Having been a massive fan of LA rock band The Icarus Line for over a decade, as well as the associative music-zine that is the caustic Buddyhead, what initially drew my attention towards Winkie was Buddyhead’s “Killer” review of the band’s latest album – Come To My Party. With the album being produced by The Icarus Line’s Joe Cardamone, whose own self-produced Slave Vows received numerous plaudits from critics and stands as being my all-time favourite album from the band, Buddyhead’s “Killer” approval ensured that Winkie’s Come To My Party would come highly recommended.
As someone who considers digital downloads to be inherently disposable in nature, I really wanted a physical edition of the album. And whilst a CD would have been preferable (as these take up less space and don’t need to be flipped over once a side finishes), I however opted for a limited edition vinyl copy from Winkie’s Bandcamp page. Partly because I liked the front cover, but also because the vinyl’s only limited to 300 copies.
Hailing from New York City, Winkie consist of two individuals – Peter Santiago and Gina Spiteri – whose sound is much like a conventional pop band that’s been put through an industrial strength meat grinder in an abattoir. As such, what emerges is reminiscent of a highly pitched electronic drone that’s tinged in a dark melancholic sadness. As if the pop-act itself is still somehow conscious, yet despairs at the brutality that’s been wrought upon it, and is now pleading for help.
There’s a certain beauty to this and in Winkie’s carefully crafted noise. And behind the wailing shoe-gaze drone of Come To Our Party lies a band that’s intent on providing a “cheerless desolate soundtrack for the desperate”. Intriguing as that may be, and as someone who’d rather champion indie acts as opposed to more mainstream outfits, the New York duo’s low profile would prove to be a frustrating experience when trying to find out more information about the band. Luckily, Winkie’s Peter Santiago was on hand to answer some of my more burning questions and to also help shed light on his outfit. Enjoy!
How would you describe and introduce Winkie to those who have never heard of your band?
Winkie is a New York band that writes and performs dark and distorted electronic music.
Winkie consists the two members Peter Santiago and Gina Spiteri. How has having two members affected Winkie’s musical journey, and what are the benefits and pitfalls of operating as a duo? How do you overcome the challenges of being a two-piece – particularly in a live gig setting?
In the studio and performance setting, having two members is perfect for us. We’ve both performed in other bands before and prefer working as a duo. With only two of us, achieving our sound live has been a bit of a journey but it has inspired us to incorporate other visual elements (backing videos, fog and outfits) that we think really expand the performance.
New York used to have a thriving creative culture from which many notable bands and musicians emerged in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. What is the scene in New York like now, and how has it reacted to Winkie’s existence?
New York is fortunate to have performers like Glenn Branca, Swans, Liquid Liquid, Suicide attached to it. There are still a lot of great events, venues and talented musicians calling New York their home. It just takes some effort to locate them. We are both from New York and it is really a huge part of our sound but we try to side-step the “scene” mentality.
What bands from New York do you think need more exposure and that discerning music fans should check out?
I would include: Prima Primo, Creation Myth, Courtship Ritual, A Place Both Wonderful + Strange, Mic Raygun, Bunny-X, Parlor Walls and Decorum.
Who would you regard as being your main influences, and how do these factor into determining your sound as a post-rock shoe-gaze band? Was this intentional?
My main influences are the director Jim Jarmusch and performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Big Black, Christian Death and PiL. We never had a specific sound in mind and didn’t think we were shoegaze or post-punk until other people said it.
What are the main similarities and differences between your first album One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts and recent Come To My Party, and in what way do you think Winkie has changed and evolved since the band’s first album?
I think Come To My Party may be heavier than One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts but it is still a dark album.
I really like Come To My Party‘s front cover which shows a black and white photo of a hand outstretched and jutting out from the sea. What was the inspiration for this, and why did you decide to utilise scan-lines? What were you hoping to achieve and convey by doing this?
Thank you. We often describe our sound as the “sound of drowning” description. The artwork is a play on that idea. The scan-lines also relate to our sound.
One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts was mastered by Oliver Ackermann, yet you decided to work with The Icarus Line’s Joe Cardamone on Come To My Party. What were the reasons for this, and how do you think Joe Cardamone’s input compared to that of Oliver Ackermann when it came to your work-flow and sound – especially given that Joe’s band’s sound is usually stripped back whilst Winkie tends to appropriate a maximalist approach where a whole cacophony of sounds (that are often heavily distorted) are thrown in the mix?
Oliver is amazing. He is a super-talented and super-busy person. For our second album we wanted to explore different ideas. We’ve been fans of The Icarus Line for a long time and the sound on his last two albums is just blistering. So, we reached out to him and he totally understood what we were going for. Joe helped keep it heavy and distorted while balancing out the sounds. We are usually less focused on balancing.
Come To My Party has been getting pretty exceptional reviews in the press (including Buddyhead and The Quietus), and has gone some way towards increasing your band’s profile. Did you ever expect Come To My Party to receive as much critical acclaim as it has done, and why do you think Come To My Party is such a sonically strong album?
No, we like the album but didn’t necessarily expect the press it has received.
Most bands tend to peak with their second album only to then falter and fade away soon afterwards. What steps are you taking to ensure that Winkie is able to grow and not stagnate creatively?
We are already recording new songs and focusing on different aspects of our sound. We’re actually really excited about our new ideas.
Winkie only produced 300 copies of Come To My Party on vinyl whilst One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts only had 100. Why have you intentionally limited the number of physical copies on vinyl, and how come Winkie has never sought to release its albums on CD?
We just love vinyl and like the idea of the physical version being limited — it makes it a little more special.
What are Winkie’s future plans, and do these include playing shows in Europe and UK at all?
We would absolutely love to play Europe and the UK. We haven’t been able to make that happen yet but the reality is touring is really expensive.