Nashville’s The Winter Sounds return to the Trolley Stop
By Rusty Pate
The Winter Sounds have now spent the better part of a decade traveling all over the country, carrying their unique blend of pop-heavy hooks to the far corners of the indie rock world.
In a little more than five years, they’ve played more than 500 shows, recorded three full-length albums and several EPs. That kind of schedule has ripped many bands apart, and according to lead singer/keyboardist Patrick Keenan, they’ve recently scaled things back a bit.
“We analyzed the pros and cons of touring as much as we did,” Keenan said. “We want to get back to making the show an event and making it really special. For people taking a chance on a band they don’t know the music [of], we want to make that experience unique.”
The group has lived in some of the most competitive music cities in the country. Their journeys began in Athens, Ga. before several moves to Chicago, New Orleans and Nashville, where they have now settled. Those environments can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
Sure, a wealth of venues and opportunities to both play and be inspired by live music exists, but Kennan said a town like Nashville can make the art feel almost disposable. Putting together a band happens fairly easily, but breaking through the white noise of a city filled with musicians can be daunting. Still, nothing can quite compare to living in cities where the culture of music spills out of every venue onto every street. Keenan said a city like New Orleans has a vibe and ambiance that inspires on a subconscious level.
“I’ve lived there a lot through the years,” Keenan said. “It’s a really crazy city. New Orleans has a mystique about it and a kind of history – roots music that’s different from Americana and folk, Cajun and zydeco and cabaret. All those musicians playing that are young and involved in the indie scene are taking all those influences and it’s infiltrating their music.”
While he said the band’s sound doesn’t necessarily reflect the places they’ve lived, it certainly informs the way they do things. Perhaps a guitar amp tone or an approach to harmonies really sparks an idea, and pretty soon those ideas build into songs and albums.
Nailing down specific influences for the group can be tough. They draw the best of 1980s hook-heavy pop into an indie sensibility, while keeping a bouncing, dance-friendly groove. Keenan’s vocals saturate the tracks with emotional resonance, yet convey a distance and longing that fends off any hipster pretension.
For their latest LP, 2013’s Runner, they initially wanted Steve Albini to record the band. But after hearing an album from their friends The Forms, they quickly fell in sonic love with Scott Solter.
“They had put out an album that to me had the best sound – it was really composed and concrete, everything fit perfectly into place and had a specific sound for the album,” Keenan said.
Solter’s resume drips with indie credibility, working with The Mountain Goats, Okkervil River and St. Vincent to name a few. Keenan and the crew headed to Solter’s home studio in Monroe, N.C. where the isolation of a “farmhouse in the middle of nowhere” allowed the band a level of comfort and space.
Keenan said the band is currently working on a series of EPs for the spring.
Dayton fans can expect to hear a few new songs mixed in their Trolley Stop set. He said the exact lineup wasn’t quite set, but they planned on pulling out all the stops, as their trips to Dayton have often been memorable. Previous Trolley Stop shows have featured acoustic 1980s covers and different takes their originals.
While the band has no direct roots to the Miami Valley, Keenan does have some personal history here – his mother graduated from the University of Dayton. The band’s first Gem City performance was at Oregon Express. They arrived early and took to the street in front of the venue for a little busking and impromptu marketing to inform the locals of that night’s show. They ended up getting some coupons for free pizza, hanging out all day and playing a high-energy show later that night.
While they would love to pump out another LP, they also know they need to be smart about how they approach releases.
“On one hand, we want to release this concept double album that’s atmospheric, for headphones only,” Keenan said. “At the same times we want singles and to be prolific, because the ideas are all there. You’re always filling in these little holes in time with as much creativity as you can, and then second guessing every decision you make in what becomes public. We’re not business people, we’re not experts – we’re just writing music and trying to figure out how to release it the right way so it gets the most attention it can.”
The Winter Sounds will play on Saturday, Jan. 18 at he Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. For more information and to stream any of the band’s music, please visit thewintersounds.bandcamp.com/.
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.