“Melancholy were the sounds on a winters night,” is how Perth folk group These Winter Nights describes itself. Comprised of five musicians, the group has toured Perth and WA since its humble beginnings. This month, the group will stun the Lights Out Arts Festival stage with their eclectic rhythms and haunting lyrics. Music Writer Tom Munday chatted to the group about their collaborations and aspirations.
How did the band come together?
A couple of years ago, during winter, myself, Brad (our keyboardist) and Sam (our guitarist) used to have these bi-weekly drunken jam nights in Brad’s backyard where we’d just hang out and write stuff, and around the same time I was just kind of starting to get out there and do some solo gigs with some songs I’d written. And yeah, I started getting some gigs that needed a band so we kind of merged the two and also got our mates Mason and Caleb on board to play bass and drums and yeah, we started gigging around as my solo project band thing. Then, a bit later on in the year, we thought that what we were doing was kind of cool and we started functioning more like a band and writing more collaboratively and stuff, so yeah, we decided to change our name to These Winter Nights and become a legit band.
How did the group form its signature sound?
I guess we’re kind of developing it over time as we mature as a band. We started off with a reaaally indie-folk-y, singer-songwriter-y sound, but as we progressed and wrote together more, everyone began bringing all their own individual musical influences to it which kind of changed it and made it what it is now. Like, Brad digs hip-hop, RnB, jazz and soul stuff, Sam digs more ambient folk, post-rock stuff, Caleb digs epic rock stuff, and Mason digs epic orchestral cinematic stuff (as well as pretty much every other genre in the entire world, seriously Mason listens to everything, it’s ridiculous) so yeah, as a band we’re a real melting pot of influences and I guess we bring that all together to create the sound we have.
You’ve described group’s style as: “goose-bump-enducing folk”. How do audience actions and reactions influence your music?
Yeah, we really thrive off of audience’s reactions to our music. We endeavour to write really dynamic and kinda epic songs that can really connect with people and move them in some way, and try to kinda take them on a journey throughout the set. I think the best audience reaction that we love and strive for the most, especially with our more ambient songs, is just complete silence. To be able to capture an audience like that and create that sense of intensity is just incredible and something we really enjoy, so yeah, we definitely try to create music that evokes that kind of reaction.
Folk has been on a resurgence over the past few years. What draws people towards this genre?
I think folk is a really honest genre. It has it’s own special way of telling stories and connecting with people in a really raw, intimate and heartfelt manner, so I think people are drawn to that aspect of it. Also, I think musically it’s quite easy to listen to and to get into; it’s like, simple in its form and foundation but can be complex in its construction, which I think is cool, and contemporary folk mixes in a lot of elements from pop, blues, roots and rock and all that so I think it has quite a wide appeal.
What have been the highlights and lowlights of your touring experience?
Unfortunately, we haven’t actually been on a legit tour yet! That’s one of our major goals for this year. However, we’ve done a couple of shows in Bunbury and Margaret River, and they have all been ridiculously awesome and a lot of fun. I think a highlight for me was when we played at Settler’s and met some wicked hippies and had a kinda impromptu jam/sing-a-long outside their van while one of dudes did some makeshift fire twirling. That was cool. And a definite lowlight of doing the show was that we had to deal with Mason being himself for the entiiiiire drive there and back. It was a nightmare. I’m kidding, I love you Mason. Seriously though. A nightmare.
What will you bring to this year’s Lights Out Arts Festival? How important are events like these to Perth’s ever-changing music culture?
We’re going to bring our own brand of honest, ambient-folk-groove and hopefully we’ll be able to put on a show that’s a bit special. We’ve been working on a new set for it with a couple of new songs and stuff, and we think it’s all sounding pretty cool, so we’re really excited and looking forward to sharing it with some people. And events like Lights Out are extremely important for the Perth scene. It is totally necessary in a scene as isolated as Perth to be able to build an event and have people come down to it because they know that it’s going to be good and that there’s going to be good music, the same way people will go to a ‘major’ festival without knowing any of the bands on the line-up. It’s totally necessary and important for exposure in the scene, and it’s really awesome to be able to create something like this especially in support of a cause such as Earth hour.
In your opinion, what is the most inspiring and/or groundbreaking piece of music ever created?
Man, this is seriously the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I honestly can’t narrow it down to one piece, as I’m seriously inspired by everything I listen to. If I had to choose something that solely inspired and affected me as a person, I’d say Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More (the album). Although it’s certainly in no way the most groundbreaking piece of music ever created, it really helped bring contemporary folk to a wider audience, and for myself personally, that album is pretty much the whole reason I started writing music in the first place. I asked the dudes in the band what they all thought because I was really stuck on this, and Mason replied with this, which I thought was pretty cool. “It can’t be narrowed down to just one piece/song or even one artist for me. For me the most inspiring and groundbreaking pieces are those with a musician’s heart and soul poured in, no matter the chord structure or the instrumentation, just pure emotion. Choice of chords, arrangements and instrumentation is a skill that can be learnt but the application of one’s emotions into a piece is an art”.