stop thinking about it.