Rose Wintergreen may be in the middle of her co-headlining tour with Rosie Catalano, but she still has time for her fans. Emily Booth caught up with Rose about her hectic year: awards confusion, musical evolution, crowdfunding, and sand. Lots of sand.
Hi Rose, how are you?
I’m good! I’ve been hanging out in a cafe with an iced chocolate.
Sounds good! Well, first of all — congratulations on the success that “Feet In The Sand” has had so far.
Being shortlisted for the Vanda and Young Songwriting award is obviously a huge accomplishment, and there were so many great artists there this year. What has this been like for you?
It was pretty crazy! When I got the phone call, I actually asked the lady if she was prank-calling me. She was quite kind about it. [Laughs] I got a couple of days notice but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, so that was really hard. I did tell my producer [Dave Crowe], because it was a bit of a collaborative effort, pulling that song together. It was really interesting waiting from the final announcements, like ‘who’s gonna get it, who’s gonna get it?’ And I’ve since found out, in the last couple of days, that I’m also a finalist in the Music Oz Awards for it, so that’s pretty cool.
Yeah. I got the email, but the wording wasn’t particularly clear — I couldn’t see myself in the list, but it said something like ‘Dear Commended Entries and Finalists’. I saw Rosie Catalano, my tour buddy, on the list, so I let her know straight away and she was really excited. But I still didn’t realise I was on it. It was only when I saw another friend, Al Parkinson, announce that she was a finalist on her facebook page that I had another look at the list. And then I saw that I was on there too. It’s cool to get that recognition.
Yeah! Let’s talk about the music video for “Feet In The Sand”. It’s beautiful, but it looks like it would have taken a long time to film.
We actually pulled that together in about four weeks and two days, so it was insanely fast for a video clip. Brian Cohen of Umbershoot directed it, and pulled things together in a really short time. We initially sat down together and brainstormed ideas for a few hours. There were quite a few days of shooting, particularly with the stop-motion for the sand sculpture. That was really slow, but really beautiful. It was quite interesting, working to come up with a way to make it really beautiful, and capture the mood of the song, without being too clichéd; like too much ocean imagery, or making it really sexual.
Yeah, there’s no dramatic crashing waves, or anything.
Being buried alive [in the sand] was interesting, though. He brought three tons of sand!
It looks intimidating!
It felt really nice, but people have interpreted it in different ways. Some are really freaked out. And I’m like, well… It’s a little bit scary, but the sensation’s actually quite nice. It’s a little bit like being hugged. Apart from the fact that the sand was wet and cold, and it was a freezing day. I had to be really still, and they kept asking me ‘are you sure you’re okay in there?’ and I just had to grunt. One grunt means yes, two grunts means no. Coming out of the sand afterwards I felt like some alien-monster from a movie.
Well, the finished product looks lovely. As for the song itself, it has more of an electronic influence compared to your earlier music. What brought about that change?
I’ve always wanted to be doing it, but I never had the gear. I only recently got myself a MIDI controller keyboard at home, which means that I’ve got a bit more options for composing. In the past, I’ve had to do all my writing with either voice or an acoustic instrument first. So I have written electronic stuff in the past before, but I didn’t have the opportunity to play with it.
I wrote “Feet In The Sand” at home in my bedroom, using synth sounds from my computer, and it just felt really natural for me. I’m keen to do more writing like that. I flew up to Alice Springs for four days, to work with Dave Crowe in his studio. I knew I wanted to work with him, because he’s an amazing producer, a fantastic multi-instrumentalist, and a songwriter in his own right. And he did some really cool things, playing around with sounds and then running them through tape machines, to give it a warmer feel.
Yeah. Some of the stuff I grew up listening to was Massive Attack and Portishead, but I do really like trying to keep some warmth.
I agree. Once of the things about electronic music is that it often sounds very crisp, and that can be good, but…
Sometimes it can sound too perfect, or too cold.
It’s interesting, the different qualities you can get. I guess that’s something I really like about acoustic instruments, is that it’s pretty hard to make them lose their warmth. They sound human, and I find I write very differently that way. If I write on guitar, ukulele, or piano, it’s more pop-melody driven. But when it’s electronic, you come up with different sounds and noises to play around with.
Cool. Do you think the rest of the EP will have more of that sound?
I’m not sure! Hopefully. I only have three songs completely done. The second and third song are exclusively available on a three-track mini EP I’m selling at the Reverie Tour dates. The rest of the tracks are half-recorded. They’ve only got my vocals and the instruments I play, and we need to finish the accompaniment, and final arrangements.
The two other tracks [on the mini EP] we’ve done have got that electro-feel, but they’re quite different to “Feet In The Sand”, because one of them was written on ukelele, and one on guitar. But I think the percussion, in particular, ties them together very well. We’ve done all these crazy things, inventing sounds. Fore one track, neither traditional nor MIDI percussion was sounding right, so Crowe was getting pretty frustrated. And he dropped his keys on the concrete studio floor, and I went ‘Oh, that’s an awesome sound!’ So we recorded that as part of the percussion. So it’s all created sounds.
That sounds very natural.
Yeah. The feedback I’ve been getting from the people who’ve heard all three tracks have said it makes sense to them. And it seems to be working with the live show too. I played the first tour date in Brisbane last Friday night, and that was the first time I’d done this new show live. I was a little bit nervous! [Laughs] But it went really well.
Glad to hear it! I was going to ask if it changed how you perform.
In the past, I’ve done some vocal looping, building up layers — so I do a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, which people love — and that’s live, but not really electro. The rest would be just guitar, ukelele, and singing. Now I’ve incorporated the use of a sampler on stage, so I’m playing loops with that, as well as everything else. It’s a combination of electro and folk at the moment, and it still works with Rosie Catalano’s set, which is great. I wasn’t sure how that would work out.
She plays quite folky music.
Yeah! I saw her back in June.
We’d never met before this tour! [Laughs] We’d known each other online for quite some time, and we’d had Skype conversations at length about things like Crowdfunding, and things like that. So we had a good sense of each other, but we’d never met, or seen each other play live. It only occurred to me a few days before the first show that maybe people might think that was strange. And I said to her on the phone, ‘Rosie… are we a bit stupid for having decided to do this, without ever seeing each other perform? and she was like, ‘no, no, I’m sure it’ll be fine.’ But it was such a relief when we met, and played, and it made sense in the flesh too.
I can imagine!
Who you work with makes a huge difference. We’re both self-managed, independent artists, and we’re not afraid of a bit of hard work, but pulling an east-coast tour together is tough, and it made sense to combine forces. I’m very glad we did that.
Yeah! And you’ve got another show tonight at the Oxford Art Factory.
Yep. And we’ve got Brendan Maclean playing with us, so we’re very excited. I’ve never seen him live, but he’s been exploding online.
I’ve never played there, but I’ve seen other bands. I used to live in Sydney, very briefly, and it was one of my favourite venues to go to.
It’s a good place. It has a bit of a nightclub feel to it, but with live music.
Yeah. And then Saturday night, we’re in Canberra at The Front Gallery, and we finish up on Friday the 18th in Melbourne, at The Empress Hotel, which will be epic.
Will you have time out to explore the different cities you’re in?
A little bit. Today’s probably the most free I’ve been so far. In Brisbane, I was there for four or five days, but I played a lot of sideshows in the malls. Pretty much working every day. And you see amazing things, like — there was this one time, when I was at Queen Street Mall, in the middle of the city, and I was playing some serious song, and trying to concentrate. And this person went past on a motorised scooter, going really fast. And there was a second person riding it on the back, and they had a dog attached with a leash, and it was running to keep up. [Laughs] I managed to hold it together and keep performing, but it was hilarious.
That poor little dog, scampering after them.
The things you see.
Yeah! So you’ve actually Crowdfunded your upcoming EP, Chasing Shadows. What’s that experience been like?
It’s been tumultuous. It was quite stressful… I knew that it would increase the energy around my music, but I thought it would only last the length of the campaign. But it’s kept going, and it seems to have started a bit more of a snowball effect in terms of interest. I think it also helped the fans I already had understand ow important and how powerful it is when they help out by sharing links, and caring about my music. I don’t know if they really knew how helpful that was.
And I had a really good connection with fans already. I’ve had a regular newsletter for years, and I often used to have people reply after I sent it out — but I think the crowdfunding has helped them feel more like they’re a part of it… As they should! I mean, I can’t do this alone. I can write the music alone, but I can’t get it out there alone. So this feels like we’re a team.
I’m glad it’s worked out! Chasing Shadows is due out early next year, right?
Yeah. At the moment, I’m just having to get through this tour. But it’s still on track for next year.
Great! Good luck with the rest of the tour!
Thank you so much!
Rose Wintergreen is on tour now.
Thurs 10th Oct, SYDNEY
Oxford Art Factory, 38-46 Oxford St, Sydney
Rose Wintergreen & Rosie Catalano with Brendan Maclean
Sat 12th Oct, CANBERRA
The Front, Wattle St, Lyneham Shops, Lyneham
Rose Wintergreen & Rosie Catalano with Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens (solo)
Tickets $7 at the door
Fri 18th Oct, MELBOURNE
The Empress Hotel, 714 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North
Rose Wintergreen & Rosie Catalano with Dan and Hannah Acfield
Tickets $10 at the door
Find out more at her Official Website – http://rosewintergreen.com/