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The Winter People

Written by Thomas Mitchell on July 4, 2009

It’s a conveniently cool twelve degrees when I talk to Dylan from Winter People. He’s rugged up in the skin of a hyena and I’m feeling over dressed. He eases the tension by explaining the name of the band.

“Well we had a sort of collective historical fiction vision of actual winter people. We were going for this 19th century gypsy aesthetic, where people lived in caves and transient people would come through the village, appearing from the blizzard. The men would be bearded, the women strong.”

I’m hooked in at the mention of strong women, imagining Xena rocking out on bass. The reality isn’t far off, with the band consisting of two girls on violin, and then some dudes on bass, guitar and drums. It sounds like a packed tribe to me, but Dylan reveals, “I think we may need to increase numbers.”

While dealing with the obvious issues of surviving in the cold months, hibernation and the ice age, the band also faces a tough challenge at JAEGERFEST. Storming into the final, despite a lacklustre showing of support at the semi. Where the groupies at?!

“I was impressed they let us go through because I imagined it was a numbers game, like how many of your friends you can get to turn up. And at out semi-final we didn’t have a lot of people show.”
Now either Winter People don’t have many friends, or the Sydney scene needs to step up its game. I have a feeling it is the latter. If the band wins the prize, $10,000 worth of recording etc, they may have to use some of the monies to buy new members. Change is on the horizon Dylan tells me.

“The drummer and the violinist are going on a university exchange for a year. It’s a real shame because I think we’re just finding to find our feet with each other. You begin to find each other, and things begin to happen more organically and it feels like we’re just approaching that point.”

He is visibly disappointed but losing members is a reality of 19th century gypsy life. To lift his spirits I compliment him, with complete sincerity, on the quality of the bands EP, The Dog Years. The production is crisp, and the sound richer then MJ’s kids. (too soon?)

“Well thanks. The drums were recorded in some ass end studio, it cost like 300 bucks compared to the normal thousand you’d pay. We recorded everything else at my house in my bedroom with one mic.”

“Things sounded alright, except the snare. Then I spent two months mixing it, trying to make it perfect. I wanted to give it to people and not have to worry about the production, or preface it by telling them we recorded at home. I wanted to know it was high quality and if they didn’t like it, it was because they just didn’t like our music.”

Recorded at home? When it comes to DIY home recording Paris has nothing on Dylan. The EP could’ve easily been produced in a top-end studio, with expensive equipment with shit loads of buttons. Alas it wasn’t.

Their music itself is about as consistent as the bands historical origins. Dylan claims to be a gypsy from the 19th century, but as we speak he pulls out an iPhone. Anachronistic anyone? But that’s what makes the band so unique and their music so listenable; the blend of influences they use to create a new sound.

“Well like I said, it’s the gypsies, imagine these people they know ancient things, things forgotten by scholars, but at the same time they know super-modern information. I wanted to combine these in a way, not some shitty thrown together sound, but properly. And eventually I thought the grandeur of rock would compliment the emotional directness of folk music.”

I’m impressed by the words ‘grandeur’ and ‘emotional directness’ but I’m more impressed by his folky roots. He lists the usual suspects as influences (Dylan, Cohen and Waits) but obviously has a deep love for the genre.
“Although a lot of the current folk bands have got the sweetness of folk music down pat, I just hope some of the more intellectual side begins to come out. My influences were intellectually complex and had ideas and concepts in their music.”

In the 19th century the English language was infinitely more beautiful then it currently is. The word ‘gangsta’ wasn’t in the dictionary. So naturally Dylan is a lover of words and all things grammatical. Words are one of his numerous lyrical inspirations, so he claims.

“Oh, I like words themselves. Inspiration wise, everywhere, seeing something happen, reading a book, coming home drunk. I’ll hear a flow of syllables, a combination and I need to hang onto it.”

I leave the interview, hoping Winter People, with their strangely wonderful music and outlandish history, don’t change with the seasons.

Check out http://www.winterpeople.com.au for more info.
A download of The Dog Years EP is available now.

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