“My Eyes Are Closed When the Sun Comes Up” goes the title of the first song we heard by Winkie, a NYC duo with gothic tendencies and noisy propensities, coupled with a flair for creating melodic memories. It’s fair to say we were hooked from the very start.
Upon the release of Winkie’s debut full-length, “One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts,” it’s fair to say that the word “hooked” doesn’t quite cover it. Our response to this album feels less like discovering a new favorite for mix tapes and late-night lounge-abouts, and more like having the curtain raised on a barely remembered dream. Truly, it feels like an introduction to a ghost.
A wise man once said if you have ghosts, than you have everything. Winkie have everything – including an almost painfully perfect debut album and miles of road ahead of them. The duo of Peter and Gina were kind enough to provide their thoughtful answers to our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What is your own personal definition of a ghost – and how does that definition differ from what might be called the “conventional” definition of a ghost? Do you think this concept of ghosts directly impacts the music you make, in either a literal or a symbolic way? How so?
Gina: My own personal definition of a ghost- a ghost is an unsettled soul that I never wish to confirm with a visual. Conventionally I would say that people tend to think of ghosts as messengers from above, or below, or in the middle, for the living and for the benefit of the living. I can’t really confirm whether or not the concept of ghosts has a direct impact on WINKIE but I can state with certainty that the living do. Speaking of ghosts- “The Ghost of Each Room” by cEvin Key is a really good album. I wonder how he would answer this question.
Peter: At times, we all become a living ghost. Whether we are going through the motions, being an “outsider,” blanking out in the middle of a crowd or getting lost in societies idyllic norms … I like to think our music allows listeners to momentarily separate themselves from one consciousness and enter another. On the album, we record all of our parts separately. Each time either of us open an incomplete song it’s a surprise to hear what new “ghost” may now reside within it.
Can you name a specific song or a specific band from the past – perhaps even one that predates your own lifetime – that communicated with you in such a compelling way that it’s as if the sounds were speaking directly to you? What was it about that music that you found so compelling? How has that sound – or that message – influenced the music you make today?
Peter: “Keeping Banging The Door” by Public Image Ltd. is one of the songs that flipped me on my ear. To this day, “Flowers of Romance” is a constant source of musical education. The repetitive drum patterns and Levene’s layered textures are almost perfection … really amazing. There is also a song called “Diseases” by Thrush and the Cunts. It was included in Richard Lowenstein’s film “Dogs In Space.” The song is all of 1 minute and 3 seconds but it informed me about everything I wanted to hear in a song: distorted tones, un-changing drums and a piano-line that takes me to John Cale’s presence on “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Years ago I found the record in a small shop in New Orleans and it is one of my most treasured records. Both songs resonated deeply and pushed my exploration of texture and rhythm patterns.
Gina: The song “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine. I was introduced to MBV when “Loveless” was released. I was a huge Jesus and Mary Chain fan and that’s probably how they came on my radar. The song has been floating in and out of my head on a daily basis for at least 20 years. There is a line in it where Kevin Shields says “turn my head into sound” which completely resonated with me and still does. I don’t know about a specific message, but if you think about having your head filled with sound – as a musician it makes total sense. You can hear his vocals enough to sort of understand what he is saying but he’s not overpowering the song with them. I also love how the keyboard line slowly comes into the song and becomes the dominant sound at the end- like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. I think that WINKIE has some elements of that. Peter would disagree though. He says there is no sun, only clouds.
Is there a single element or attitude that you feel ties the two of your together as Winkie in a way beyond being in a relationship together? Was this something you have experienced in other artistic endeavors, musical or otherwise? How do you think that feeling has evolved since Winkie began?
Gina: I think it helps that we have both always been a little bit delusional. Winkie has definitely heightened this ridiculous delusion to a whole new level. Peter is probably going to answer this question by saying something like, “we are from NY and both have an awesomely hostile NY attitude.” Being in New York has had such a deep impact on both of us and I think that staying here has, although it sounds strange, helped with the evolution of WINKIE
Peter: I cannot deny the impact my environment (New York) has had on what I do and me. Gina and I have worked together (musically) within many projects. We always had a sound in our head and Winkie is the first time we were able to actualize it. This was the result of being secure to exist among our differences and a commitment to the vision.
For the most part, we try not to inquire about the origin of a band’s name – but in the case of Winkie, we can’t resist. What can you tell us about the decision to name the band Winkie? What does the name represent to you? Is there a connection between the name and the way in which you choose to present yourselves visually when performing live?
Gina: We were trying to come up with something “fun” because we were scoring music for a short film and wanted to change our direction into a more ambient, electronic, pretty-sounding band. Clearly we succeeded – HA! WINKIE was taken from a David Lynch movie which I believe he took from the Land of Oz. I’ll let you research that one. Our current visual has no connection to the name but I love David Lynch, and”The Wizard of Oz.” And my late Grandma used to say I was Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” And she is not an unsettled ghost. She is in heaven. Depending on our mood – we do like experimenting with colorful vs. black and white dreamlike visuals, and wearing veils and big hats … Ok, so maybe it does … I just realized that our current visual does tie in with our initial intention of making everything dreamlike.
Peter: Yes, originally, this was a project to provide music to our friend’s (Paul Natale) short films. We wanted a name that distinguished itself from our previous work. The name refers to the “I had a dream about this place” diner in “Mulholland Drive.” The way David Lynch allows dreams to shape sound, story and visual is inspiring. We had a dream … about this sound. Live, we attempt to bring the audience into the “dream” through backing videos, lighting and occasionally obscuring our appearance.
Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that we are attempting to start right now – that you previously recorded an album that has thus far not seen the light of day, entitled “Goth Fonzie,” using the band name, “Henry Winkie”?
Peter: We cannot confirm or deny the existence of that album but it could have been the soundtrack for an unrealized Jim Jarmusch film staring Alan Vega in the lead role.
We won’t hesitate to say that we’re more than a little entranced by your debut full-length, “One Day We Pretended to Be Ghosts.” We find it to be a very nuanced album – the combination of somewhat delicate (?) vocal melodies with a bit of a harsh, noisy; almost Einstürzende Neubauten-esque landscape is particularly compelling, and ultimately very memorable. How do you feel about the album now that it’s complete and gone to live on its own in the world? Was there an overriding theme that you wanted to present with this collection of songs?
Peter: First, thank you for describing our music as delicate, harsh and a “Neubauten-esque landscape.” I think of it as a space between My Bloody Valentine’s “I Believe” and Brian Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent).” Musically, we wanted to achieve a collection that could also work as movie score. The listener could imagine each scene … being consumed by the ocean, driving a speeding car toward the horizon … I think we were successful at setting this environment – if you allow it.
Gina: Thank you. We are thrilled that you like it and I think it will be OK out there in the world and hopefully it will meet some friends while its out there.
I cannot say that we had any sort of plan when we wrote this album although I know that I had this constant horrible feeling being restrained by a myriad of things during the period of time when it was completed. New York City is wonderful but at the same time there is this constant feeling that you cannot simply just be. I think that the songs reflect a sense of that in some sort of strange and unintended way. I hate to be that annoying person who refuses to explain their work – I am not trying to be vague – but it was not my intention to create such a harsh sound. I was surprised when people started saying that it was a very harsh sound. I thought it sounded pretty and can hear pretty elements in our song although Peter completely laughs at me when I say that.
Picking a highlight of an album this strong is perhaps counter-productive, but two songs in particular – “Sometimes” and “Vacant”, struck us. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for these songs, both musically and lyrically?
Gina: We were just talking about these two songs yesterday at practice. I was telling Peter that “Sometimes” is one of those songs that I will never be happy with. I don’t know why but it never sounds finished to me. It has taken a really long time to complete and I take full responsibility for that. Peter wrote it and I messed around with it – for a few years, like a tease – leading it on but never committing. I love the word “sometimes.” Depeche Mode has a song on “Playing the Angel” where it is used in such a perfect way. Then again, Depeche Mode also has an amazing song called “Sometimes.” Then again, Depeche Mode is always perfect. I can’t tell you what the lyrics mean though. It’s my secret.
As for “Vacant” – that was the only song on our album where Peter put down some melodies and I immediately knew where to go with it. We have a different version of this song where the drumbeats cut out and it’s less fuzzy, and I think that version is really great as well as the one that ended up on the album. The words are really sad. I was extremely sad when I wrote this song. I don’t like being sad. I try not to be sad but sadness has a way of sneaking into your head and heart. Sadness is such a creeper … kind of like a ghost …
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite song by Bauhaus song and why? Please show your work.
Gina: I will leave the Bauhaus song to Peter because I am not a fan of Peter Murphy. I do adore Love and Rockets though. Lately I’ve been listening to Brian Ferry (with and without Roxy Music), X and HTRK. When I’m on the train I like to think that I’m in a train car filled with Brian Ferry’s and they are all singing to me. It makes the commute much more tolerable. HTRK is one of those bands that have that sound that I wish I had. The vocals are so incredibly fox-tastic. They have an alluring and seductive quality about them that I am quite jealous of. I’m not very alluring. Maybe if I stopped trying to capture the sounds tornadoes make I would be alluring … OK, that “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight” song. I think David J. sings it. I like that Bauhaus song most.
Peter: HTRK! They have been in constant play for me. I am looking forward to hearing their new album. A friend turned me onto Wrekmeister Harmonies’ “You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me” … which is beautiful. Bauhaus is a funny topic with us – as Gina just mentioned. We both agree that Daniel Ash is an amazing guitar player. “The Three Shadows Part 2” may not feature his signature tone but it is a striking statement of what they were capable of (“Passion Of Lovers” would be a close second).
In his novel “Jitterbug Perfume,” Tom Robbins – a huge fan of Throbbing Gristle, we’re sure of it – writes the following:
“A mask has but one expression, frozen and eternal, yet it is always and ever the essential expression, and to hide one’s telltale flesh behind the external skeleton of the mask is to display the universal identity of the inner being in place of the outer identity that is transitory and corrupt. The freedom of the masked is not the vulgar political freedom of the successful revolutionary, but the magical freedom of the Divine, beyond politics and beyond success. A mask, any mask, whether horned like a beast or feathered like an angel, is the face of immortality. Meet me in Cognito, baby. In Cognito, we’ll have nothing to hide.”
Gina: My thoughts – “unhappiness is the ultimate form of self indulgence.” And THIS is why I try not to be sad.
I’m totally impressed. You completely get it. If you ever come to NY for a visit, I will buy you a martini.
Peter: A mask can allow the wearer to shape perception. It can also allow moments of freedom and imprisonment. Yukkio Mishima’s “Confessions Of A Mask” (I just started reading this) would support the later. The mask is held by a delicate string and must be worn with care (I wish we ran into Tom Robbins at TG’s Coachella performance).
What’s next for Winkie?
Gina: We actually started talking about writing some new material. I’ve been working on a song for the past few weeks – so far it has three layers so it needs work. I keep changing the direction of the third layer, which changes the direction of the rest of the song, and I’m not sure that I want to change the direction entirely. We have some shows lined up and look forward to meeting more awesome people and have wonderful experiences doing what we love to do. Hearts.
Peter: The album is out and we want to support it with more performances outside of New York and we hope to fill 2014 with many performances and another album.
“One Day We Pretended to be Ghosts” is available here.