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  • Winterpills
    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Philip Price is as nice as the music on his band Winterpills' new record, The Light Divides. Mixing pop, country, rock, and a little bit of folk, the album is a delightful blend of light and dark, sunny and moody, pretty and disturbing. Talking to Mr. Price, it's easy to get a sense that this fellow loves making music--just one look at his website will inform you that he's been in a lot of bands. Of those, Winterpills is the most exciting, and it's no real surprise that the band's made a critical splash as of late.

    Tell me a little bit about your musical background.

    It goes back a little ways. I've been toiling at music since the late 1980s, when I was fresh out of college. I started a rock band...well, a kinda-rock band. We were all over the map in terms of musical styles. That band lasted a couple of years, too. All of those things were pretty much under the radar. The solo work was much more in a singer-songwriter style. Then, in the early 90s, I started a power-pop band called The Maggies. That lasted until 2002, for four official albums and a bunch of tapes. Then, I went back into the singer/songwriter style for an album. Then that period--well, I grew weary of solo touring and I began playing with my friends in a very casual way, and Winterpills was born out of that.

    Did you come from a musical family?

    Not really. My brother plays guitar. He's actually a really amazing guitar player, though. We went down two different musical paths. I'm the rock guy, band guy, and he's more of a session musician who plays rootsy music.

    Was making music something you had in mind from an early age?

    No--in fact, I was pretty late to the game. I wasn't a musically-obsessed kid who had a band when he was twelve years old--I didn't do any of that. I always played music with my brother Dave; it was something we did, but I went to college to study visual arts. I was a painting and printmaking major. There was music at school, but it wasn't part of my curriculum.

    What drew you to making music on a full-time basis, if it wasn't something you grew up wanting to do?

    I remember getting out of college realizing I was not going to have a career in visual arts. I think it has a lot to do with who I met. I was making music in college, and afterwards with a friend of mine named Tony Widoff, and his brother, Adam. Tony was an electronic music major, and he's actually gone on to do a lot of electronic music programming for people like U2 and David Bowie. At the time, he inspired me to try; he said, "Let me take some of this rough stuff you are doing and we'll record," and he became instrumental in inspiring me. That was the kind of punk-rock band we started, Memorial Garage. I wasn't very commercially-minded about music; I was still trying to do other things. There was a turning point in the 90s, a slow turning around. The Maggies, we were very influenced by bands like the Posies, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star--we wanted to be like them. There was certainly no money in that particular genre, though. (Laughs) It is really hard to make a career in that particular field. It's a small but dedicated fanbase, but that's where we found ourselves in the mid-90s, while Grunge was raging all around us. We tapped into some of that, and we weren't sure how it was going to come off. I just wanted to write good pop songs, and somehow we got tagged as "power-pop." That community is somewhat nerdy kind of community, and I guess I can count myself amongst the nerds. (Laughs) We'd play shows, and our friends would come out, and the power-pop nerds would, too, and I kept thinking, "I'm not sure I fit into their world." (Laugh)

    What happened with The Maggies?

    The Maggies died--and not in a very nice way, though we all get along now. We'd signed to a big label, and then the label folded, and nothing seemed to be working for us at all any more. By that time, I was really happy to go solo. I had a bunch of music that didn't really fit into the rock form, and I wanted to play acoustic guitar again and not strain my vocal chords. I put out two solo albums, and they both come from a singer/songwriter background; I wouldn't say there was much country in them. Well, maybe a little, but certainly less than there is now.

    When you formed Winterpills, did you think, "wow, I've really got something here," and did it click for you instantly? To me, the record sounds like a band whose members have really connected with each other creatively.

    Oh, I agree. It came about because these people, they're my friends. In my other efforts, things weren't quite as solid. The Maggies went through four line-up changes. We had a lot of auditions for people, trying to find a musician who would sound a particular way--it wasn't a band that organically evolved. The Winterpills, these are my good friends, they're my peers, and we've all played music before. We began very slowly; we started hanging out at Dennis, the guitar player's house, and it was during the winter, so we'd sit inside, drinking a lot, playing cover songs, and it became this weekly thing where we'd get together and play. We never thought, "Hey! Let's form a band!" It was more like, "Hey, guys, I'm playing a show, but would you like to come and back me up for three or four songs?" So they would, and it was fun, but it was very casual. When Flora joined, we had a gig that was her debut, and we'd been working on our harmonizing, and we really enjoyed those practices. When we played that show, we had a really good crowd response, and everything just jelled. We all looked at each other and said, "Whoa! We have something here!" And from that point on, it became much more conscious, a decision to make a solid effort to do "The Winterpills." I'd say almost a year had passed before we actually decided to record anything. For our first record, we decided to recored everything we'd been playing live over the past year.

    It sounds like The Maggies was more of an attempt to have a band that was a job or a professional type of thing, whereas the Winterpills was a grass-roots organization, more focused on music than on commerce--at least in comparison.

    Oh, that's totally true--but ironically, we're having way more commercial success with The Winterpills than we ever had with The Maggies.

    Do you think you tried too hard with The Maggies?

    We worked really hard with the Maggies to become successful. We tried to work the business aspect of it as much as we could, especially at the end, when we signed.

    Who had you signed with?

    Garage Band--they were a website that had this concept: "We'll let people listening on the internet be our A&R people, and we'll sign from there." They signed, like, a ton of people. They signed something like 30 bands in the first year. They were run by Tom Zito and Jerry Harrison. It was their baby, but they also had George Martin involved with it, too. It was a high-profile experiment, but the ironic thing was they could never get a distribution deal figured out. I never really understood what happened. They offered us a deal, and we said, "Sure!" We negotiated with them, had the bottle of champagne, and things looked good. We didn't know what would come from this label. They were obviously well-funded. We hoped they were smart about how they would spend their money. Before we could even learn that, we got the message that they were closing up shop, and some of the people who were running the website took over and turned it into what it is now, a place to post your music and show off.

    And how are things different with The Winterpills, in terms of business?

    Well, we signed with a label that's traditionally known as a folk label, but they have some alt.folk artists, and they were looking for something a little bit different--they wanted to branch out somewhat, out into the indie-rock direction. They liked the album we sent them, and they said they'd sign us. They've been really good to us; they're very supportive. We've had much more exposure, a lot more radio play, and a lot more in terms of an audience. We've been playing shows and having a lot more people show up, and now we're able to go out and tour, and we have more resources. We have a European label, too, and will be going to Europe soon. We're doing a lot more stuff now, and we're on the cusp of something bigger. We're excited about this year, and what it has in store--I can't wait to see what happens!

    Winterpills' sophomore album, The Light Divides is out now on Signature Sounds

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:05 AM  
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