Winchester 7 & The Runners
Please introduce your band
I'm Winchester 7 and am based out of Atlanta, GA. Our bassist, Phil Voorhees, resides in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and drummer, Jack Kane, is itinerant within the United Kingdom. We call our style indie ukulele rock as we're certainly indie; I play an electric ukulele, and we're much more of a rock band than the ukulele bit would seem to imply.
Tell us about your lineup
Winchester 7 - ukulele and lead vocals; Phil Voorhees - bass guitar and backing vocals; Jack Kane - drums and backing vocals.
We each messed about in various bands in our youths, but without any recognizable paths towards earning a living, relegated our creative efforts to evenings and weekends as we pursued "proper" jobs. But, our common loves for music and filmmaking never died and we reached an age where we came to realize that we would either live with regrets or need to get on with it.
How did the band meet?
The band came together when Phil and Jack pulled a runner. I went after them and, when I caught up, they began to play. Fortunately, I had my ukulele with me; so I joined in. Together we realized that we had a better future as a band than apart, back in the domed city.
So, we began rehearsing a few cover tunes and writing some initial songs to sort out exactly how to best capture our sound. Then, as we explored the world around us, we leveraged collaborative technologies to keep it going...particularly during this pandemic as we're not able to get into the studio together much anymore.
What's the story behind your band name?
I'm Winchester 7 and they were runners. There wasn't much more to it than that, honestly.
Tell us about your influences!
I think that we draw upon classic and alternative rock, post-punk, and Brit-pop quite a bit.
For me, personally, I feel that our songwriting owes quite a bit to Paul McCartney as we're huge fans of his and certainly the Beatles. In fact, if you ever watch our videos, you may see a large poster of him looming in the background.
However, other influences certainly include The Pixies, The Clash, The Ramones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and The Stones.
Could you describe your approach to songwriting?
It always seems to start with the music. Phil sometimes promises to give us a bass line to start us off, but he just admires Peter Hook more than he is truly prolific. Rather, our songs more often come from jamming together or things that I work out on my own while playing the ukulele.
Once we agree upon an arrangement, we then record the parts and build up the track with my rhythm ukulele serving as the foundation track. Somewhere thereafter, immediately following the foundation track recording or sometimes at the very end, I set about writing lyrics and then pitch them to the others for fine-tuning. They sometimes come from a theme or a few phrases that seem to organically come to mind.
Describe your band's first big break
I'm not sure that we've realized our "big" break quite yet, but sometimes a series of small ones amounts to just that. I can only offer that the momentum which we have felt in our songwriting, the recording process, and the fun that we have in filming our music videos; has proven an inspiration to create more. Perhaps that alone is quite a "break" too in that an artist's oeuvre, the body of their work is often greater than any individual concern. We're truly fortunate to continue to be inspired.
Tell us about some of your most memorable gigs - both good and bad!
As we reside geographically distant to one another and, given the recent pandemic, we haven't done a tremendous amount of gigging. I suppose though, that there were past audiences who we now appreciate for having remained patiently assuring when we were working out our material early on. I'm also tremendously thankful that my family continues to indulge me during the writing process as I experience fits of starts and stops amidst a healthy dose of swearing.
What advice do you have to those who want to start a band?
Certainly, attention to rehearsal and communication within the group are worthy considerations. However, beyond that, I suggest two things for starting out.
The first is the easiest: just start playing. Play as much as you have the time and heart to do and enjoy doing it without intentions for lofty goals of "being the best" or owning a Learjet. Just play, be as good as you are, and try to become better still. Then, play some more. The band that you start may not become successful, but the experience of doing it is a building block that will either help that band to reach its next level or come to benefit future endeavours.
The second is perhaps more difficult: The stereotype of the starving artist is not without basis. Too often, artists survive on hopes and dreams without appreciation for the realities of putting food on the table or the intricacies of business. The history of entertainment is littered with unfair business agreements, exploitive managers, and hangers-on who enrich themselves while the artist receives a fraction of their worth spends beyond their means, and being resoundingly abandoned when their success fades. Take the time to learn business and industry fundamentals and history, agree internally regarding publishing shares, incorporate, register copyrights, join a performance rights organization, develop business and marketing plans, and establish business relationships that are supported by legal counsel reviewed agreements and are leveraged for accountability.
What are some of the challenges you face being in a band?
I'd say that our biggest challenge has been a resource availability frustration. It's difficult managing budget, time, and effort associated with the development of new content only to compete in a market in which better-funded bands are supported by teams of contributors and existing media contacts. It really makes one embrace guerilla marketing principles.
What does it take to be successful as a band?
Well, you're certainly not getting anywhere with poor players and worse songs. So, I'd start with the idea that attention to craftsmanship is vital. Thereafter, a blend of good business, timing, and luck factor in heavily. I'd also suggest that persistence is an important ingredient. The moment that you stop trying may well be the end of it all.
How important is music theory?
It's probably very important. I don't think that it exists as a barrier alone though. We're "play by ear" types ourselves, as have been many successful artists before us. Practice, however, remains paramount with the fundamentals of learning one's instrument, it's chords, scales, and the like; not to be undervalued.
Tell us about the releases you've put out to date
We released our first EP, Beyond the Dome, on July 4, 2019. It was our debut work and was composed of what we felt were our very best songs.
It's follow-up, The Forgotten World, was composed of left-over tracks that we further developed to be release ready and several new songs that we'd been working on. It was released later that same year, in October 2019.
Finally, our third EP, Argos Holiday, was released this past December 2020. It seemed to me to be our first proper album in that it was designed to have a beginning and end with recurring themes throughout.
What has been your band's biggest achievement?
We're very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Stuart Epps (Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Oasis, and George Harrison; among others) in the re-mix and mastering of our song, The Saint Simon Killer (TSSK). We included it as a bonus track on our Argos Holiday release.
Additionally, we are very proud to have had the videos for our songs The Golden Age and My Super 8 recently recognized by several film festivals. We're in the process now of submitting our TSSK video to a few with high hopes.
How do you view the current state of the music industry?
It seems that we live in a tumultuous time and the industry well mirrors the impact of that. Certainly, there's the obvious pandemic related impact on live music which we all hope to see improve in short order. However, there's also quite a bit of decentralization to music distribution going on. Now, that affords greater opportunity for independent artists to get their music out there, but getting it heard is a different thing entirely. As a result, the synergies and contrasts between the roles of the labels, streaming services, and social media are still evolving. So, I'd assess it, overall, as being rich with opportunity and uncertainty.
What are you working on right now?
We have a new song, Ever Said, in the mix right now that we wrote over the holidays and then recorded more recently. It's got a theme of not being too hard on oneself or getting caught up in extremes.
We'll be shooting some video content for it shortly. We're actually appearing in a video interview soon and have worked out an agreement with the production team to allow us to shoot some behind the scenes content that we plan to use.
Thereafter, I expect that we'll begin work on something new.
What is your focus for the year ahead?
We're working on our next EP now and are early in on the writing process. We'll also continue to work on filming supporting music videos and pre-releasing each track to our YouTube channel throughout the year in advance of the EP release.
Apart from that, I suppose, like the rest of us, we're focused on staying healthy and looking forward to life after lockdown.
Thank you so much for dropping by the WeJam studio! Where can we follow your progress?