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Winstons is the perfect combination of old school jams and contemporary feels. Singing bona fide love songs that anybody who’s been head-over-heels in love and/or tragically broken-hearted can relate to.
Tracks off their EPs like “Do My Best” and “Hard Times” can be related to a combination of legends in genres such as blues, country, and straight-up rock and roll. Their songs include loud electric guitar with sultry lyrics sweetly yelled into a microphone, over hard-hitting and fast drums—lots of breakdowns, melodies that go from slow to fast, drum and guitar solos that drive you wild, and lyrics that hit right in the heart.
The two members are Lou Nutting (lead vocals and guitar) and Ben Wilkes (vocals and drums). Though they might appear to be the epitome of rock and roll, they’re actually quite the romantics—their logo of a rose and a hammer really conveys those two sides of Winstons.
“There are a lot of songs about love or around love,” Nutting told BTRtoday. “So, that’s the rose, and for the same reason, that’s the hammer.”
Though music brought Nutting and Wilkes together, love brought them to New York City. Both were living in Virginia, but never seemed to cross paths. If they hadn’t fallen in love with NYC ladies and come to the city to follow their hearts then they never would have been brought together and been able to create what is now Winstons.
They both landed jobs at the popular Brooklyn venue, Baby’s All Right, where Wilkes is still a staff member. On that faithful day, Wilkes was working the door for a show and Nutting was bartending.
“We were making eyes across the bar all night. He was feeding me alcohol,” Nutting explains. They started jamming together and discovered it was a match made in musical heaven.
“Lou forgave me for only knowing how to play drums nine months prior,” Wilkes admits. “I think you told me that, for what felt like the first time, a couple of times,” Nutting responds in laughter.
Currently, the duo agrees they’re at a mutual “sweet spot” when it comes to playing their music. Nutting has been playing guitar for most of his life, but Wilkes is in the current transition from jazz saxophone to drums. They talk about a sweet spot musicians reach before they become experts in their instrument, but after they’ve mastered playing it—a spot that the duo feels they’ve reached.
Nutting picked up the guitar from his older brother after having been a cello player in school. He played so much that his folks pulled for lessons, and the rest is history. He spills the beans about a practice space in his high school that he and a few special others were allowed to sneak off to. There they would rehearse music and hide contraband—Nutting called it a musical “sanctuary” of sorts.
Courtesy of Sacha Lecca.
Wilkes grew up playing saxophone in jazz groups and he confesses that it influences his drumming in Winstons. “The improvisational nature of things; it’s very free, it’s very liberating, and I think that having that background enabled me to pick up whatever was put down,” he conveys. “The art of listening!”
Nutting describes Wilkes as an “avant-garde saxophone player, but as a drummer.”
Wilkes seems to be the fuel to Winstons’ more extreme ideas. Recently, they released a music video for their new song “Oven” that included lighting themselves on fire.
“It was absolutely Ben’s idea!” Nutting exclaims. “100 percent dumb and real.”
The music video depicts each of them lighting one another’s hair on fire in Wilkes’ apartment. The only special effect they used was slow motion. Nutting admits to having some serious moral hang-ups at the thought of lighting Wilkes’ hair on fire along with his own hair. He even tried to veto the idea the night before shooting the video.
“If you see the faces of people watching, they’re just horrified,” Nutting says about the people who were working on the video with them. The only source of protection they had was a wet wash cloth in hand to put out the fire once they started to feel the flame getting to close to their face. Please do not attempt at home, kids.
Though the video features both of their heads engulfed in flames, it ends with both of them looking handsome with some snazzy new dos.
The song is about the feeling one gets when leaving their apartment and then having the thought that they left their oven on. Nutting explains the wave of emotion he gets when leaving his apartment, which seems to have started after moving to NYC, “that thought of, ‘my apartment is definitely on fire right now!’ and then having to kind of shrug and just be like, ‘well I’m not turning around…shit.’”
“Oven” is only one of several songs that are going to be released on BTR’s Discovery Corner. “Be Enough,” “Limousine,” and “You’ll Know It” will also make their debut. Both Wilkes and Nutting describe the creative process to their new music as collaborative. They agree that songs are most fun and organic when you can play them a different way every time.
“I like having flexibility,” Nutting expresses. “So, we fuck up all the time, but out of doing something that’s more fun and more honest, rather than just trying to get the high score of the performance.”
They are constantly attempting new ways to play their songs during their live sets—even changing the lyrics.
“Things will feel different on different nights,” he adds. “I’ll sing different words on different nights just to make it feel less statuesque.”
The chemistry between the duo is electric. Not only do they finish each other’s sentences, they also finish each other’s musical thoughts. During practices, Nutting and Wilkes say that they come in with a clean slate and just roll with what ever comes out. It has created the magical tunes that are being premiered on BTRtoday’s Discover Corner podcast!