The duo have matured like a fine wine since they met and created Winstons some five years ago and now the fans are finally getting a full-body taste with their debut LP.
“It’s wild and feral and solemn and reverent, and it sounds just like us,” Winstons guitarist and vocalist Lou Nutting says of their debut full-length.
A lot has changed since the last time BTRtoday chatted with Winstons. Nutting and Winstons Drummer Ben Wilkes met while they were working at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right. While they’re still immersed in the venue’s gritty garage/punk, they’ve both moved on from the venue and out of New York City. Wilkes got married and Nutting became engaged. Despite all the change, they’ve stayed true to their rock ‘n’ roll blues roots and are letting their country twang side shine some in this release.
“Our priorities in our lives and music have changed,” Nutting says. “We used to roll the dice more, bank on getting lucky—now, we let it matter.”
On the album, Wilkes’ heart-pounding drums accompany Nutting’s raspy vocals and dirty blues guitar, creating a forceful and passionate sound. It’s a melodic haze of love and emotions that evokes being drunk in love or a drunken love.
BTRtoday (BTR): So much has changed since we last chatted. Both of you aren’t at Baby’s All Right anymore and Ben you got married and moved out of the city and Lou you got engaged. How have these changes affected the band?
Lou Nutting (LN): We’ve grown up some. Our priorities in our lives and music have changed. We used to roll the dice more, bank on getting lucky. Now, we let it matter.
Ben Wilkes (BW): The band’s an extension of us as people. So yeah, things have changed. But Winstons is a museum of love and memory. No artifice, just artifacts. We definitely talk on the phone more, though.
BTR: I’m sure inspirations have shifted and how you two play together has matured—how would you say you’ve evolved over these past few years?
LN: We’ve had to teach ourselves new things. You start with what you already know, but you can’t use that over and over again, so you start learning what you don’t know—try to discover something new, but simple. Most of what’s simple is already spoken for.
We’re just two parts, so complexity and differentiation in our catalogue has to be foundational. It’s always guitar and drums and voices, so what other feels, moods or stories can we pull out of that simple arithmetic? And I think we’ve gotten quieter, or at least are loud less often, less uniformly. And we’re letting more of our country-influence show.
BW: We’re less eager to get a rise out of people and more into letting it sink in. The best feelings are built on time. I think I’m a better drummer and we’re both better songwriters.
BTR: I still feel like you guys are the only ones in NYC really doing the blues-rock thing, why do you think that is?
LN: We play rock ‘n’ roll, and rock ‘n’ roll is blues. Blues is the source. Everything else is Broadway.
BW: New York makes art for artists—we’re art for folks. We’re more concerned with timelessness than timeliness. It’s oral history. I’d rather have a poem read to me than to read a poem to myself.
BTR: Tell me about what you’re working on now.
LN: We did the American classic, the rock ‘n’ roll rite of passage—we isolated ourselves for a week in the Catskills and put down a bunch of material. We did it ourselves with our own gear in a motel room. We’d record all evening, then listen to the playback out of a giant speaker outside. We took all the time we wanted, no distractions. It was soulful. Watched some hockey. Then I added some overdubs and mixed it in my apartment in Greenpoint.
BW: I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat—the forest in the fall with new boots and no obligations. Creating what we’d been wanting to for so long. Mornings to clear our heads and evenings to put our faces into wet cement. We’ve never been so in the pocket.
BTR: Were there any specific real-life inspirations?
LN: They’re all inspired by real life, except one that I wrote after watching a bank robbery movie. They’re mostly developments on an insight, with a varyingly reliable narrator. A lot of them involve two people.
BW: Oh man, I remember ad-libbing the verses to “One Thing” and being so full of love. I remember the first time I heard Luke sing “Keep The Beat” and it really sank in. Now, he always lets me take the lead.
BTR: Are there any themes that go throughout it or any specific message you’d like listeners to get?
BW: Someone once told me that, “salud, dinero y amor” [health, wealth and love] are the only things that matter. These songs are about finding ways to be at peace with that.
BTR: What else have you guys been up to?
LN: I’m working in a shop that fabricates high-end retail window displays at the moment. I’m going to Guatemala with my fiancé tomorrow for a week. Getting married down there in November.
Very glad to be putting out this record March 1—our first full-length has been a long time coming and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It couldn’t be any more us if I licked it. It’s wild and feral, and solemn and reverent. And it sounds just like us.
BW: Annie and I cooked a five-pound pork shoulder on Sunday. I book speakers for a small-town civic innovation conference during the week. With Frederick Douglass’ great-granddaughter and the co-founder of Burning Man in the same room, so onward and upward.
BTR: Anything else we should be looking forward to in the future of Winstons?
LN: Our music is being digitally released by Big House Music, single by single, EP by EP over the coming weeks and months on all the digital platforms. Also, we’ve got more videos in store and a batch of new songs we’re looking to record soon. And children, maybe?
BW: We’re lifers.