Northern Transmissions caught up with Windy and Carl of Windy and Carl to discuss Michigan space rock and a few other interesting topics. We couldn’t resist asking them about Canada’s not so favourite sons playing halftime on Thanksgiving day in Detroit
NT: Windy and Carl have been making music off and on for twenty years. What’s inspiring you these days after all these years?
W: i still play to hear carl play. years ago, i used to hear music that filled me the most incredible desire to make music of my own, but i hear very little these days that gives me such powerful feelings. i still enjoy a lot of music, but i rarely hear anything these days that makes me feel like the chameleons perfume garden song does. i find that these days i am more interested in the sounds of birds and trains and rain on the roof than necessarily anything music, except for carl’s guitar. now if i could just get him to play more…..
C: Our new surroundings have been where most of my inspiration has been coming from. just over a year ago we moved into a new house after being in our previous one for 20 years. it was sort of strange that during the last year before we moved i was way more creative there than i had been in a long time.when we moved i felt even more creative than ever before.
NT: Has the songwriting process changed much, despite the many changes in technology.
W: Not that i can think of. it’s still mostly spontaneous, what notes are appealing right then and how am i hearing them right then. how to work with that sound. the writing process has not changed, but we do have new instruments to use within it, such as now using a boss echo pedal instead of the old space echo, because the space echo finally needed too much work and no one could fix it, and a pedal is far easier to travel with, but i can’t think of much else.
C: About two-thirds of the new record is just me, our last few albums were much more a collaborative effort. But Windy did help me out on most of the songs with her writing & arranging her vocal and also playing guitar on a little bit of it. like most of our records it was also recorded on a 1/2 inch 8-track tape machine. I did however recently purchase a 16-track digital recorder that i have been working with a lot recently.
NT: Can you tell me a little bit about the Michigan Space Rock Scene, you guys have been described as the leaders. When or where did this all start?
W: we listened to slowdive and my bloody valentine and verve, we saw them in concert. we were the same age, and carl played the guitar, and i wanted to, and i just finally said “why don’t we do this? i think we can do this – play music and tour and make records. let’s try.” and we had a friend who had a radio show and started playing our songs on the air and we started playing shows around town with bands like asha vida and monaural and people noticed. people listened. the timing was just right, i guess. it was 1993, 94, 95, and we just made a lot of music and played a lot of shows. it’ weird to look back at it all and see that somehow we were making a scene, and to know now that we left a big wave of influence on a future generation, but it was never planned, and we certainly had no idea that it would have such a legacy. which is funny, because there is really no one who knows about any of this in today’s world, in the current hipster crowd of music makers. it’s like it was a big deal, and no deal at all, at the exact same time. it’s all perspective, i suppose.
NT: There seems to be more and more interest in the band these days among younger folks, what has sparked all this?
W: I have no clue. i am certainly thankful for it, though. it is nice to know people still listen to our music.
C: I don’t know either. it’s not like we make new albums on any kind of a regular basis (more than 3 years since our last one) for each of the last few albums, people would say to us things like “Oh, you guys are still doing music?” or something to that affect. I always used to worry that having a new record only every few years would cause people to forget about us but now it’s like people are excited instead of surprised. I also think that a new generation of kids are discovering and getting into music & groups that started out in the 1990’s.
NT: How are things going with Stormy Records? It must be really enjoyable to have the opportunity to have the opportunity to discover new and old music everyday.
W: the shop is always a lot of work, but it is really rewarding. we have a nice batch of regular customers (many who have become friends) who have supported us for years and helped us find as many great new records as we have helped them find. the shop is a constant dialog of music, and we’re very lucky to have it. it can be hard to be your own boss – there is no one else to do a lousy task when you don’t want to do it yourself, but overall we are pretty spoiled.
C: one of the things that has helped us stay in business is that we were able to move into the upstairs of a comic book shop (green brain comics) and it made our rent really affordable and gave us a community atmosphere that works really well for all of us. the comic book folks are awesome and we love them, AND they have certainly helped us to stay in business. i know we helped them out too, but i always tell people they saved our shop by having us move in. there is not a lot of money in records, but if you can balance it all out – you can feel spoiled and happy every day.
NT: I read that ‘We Will Always Be was A Valentine’s gift from Carl to Windy, that’a a really nice story. When did you guys decided you wanted to release it?
W: some of the songs on the are pieces carl was working on in 2009 and 2010, and a couple of them are from a recording carl made for me for valentine’s day 2011. he recorded those in early 2011, and i love them!! the first song on our new album is certainly from that batch, and when i thought of how and why he wrote the songs for me, i wanted to put lyrics with it that would mirror his feelings. so, for those of you who have not heard it, the first song on t he album is a love song lullaby. it is very simple lyrically, but for someone who is in love the words make perfect sense.
C: I guess in the late spring early summer of 2011 we decided to make those songs pieces we both worked on, and put them into a cohesive album, and once that decision had been made we worked like crazy to get them finished. it was as if we had a fire under our butts. we just worked on them non-stop. it feels really good to be creative like that, to be completely driven to create a piece and finish it. i’m thrilled with how it all came out.
C: 2 of the songs on the new album are from the Valentine’s cd. I wanted to do something different for Windy for Valentine’s day. she kept asking me to make her a new mix-tape (of other artists) for the car but i thought it’d be great to record a new album for her instead. I think there were 8 songs on it. some are really long (what a shocker that is!). I am also right now currently recording another album for her for this years Valentines Day.
NT: The cover of the album is quite cheerful, is this symbolic of the music?
W: not necessarily. the cover is sort of my own version of the work our friend Christy Romanian does – pictures of the natural world taken with a different point of view. there is a large community organic garden near us that we like to eat breakfast at and one day we took a friend’s camera and just walked through the garden and shot a lot of pictures. we had a completely different piece of art all ready for the sleeves, but when we looked at all the picture files from the garden that sunflower really spoke to us. the textures and the colors – they are fitting for what we do. i will say that the new album is rather hopeful in it’s scope, and this sunflower does seem bright and energized – so then, yes, in some ways, the art and the music do go hand in hand. on the other hand, i cannot say the music is cheerful, and yet it certainly carries a positive feeling.
C: there isn’t really a specific theme to the record but i think it is a bit more cheerful sounding than the last one and most of the songs have a brighter more positive attitude than in the past.the preview song ‘Remember’ is possibly the most accesible song on the album. most of the songs have an uplifting quality to them, but at the same time none of it sounds repetitive.
NT: You guys do not tour that often. Is it something your not big on, or are you most content being at home and running the store?
W: touring is hard. it is never as fun as we want, it is never as productive as we want. it is a lot of hard work and heavy lifting and not so many people who truly want to listen. it can be very disheartening to travel a long way and do all the work to put on the best show we can, and then have no one care. it is easier for us to stay home and be productive in the space we love, where we are comfortable. also, going out on the road does mean we have to close the shop because we have no one else to run it for us, and so then we feel more pressure to make money on the road to cover the shop bills while we are gone. touring just has not proved as succesful for us as we always hoped.
C: i think as we have gotten older and are busy with trying to run our own business and trying to spend more time with our families, we don’t have a lot of time to tour and we would rather put that time into writing and recording. we toured 3 years ago and that was a lot of fun.we were also leaning towards going to play in Europe this spring but those plans have fallen through. most of the time it’s the thought of going on tour that is daunting but when we do, we really enjoy most of it.
NT: Some of your music deals with death, dreams, and moving on. Are you guys curious about the afterworld and what happens next?
W: yes, but i’ve never researched it or read up on it ar anything. i also am not invested in a particular religion, so i have no preconvieved ideas of what goes on. concerning the death and moving on that we have dealt with in our own music, it was all personal experiences, concerning the loss of loved ones who made our lives what they are and how their deaths affected us in extreme ways. death is a very difficult thing to get through – and i am thankful for the ability to express emotions through music and to have carl at my side while dealing with all those things.
NT: Being Canadian, (sorry, I meant myself) I had to ask why Nickelback of all bands to perform on Thanksgiving in Detroit? A town so rich in music history.
W: thats funny – we aren’t canadian. as to why detroit asked nickelback to play and not someone who is from detroit is beyond us – seems like a very poor decision, esp when detroit has an amazing history and could have had any number of phenomenal performers on stage instead. must have been some industry back scratching, i guess.
C: the only reason i can think is that someone figured that Detroit was close enough to Canada and they are really popular on a certain level here. I don’t know though. they did have a new record coming out and i would bet that their record label and some serious money had everything to do with it. Nobody in Detroit was happy about it and it made absolutey no sense why a Detroit artist either old or new was not picked to play it.
NT: Can you tell me five records which have really influenced you guys or still is?
W: i can’t say these records influence what i create personally, but they do play in important role in my
life, and i am always happy to hear them.
durutti column – return of
alice coltrane – journey in satchindananda
arthur russell – calling out of context
boards of canada – In a beautiful place in the country
bob dylan – nashville skyline
C – here’s a few that really influenced me in my early teenage years when i first started playing:
Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
Iron Maiden – Killers
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Rush – Moving Pictures + Hemispheres
although some of my biggest influences in my early 20’s were New Order, Jesus And Mary Chain, The
Cure, The Chameleons. I also really like a lot of spiritual Jazz by John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane,
Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra