Winterun: sweating it out on the Melbourne scene

Winterun , Melbourne’s self-proclaimed “heavy groove dealers”, are a force to be reckoned with. Fuelled by dirty bass-driven grooves, charging low-end riffs and brooding stoner-esque vocals, Winterun stamped their presence in the city’s boiling underground scene early on in their music journey. Priding their sound with an organic aesthetic has allowed Winterun to enjoy a healthy lead in the creative stakes, catapulting the band’s trend-deflecting approach with depth and integrity.

One of the few bands to take initiative rather than falling victim to the confines of the mainstream has resulted in Winterun to surge in popularity, not only here, but in Europe (thanks to the band’s Netherlands label Undertow). Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Nick Dunstan , together with drummer Joel Schneidruk , was on hand to discuss the band’s latest recording project and ambitions to conquer stages both here and overseas.

“We went in on a recommendation of a studio started up recently, called Headgap in Preston, by Neil Thomason from Ricaine . We went there for two reasons: One, we knew them from friends of ours, and the second reason because we wanted to go to two-inch tape; we wanted to do the analogue thing,” Neil confirms of Winterun’s upcoming third album Into The Underground . “Having done a bit [of two-inch] before, we really like the sound of that. We went to that and did about 40 hours. It was on an independent band budget though we took a bit of time this time. It turned out really well – in 40 hours we nailed down some songs pretty well. It was pretty fun and a great place to record – Magic Dirt just did their album there, My Disco and a few other bands – so hopefully it’ll take off for us.”

“Now we’re in the mixing and mastering stage. We’re always going to be constricted by money but you do the best you can with what you can do at the time. This one sounds pretty good and we’re pretty happy. We should be releasing it about September / October this year and it’ll be good because there’s a fair bit of interest from Europe, you know, and we have got some good support here.”

Winterun’s previous album, Welcome To… , hit the streets with resounding support from the independent community. The album’s presence ensured Winterun as a welcome alternative to lack-lustre trends and ball-less ego rock, impacting on fans and critics alike. I asked Nick and Joel whether Into The Underground had the potential to top or even exceed the achievements of Welcome To… “Definitely,” Joel blurts. “In all different ways, I suppose. With production, the songs are great in themselves; the songs are always half-decent in the first place...”

Nick cuts in. “Yeah, we did bring our nine shittiest songs in – throw them all together and this is what happened! We do wanna top it, but I think it’s more about getting it out to everyone we want to get it out to, trying to make some money rather than try to hand out 500 albums.

“The main thing for us was we got to meet a whole bunch of people, we did a whole bunch of national touring on [Welcome To...], we toured with really good bands from doing that and, especially internationally too, I think it kinda paid off for us. It’s a really healthy underground scene here. I mean, there’s a lot of underground scenes but our one in particular seems really healthy in Europe and in Australia. By nature, being underground, a lot of it is over the internet, so yeah, we had a really good response overseas with that [album] and I think that’s probably going to help us out with this one. We spent more time, more money on it and we’re older, fatter and wiser so I think we’ve made a better record I’d say.”

Joel expands, “I think, even leading up to it, we’ve topped it in a way. We’re happier and we’re happy with it. I think we’ve got a lot of people waiting for it now rather than us quickly trying to shove it in people’s faces when it’s out.”

Winterun’s widespread presence in Melbourne has re-ignited interest in the band, particularly in Europe. The wins which were achieved with Welcome To... , in addition to Melbourne’s underground reputation, are proving advantageous for Winterun’s latest recording endeavours. “Melbourne’s got one of the strongest scenes in the world – the reason is, I think, we’ve had a lot of venues held out on the whole pokie thing and, even though a bunch of pubs have fallen to the wayside... The undercurrent of people who are really keen on music and not commercial music is what makes Melbourne really large. It’s really friendly and there’s enough space in Melbourne at the moment where there’s a massive amount of bands. But [Melbourne] is still big enough that it can actually accommodate all of that. What draws Europe here is the fact that, you know, Europe has a massive population but I think bands have diluted into that compared to the amount of people. Here, there’s not a lot of people but a shitload of bands per capita and out of that you get a whole bunch of competition which makes each other better. So hopefully, they’re drawn here due to the fact that there’s a good bunch [of bands] here. Because of the competition you get a great selection of really good bands. A lot of bands we know have gone through [Undertow] – Peeping Tom , Ahkmed – and they’re a really good underground supporter. You know, we’re in all of these record stores – we have no idea how it happened but they’ve done a really good job for us. ”

A European tour seems to be on the cards. “Of course there is, I suppose, in our minds,” Joel continues. “We’re always saying –  “yeah, yeah in about a year and a half’. They want us and we really wanna get over there but then again we’re still trying to get gigs around here.”

Nick goes on, “It’s getting more and more feasible. As Joel said it’s a bit of an up in the air thing, but my plan is we try and do that by late next year. We capitalise on this album and go over there.” So does Winterun have more objectives the band wants to achieve? “A lot, a lot!” Joel exasperates. Nick: “Making money – that’d be good. Whenever that happens, that’ll be cool. If we bump off work we’ll be sweet as! I think that’s the main goal – bump off work and do this thing full time.”

Before Winterun trade in the full-time grind for the ultimate music dream of fame, fortune and glory, the band has a single to launch to clinch this week. “The clan has probably heard ‘Stompa’ enough times,” says Nick. “We wrote it after the last album so it’s been floating around for a year and a bit. The launch, there’s the supports – three of our favourite bands in Melbourne are playing – and we’re also filming for our first clip there. So judging from how Pony nights have always gone, not just for us but for a bunch of people, whenever you’re there it’s always a good night. It’s close, it’s gonna be dirty and smelly and drunken fun really.” Joel adds, “Since we’ve recorded the album we’ve only played about two gigs so we’re hanging to play so bad it’s not even funny.”

“It’s a friendly night of drinking and partying to some decent music,” promises Nick. “The playing thing is a bonus – the night itself will be good. There’ll be the filming going on so there’s a chance of debauchery and being on Rage. We haven’t put anything out for about a year and a half and this is some of the best stuff we’ve ever done. The Melbourne scene is so healthy and we’re happy to be a part of that and having something new to put out. If anything, the single launch will be a taste of things to come – sort of a kickoff party in a way. We’re looking forward to hitting it really hard come September / October; getting back out and playing a shitload of shows.

“And, we’re happy to be doing it at Pony – it’s such a home of dirty rock in Melbourne and one of the few places – and that’s another thing – that really play anything, be it your doom jazz fusion band, and they’ll say –  “yep come down and play and see what happens’. The places that say yes help keep it going and keep it healthy. Pony is one of those so we’re glad it’s there and we can help keep supporting that.” Joel offers a parting shot. “There’ll be sweat dripping off the walls.”

Check out Winterun’s single launch at Pony this Friday August 3, with Ahkmed, Mushroom Giant and Taste The Venom. Limited edition copies of Stompa will be available to purchase on the night. $10 gets you entry with a copy of the single, or $8 without the single. Doors open 8:30pm.

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