Spotlight Band: The Famous Winters
Newcomers to the scene The Famous Winters, comprised of Sean Kennedy, Alex Garzone, and recently joined by Matt DeCosta, are a Providence-based minimalist trio with a dynamic sound. Steady and eerie, Kennedy’s strained vocals and icy lyrics make their EP, Carnival Sky, a short but incredibly strong debut. Kennedy and Garzone may not be partnered long, but their chemistry reads so powerfully in their music that when I saddled up to chat with them, I wasn’t surprised to find them echoing each others ideas, and sometimes even finishing each others’ sentences.
Interviewed by: Dorise Gruber
So I’ve been listening to your EP on repeat and I’m picking up on some pretty diverse influences. For folks not yet familiar with your sound, how might you describe it?
SK: It’s tough to give it a genre, but you’re right about the diverse influences. I think we both grew up listening to predominantly the music of previous generations, but when we got together we both wanted to make something that sounded new to us. Melodancholy Rock?
AG: Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint where our influences or “references” directly come from. I think what we try and do is always be conscious of the song and how parts work together. We try and be methodical. It might be Psychedelic, Rock, Pop – not really settled on what to call it yet.
I like the “Melodancholy Rock,” but since I hear everything from Billy Corgan to Damien Rice, it almost feels like a Grunge-Folk. Maybe even with a little bit of European feel?
SK: Grunge-folk works for me too. European as well, certainly English anyways. English Blues Rock, Beatles, Coldplay, and so many more.
AG: I could hear the Grunge, and Euro feel. I am a big fan of Americana or Folk, but I never really associated us with that genre. I think it portrays the somewhat raw emotion that’s in Folk and Grunge music.
There’s definitely something very raw about your music. The stripped down part in “Forever That Boy” especially really slays me, “It’s forever that boy with nothing to do/who thinks about things that he wishes to prove/in a manner that doesn’t say much about who he is.” The way these words get wrought out is so earnest – are your songs stories you’re trying to tell, or are they more reflective of your individual experience(s)?
SK: I think maybe they start as reflections and then I try to turn them into stories. You know, trying to be creative with your honesty, inventive with your sadness. But, most of all we try to make it human. Alex says I write lyrics about the human condition, I think that’s beautiful. Then again, Alex is a beautiful guy. Haha!
You’re both beautiful guys!
AG: Sean has a talent for hitting the nerve. That’s all I can say about that.
SK: And thanks for saying that about the bridge in “Forever That Boy,” we really like that one too.
How did you guys come up with the name The Famous Winters?
SK: You or me Alex?
AG: We were actually trying to come up with moniker for our friend… [to SK]:You finish this one.
SK: Yeah pretty much, sitting in a bar looking at the signs and papers on the wall, one of us blurted it out. He hated it, we loved it. We liked the possibilities for imagery and the New England feel we got from it.
Are you guys New England natives?
AG: Born and raised in Providence, RI here.
SK: Brockton, MA.
So how did you guys meet?
AG: At an open mic here in Providence at Tazza Cafe.
SK: I moved to Providence about a year and a half ago pretty much for the hell of it. And yeah, what he said.
Have you guys been playing together a long time?
SK: We’ve been playing as The Famous Winters for under a year, but we were the rhythm section in a band called The Silks for a while before this. Before that we dabbled.
AG: Sean and I have known each other for a little over a year now, I could be wrong? And had been playing music on and off most of that time. The Famous Winters concept fully blossomed this past winter.
Had you been working on these songs for a long time before The Famous Winters came into its own, or did they evolve more as you guys started dabbling?
SK: They were all written in the same couple of months and we worked them out while we were recording them, which I guess is before we were a “band.”
You guys are really tight with each other for only having played together for a year or so. And I hear you’ve just brought a new member into the fold?
AG: Thank you, Dorise! Yes, that is correct. For the past few months we had been looking for musicians to work/collaborate with, but nothing had been working the way we wanted it to. Matt DeCosta was coming out to our shows in Providence and really believed that we were onto something. Matt knew we were looking to expand the band and wanted to give it a shot on bass, synth, and backing vocals. Since September we have been working diligently with him and things have been going very well! We are sounding very “full” but by no means have we made the decision of not expanding any further.
I was wondering how you guys managed the keyboard and the echoed vocals live! Has Matt already started joining you onstage or is his addition still behind the scenes?
AG: Matt joined us at our show last week, with Willy Mason and Nina Violet in Providence.
SK: He’s played one show and one Internet radio thing with us, so far so good. Speaking of the managing echoed vocals and keyboards, I think that frees Alex and I so much in the studio that we’re not at all afraid to sound completely different live. Actually, I think we’re into it.
AG: I agree.
Has that inspired the addition of new songs to your catalog, too? You came out with such a killer EP, I want to know if there’s more on the way!
SK: Thanks, yes we’re actually in the process of recording four more. Same studio. We’re excited! It’s different in ways, which is always fun.
Since the cover of this EP looks like a pink Hostess Cupcake, I wonder if future albums will also be covered with tributes to Little Debbie?
AG: Only your copy.
Excellent! My favorites are the Zebra Cakes, be sure to keep that in mind.
SK: Yes, yes. The next is a tribute to the cream filling. We’re thinking of calling it The White Album. What do you think?
Hmm, or maybe “Cream.” I’m sure neither will confuse anyone.
[SK & AG laugh]
Since your catalog is still being built up, do you guys ever supplement sets with cover songs, or do you keep it short and stick to the originals?
AG: I don’t think our fans come to shows expecting covers. Maybe they are, ha!
SK: We’re totally original at the moment. Any requests?
I think you guys could kill an Elliott Smith cover.
SK: Damn Dorise, you have good taste!
So when you guys aren’t moonlighting as The Famous Winters, are you 9-5ing it up around Provi?
SK: Myself, not quite 9 to 5, but close enough to hate it, haha.
AG: Living normal lives like the rest. Work, play, work, play, work, play. Sex is in there somewhere in the middle.
SK: Hahaha I told you he was beautiful.
[DG & AG laugh]
So beyond working and playing (and sexing), what does the future hold for The Famous Winters?
SK: We intend to make music our life, living, and source of happiness. And we won’t be convinced we can’t do it. Everything from here on out is in support of that goal.
AG: I agree. I plan on it being a long and fruitful experience – more touring, shows, records, and the opportunity for bigger and better ideas.
You can find The Famous Winters on their Facebook page, where you can stream and download (for free!) their debut EP, Carnival Sky. Upcoming tour dates are also posted, be sure to catch them soon!