“Words are like my strongest suit, in terms of everything. Words are very fundamental to me and expressing myself, so I wrote the guys at Harvest a letter and expressed what the band was about, what I felt they were about, aesthetically, in terms of their work, and philosophically, in terms of the Australian climate with Harvest. I felt there was some resonance with what we did,” says Dylan Baskind, of Winter People, when asked how they managed to secure the only Australian band slot on the hugely renowned festival tour.
Winter People, the Sydney folk-pop band are lead by Baskind – singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist. The band has blossomed into a six-piece, with no fewer than two violin players and five vocalists. “I wish I had ten people in the band,” explains Baskind. “It would be great to have that many, to play the music as truly as I could, to what I imagined it to be when I wrote it”.
Winter People can lay claim to a very successful run in their reasonably short time together. Peter Katis, who has consistently worked with Interpol, and The National amongst other such luminaries, produced their debut album A Year At Sea, released last week. Added to which, Rich Costey who has The Shins, Bloc Party, and Foster The People on his resume, mixed the album. The ‘next level’ production duo was also thanks to Baskind 's letter writing prowess, as he added when asked about getting onto the Harvest bill.
In regards to this relationship, Baskind says. “We were never in the same room as Peter, just because of his schedule, but Rich we were with for about 12 days, and you definitely learn things. You sit and watch and he has an interesting way of working, he seems quite instinctual in terms of his decisions – spontaneous, whereas I’m quite rigid, and it was a change for me”.
Whilst on the subject of recording, and whether Winter People prefer the recording part of being in a band or the live aspect, Baskind states, “Energy in, and reward out. Doing a recording is very satisfying from an intellectual perspective, because it’s a feat of engineering, you can do something with exactitude, and you can shape it to be something you want it to be. With your live setup, you put a lot of energy in, and it unfolds in a second and disappears in the same second. Playing a great show is one of the best things you can do. Different reward centres are rewarded by both modes.”
The conversation about the live Winter People experience continues, touching on the recent five sold-out Corner Hotel shows supporting Megan Washington. “It was amazing, and to play those shows back to back. When you are on tour normally, and you are the support band, you have to stick around 'til the venue closes, maybe have some drinks. It’s 1am, you're kinda drunk, and then you go back to your terrible, cheap, dilapidated accommodation, and get up way earlier than you hangover would allow to drive to your next place, and do it all over again.” He’s on a roll. “When we did the sold-out shows at The Corner it was great, because we got to hang out and chill during the day and play at night”.
Winter People return to Melbourne this weekend to play at The Toff In Town, as part of their nationwide A Year At Sea tour. “We have played at The Toff before. I didn’t understand Melbourne for a long time, and then I remember being in the city and going into this apartment block place that had this karate studio, the venue, a movie theatre and then a rooftop bar, and I was like, ‘This is the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life,’ and I decided I loved Melbourne at that point. The Toff turned me onto Melbourne”.
Back to the Harvest Festival, Baskind tells of his excitement over sharing the bill with musical giants. “Sigur Ros, they are just so mind-blowing live, and I never say this about a band. These are guys I have loved since I was 14, and to even be playing in the same ball park as them is a dream come true," he says.
Following the album tour, and pre-Harvest, the band is playing at CMJ in New York in October. There are also plans to relocate long-term at some point. “I would love to be based overseas and see how and where we fit, but having six people in the band, it’s our hope, but you have to deal with the financial realities”.
BY SCOTT NICOLSON
A Year At Sea is out now on Hub The Label/Inertia. WINTER PEOPLE launch the album at The Toff In Town on Saturday September 29. They also play Harvest Festival which takes place in Werribee Park on Saturday November 10 (on sale now) and Sunday November 11 (sold out).