Happy Mondays Interview Series: Cold Weather Company

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 Cold Weather Company is (Band Members & Instruments They Play): Steve Shimchick: Vocals/Piano, Jeff Petescia: Vocals/Guitar, Brian Curry: Vocals/Guitar

We Formed In: November of 2013

We’re Based Out Of: New Brunswick, NJ.

You’ve Seen Us Before in Other Bands Like: This is the only band we’ve been in!

Our Sound Has Been Likened to: Fleet Foxes, Coldplay, Iron & Wine, Bear’s Den, Mumford & Sons, Dave Matthews Band, Metallica (Just kidding, but wouldn’t that be somethin’).

Any New Music Coming Out: We’re looking to have our second album out in the fall of this year. Most likely with another single or two before then.

Famous/Cool Bands We’ve Performed With: Two of our favorites have probably been: Jamestown Revival back in 2014 when we first played at The Saint in Asbury Park, and Tall Heights who we just played with recently in Belmar. Both are releasing new albums this year, so we’re excited for that. We also played with Machineheart on campus at Rutgers, and Tor Miller at The Saint and The Wonder Bar.

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The first thing I noticed about the band when I looked you up on Facebook was your profile picture. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a painted photo of the band from Daytrotter which every band gets when they perform at Daytrotter. Can you talk about the experience of being part of something so cool. and how it came to happen?

Daytrotter was easily one of the best experiences we’ve had so far. Brian and Steve had been longtime fans of Daytrotter sessions, and Brian had ‘play a Daytrotter session’ on a kind of mental dream list of his for years. We got in touch with Daytrotter and were invited over to Illinois to record a session. We were really looking forward to that artwork too, because of how iconic it is. It was surreal to have an image in the same style as so many of our favorite bands who have done sessions, as well as to see where the art was done, and record in the same space where so many talented musicians were years before us.

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You guys have toured around the country (or at least regionally) — what’s the hardest part of being an independent band and touring? What’s the best party?

Hardest part: We’ve only taken that one tour so far back in February with Colton Kayser, of Asbury Park notability. We went for 11 days, and even though that isn’t a very long time compared to a typical tour, it took a lot of planning. Being independent and handling all of the booking and organization on our own can be a lot

Best part: The planning worked out in the end and the tour became another one of our favorite experiences. We didn’t know what to expect, or how it’d go, but it was really rewarding going out of the NJ comfort zone and being well-received in different states, as well as meeting people who had been following our music before we ended up playing near them. Along with that is making new friends on the road and getting glimpses of their lives by being shown around their areas during down time. Getting to explore the smaller, more unique/non tourist-attraction spots of a city thanks to a friend in the area has really made the difference during our travels. The added benefit of southern touring, of course, is Waffle House.

Also, how has the band evolved, from a sonic standpoint, and a performance standpoint since that first show?

Sonically, we feel our songs have gotten more complex, and we’ve found more ways to fill the gaps in our music with just the three of us. Without drums and bass, it can be difficult to achieve a full sound, but we feel we’ve been improving in our ability to overcome that challenge.

In addition, we’ve definitely become more instrumental than when we first started out. Now when we write songs, we tend to jam a little more and have more breakdowns. We’ve also written extra instrumental parts to certain songs that we like to play during longer sets.

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Our songs have also gotten a lot more cohesive from the first show up until now.  At first, we had trouble finding “our” sound as a band–since all three of us write, each in a slightly different style.  When listening through the first album, it’s not too difficult to tell the difference in the styles of our individual writing. The vast majority of our latest songs, however, were all written and composed together, which we think leads to a more unified sound.

From a performance standpoint, we’ve definitely changed a lot since our first show on November 15th, 2013. In addition to not even having an official band name then, we only had one original song in our repertoire (“Horizon Fire”). We played that and two covers – “Let Her Go” by Passenger and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk (it was 2013 after all.) Steve was sitting at the piano and Brian and Jeff were standing on either side, it looked kind of awkward and we definitely felt kind of awkward. Now, nearly three years later, we either all stand or all sit (which makes way more sense), and we have too many songs to play during one average length live set now. We’ve also gotten more confident overall – little mistakes will happen here and there, but we sort of just laugh them off and keep going and have a good time during our performances. Our songs have gotten more complex and we’ve found more ways to include different styles, though our mid-banter jokes are still pretty bad. In addition, every so often we’ll release a cage of doves mid-set, just for that added ‘wow!’ factor.

What’s been one of the most memorable moments the band has had so far? One of the wildest?

Memorable: It’s difficult to really pin down the most memorable moments, as there have been so many, but here are a few that come to mind: Our shows at Hidden Grounds in New Brunswick are surely up at the top of the list. They have been some of our favorite performances purely because of the receptiveness of the audience. In such an intimate venue, it’s possible to truly connect with the crowd. We had an amazing experience similar to the Hidden Grounds shows during our tour stop in Radford, VA. The support we received at Radford Coffee Co., so far from home, was overwhelming. Along that line, just touring around in the bus has been so much fun. We’ve taken our little blue school bus, Bluebird, from the Jersey shore to the Luray Caverns in VA, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the nation’s capital and more, and there has never been a dull moment on the road.

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There was a time when a friend of a friend, named Jess, independently found our music on Spotify, all the way over in Nicaragua. After liking the song and adding it to her own playlist, our friend Dave (who Jeff has known for years and was in Nicaragua at the time) told Jess that he was friends with the band and how crazy a coincidence it was. It took some convincing for Jess to believe him, because it was such a crazy coincidence, but eventually she did. We ended up meeting Jess recently, without knowing that she was the girl that heard of us until she mentioned it.

We also met Ted from Mumford & Sons at an after party when we played for the local event in Seaside Heights that was sponsored by Gentlemen of the Road. That was a wild experience because Ted (who was so personable and genuinely engaged in our conversation) talked about how when Mumford & Sons was starting out they played to empty bars (and now they’re one of the biggest bands in the world.) This was June 2015, so it was definitely a big motivator to keep things going, since we’ve played to a few empty (or at least close to empty) bars before too. Ted reminded us that “you’re gonna have bad shows,” because he mentioned his, so it was inspiring to see how far he and the band had come.

If you had to pick one song that you think really defines the sound of Cold Weather Company, what would it be, and why?

Probably our latest single, “Wide-Eyed.” Since CWC was formed by three solo artists, the first album included a few of each of our pre-CWC solo songs – we revamped them as the three of us, but it can still be pretty clear who wrote each. Now, moving into the second album, there are more songs that, at least for the instruments, were written completely collaboratively. “Wide-Eyed” was fun for us because we have a 30 minute recording from September 2014 where we were playing around in the key that would later be the song, and eventually started building on the main chorus (‘I could die in your arms’). It was fun to listen back to, but we didn’t have a real connection to it  until a year later in the summer of 2015. We brought the riff back out one night during practice, and something just clicked. By the end of the night we had nearly the entire structure of the song.

We released it as the first song from our upcoming album because we knew it marked the next steps for us as a band. It’s complex and it blends the different styles of our singing and playing, but it’s also one of our shorter songs allowing it to be a bit more approachable than say “Horizon Fire” which live is just over seven minutes.

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Another important song for us was “Garden,” from our first album. We weren’t sure if we were going to put a mostly instrumental song on there, but we went along with it because we had so much fun writing it and it came about in a similar way. Little by little we pieced parts of the song together. Brian had the intro verses from a poem he had written, guitar was added, Steve added the main piano riff in one day while playing, and Jeff had an older song that he recycled for the transition/second half of the song. It was one of our most collaborative songs from the first album, and we think that shows during our performance.

There’s a ton of bands performing in the Asbury scene right now, what sets you apart from everyone else?

We’re the only band (that we’ve played with at least) that is just three vocals, two acoustic guitars, and a piano. We also don’t have a lead vocalist, instead it’s dependent on the song. Like we said above, each of us, while we share similarities, have fairly distinct musical influences and backgrounds. Because each song has potential to incorporate those different elements or a different lead singer, we’re able to create consistent surprises for the listener. Also, since Jeff plays guitar upside-down, we are arguably the most symmetrical band in the scene.

What do you love about being in Cold Weather Company?

Steve: I really love getting recognized as a CWC band member at places like my parent’s house and by people like my parents. But on a serious note, Brian, Jeff, and I just have an endless amount of ideas between the three of us, so there’s always some new riff or idea to play around with. I feel like we’ve each helped each other grow individually as musicians and songwriters, in addition to as a band. I’m more motivated to write music, even if it’s my own solo music. Having an outlet for that music is incredible, and also being able to connect, play, and share ideas with so many talented musicians throughout the various NJ scenes is really something. I’ve been exposed to so much more music since being in CWC, and gotten a lot more local band T shirts.

Jeff: Cold Weather Company is an identity for all of us. When I introduce myself to people, 10/10 times I will mention the band at some point during the conversation. We schedule our lives around this band and have a sort of unwritten rule that the band comes first in almost all circumstances. My favorite aspect of the band is that our individual musical weaknesses are the strengths of the two other members in most cases. For example, I think of myself as a guitarist that sings, not a singer that plays guitar. After many unconfident years, I finally believe I have a decent voice, however, it can certainly be improved and is not the voice that will silence a loud bar. Thanks to the vocals of Brian and Steve, I can focus on mostly playing guitar and not have to sing during every song. Furthermore, the reason my voice has improved is because of the vocal abilities of the other two. When you are joining in as the third harmony, you learn very quickly whether you’re singing flat, sharp, or the correct note.

Brian: Being a part of this band is incredible for all of us. Like Jeff said, we all push each other to keep getting better and better in every respect of writing and performing. We have this deep respect for each other’s talents, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re some of each other’s biggest fans. There’s this mutual inspiration that we get from one another–musically, we really bring out the best in each other. For me, writing and performing is a healing process–it’s very therapeutic.  Having an outlet to release my stress, anxieties, and frustrations on stage is something I’m thankful for every day. Even better, every now and then we get a message from someone who says that our music helps them through some of their worries, cheers them up, or eases their mind. The thought that something we’ve written has the power to help not only us with our troubles, but someone we might not have even met, is unparalleled. For me, that’s certainly something I love most about being in this band.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2016?

We’re going to get our second album out there. We’re really excited about the new songs, which have made up much of our live sets lately, so we can’t wait to be able to share official versions of them. With the release of the album, we’re looking to play out more frequently towards the end of the year and ideally traveling further out in early 2017. We’ll probably do a little bit of this, a little bit of that as well, y’know?

Cold Weather Company performs at Happy Mondays at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park with Joe Mack and James Black of Thomas Wesley Stern, and Vegabonds.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites