Q&A with The Winter Sounds
Not sure if there’s a band out there as comfortable with being on the road non-stop as The Winter Sounds. In 2007, they played 217 shows– leaving room to be home for Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Labor Day, and the rest. Seriously, they embark on the mystery of big tours consisting of 217 shows as easy as breathing for most of us. They’re a band with goals and dreams, and they’re simply unwilling to see those dreams dissipate. Being on the road constantly has paid major dividends for this band, though. Such dividends as being on MTV pretty more than just a couple of times. Somehow, we managed to catch them while they had some idle time… well, not really. They were actually on their way to a show in Athens, GA. I’m pretty sure their story about Mario will be on you won’t forget.
Blue Indian (Luke Goddard): Hello! Thank you for chatting with Blue Indian.
The Winter Sounds: Thank you for having us!
BI: What are the names of the people in the band? Who am I speaking with? Your role in the band?
TWS: Patrick Keenan, Clayton Taylor, Ryan Durdin and Merideth Huff. I’m Clayton, and I write songs and play guitar in the band.
BI: Where are you at RIGHT NOW?
TWS: Currently, we’re in Greenville, SC— but tonight we head to Athens, GA for a show—beginning our tour with Parachute Musical.
BI: I’m actually listening to the Shins as I prepare this question. You dig them?
TWS: Honestly, it took a bit for me to warm up to their sound, but, through the years, they’ve become one of my favorites. I love James Mercer’s lyrics.
BI: So, The Winter Sounds. There’s a jingle to it. Any significance on the name? How it came about?
TWS: Haha… a lot of people ask about the name. Well, there’s no real story behind it. Patrick came up with it when the band was mainly his solo project. He’s always been drawn toward themes such as death, loss and running out of time. Winter seems to encompass all three of those in a way, so he decided on The Winter Sounds.
BI: You were featured on MTV 2, right? Anymore TV appearances?
TWS: We were actually apart of the MTVu show, The Freshmen. It was a show giving the audience five brand new videos to watch and vote on. Our video for “Windy City Nights,” luckily, ended up winning. So they aired it for a month on both MTVu and MTV2, which was pretty sweet.
BI: You guys are clearly doing your own thing musically. We dig. What are some of your influences?
TWS: Man, influences are a hard thing to pinpoint. I’m all over the place. The 60s, 80s, 90s…. and many before and in between. Right now, i’m huge into French Kicks and The National. I’ve always been drawn to melody and harmony, so if it has that… chances are I probably will like it. As for the rest of the band, they are pretty eclectic too.
BI: We have to ask. Given that you’re a very busy touring band, how do you keep a day job? Or do you?
TWS: Traveling definitely makes it hard. None of us have day jobs. We pay most of our bills with the money we make on tour, but, usually, we pick up work where we can–in whichever city we might be in. Money definitely is the end all be all of decision makers, so sometimes it does get complicated. We always squeak by, though.
BI: Who’s the brain of the band? The brilliant mind.
TWS: The original brain behind it all is definitely Patrick. He started the band from scratch and wrote all the songs from the first two albums, ‘Land of No Output’ and ‘Porcelain Empire.’ I joined shortly after those releases back in ’07. Then we started working on material together, and we liked the new direction the music was taking. Now we tend to write together and take it to the rest of the band for additional ideas, so it really is a group effort in the end.
BI: I’m watching this couple across from me. They seem to be on their first date. I’m at Starbucks. They’re extremely awkward towards one another. Are you guys/girls married?
TWS: None of us are married, yet. Patrick and Ryan are in relationships, though. It’s a difficult thing to balance for most people, but they seem to be making it all work.
BI: So yeah, you’re on the road a WHOLE lot. What’s the strangest/funniest (pick one) thing that happened while on the road over the years?
TWS: Sometime around August of last year, we had a second guitar player named Mario Santana. When he took his shift at the wheel, he’d usually get directions on his new iPhone. Then he’d just hold the phone up in front of his face as he was driving, trusting its every direction. Well, one time we were in Pittsburgh, PA trying to find our way
out of the city.
Mario was at the helm with his phone in hand. Apparently, the directions told him to take an exit onto this one particular road. Well, the road ended up being a bus route (which I had never even heard of before), which meant that it was a cut-through for buses only. There was no way to turn around, so we kept on going for a bit. Of course, fate would have us pass right by a parked cop car. We were immediately pulled over. This is where it gets interesting. The cop asked Mario to step outside. Mario, being an obedient driver, climbed out and went to the back of the van with the officer. The rest of us were just sitting in the van laughing about the whole thing. Then, suddenly, the cop comes up to the driver window and yells, “everyone’s hands where i can see them!” We were so confused and scared. Then the cop goes back to his car (apparently, to radio for back up). So we just sit there thinking things like, “Is Mario an escaped convict or a serial killer?!” Haha…. Anyway, long story made short, he unknowingly had a suspended license. He eventually explained his way out of it, so in the end they let us go with just him getting a $250 ticket. Never get on a Pittsburgh bus route!! :)
BI: Who’s the coolest band you all have shared the stage with?
TWS: I probably couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Some standouts….. I remember Mates of State were awesome to hang with. Oh and The Whigs are three of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet—good ol’ southern boys.
BI: Who is on your “wish-list” to share the stage with?
TWS: The National, the Flaming Lips, Jimmy Eat World, Nada Surf, Radiohead, TV on the Radio and countless others…
BI: What can fans of The Winter Sounds expect from you all over the next year?
TWS: Next year we are gonna record and release another album, as well as plan for a fall European tour. Other than that, we’ll keep on traveling the US throughout the year.
BI: Your latest album, “Church of the Haunted South” is brilliant. Hey, Clayton, thanks for answering these questions. The fans of The Winter Sounds appreciate it, I’m certain.