Indie Harmonies from Winterpills The four members of Winterpills deliver melodies that draw on influences as diverse (and yet harmonious) as the Beatles, the Carter Family, Elliott Smith and Neil Young. Members of the group talk with Liane Hansen about their eponymous debut CD on Signature Sounds.
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Indie Harmonies from Winterpills

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Indie Harmonies from Winterpills

Indie Harmonies from Winterpills

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(Soundbite of music)


A new alternative acoustic rock band from Northampton, Massachusetts, the Winterpills, has a sound that resonates from The Byrds to Simon and Garfunkel.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) Bows a bride forgetting about us reds and yellows, sweets and sours, curled around a scented pillow, biting hard on crushing flowers.

HANSEN: The Winterpills are made up of singer-guitarist Philip Price, drummer Dave Hower, guitarist Dennis Crommett and singer Flora Reed. Philip Price and Flora Reed join us from member station WBUR in Boston.

Welcome both of you to the program.

Ms. FLORA REED (Winterpills): Hello.

Mr. PHILIP PRICE (Winterpills): Hello. Thank you.

HANSEN: All of the members of this group are veterans. Two of you have done solo albums.

Mr. PRICE: Yes.

HANSEN: You've been doing stuff on your own. What was it that brought you together to form the Winterpills?

Mr. PRICE: Well, we're all in this little tiny music scene in Northampton, Massachusetts, and we were all friends. And it really grew out of friendship, a mutual admiration for each other, just basically hanging out at Dennis' house for most of a rather miserable winter.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) Down the southern bound ...(unintelligible) Vicodin and OxyContin, my love knows no ...(unintelligible).

HANSEN: It's a very delicate balance that you achieve between the music and where you let it breathe and the lyrics, which sometimes can be quite deep. You know, you want to listen to them because in many instances, a story is being told. How do you make sure that those things get integrated harmoniously?

Mr. PRICE: It's always--the music comes first. The melody comes first and the words kind of come out of them. Brian Eno kind of wrote this way, and I got very inspired by that, which is to say that I'm creating a melody and inherent in there are some words and I'm not sure really what they are yet. And they start a sound and they become words, and after a good long while, maybe I know what the song's about.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) We took a picture together. We held a camera in front of us. Your arm's cutting right into the frame. Your smile was for both of us. Something about the way we looked that day, caught in the act of trying to look away.

Mr. PRICE: You know, I've always been in awe of great, you know, narrative songwriters and a couple that spring to mind, of course, would be, like, Bob Dylan, Freedy Johnston, who I'm a huge fan of, but I never felt like I'm very good at that myself. So I tend toward creating kind of miniatures that have their own sort of weird, internal, poetic logic. So the ones that are narrative you speak of are very self-consciously so.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) The photograph's impatient as the train pulls out of the station and you're heading further south than I thought you'd ever go. The streets are filling up with snow...

HANSEN: Are there things that you are now able to do with a band that you couldn't quite achieve with your solo work?

Mr. PRICE: Certainly, but it has more to do with live performance than how I write. I always write with some kind of enormous arrangement in mind. I can't stop thinking that way, so it's a pretty natural progression for me right now to write the way I always have and then break it to the band. But the thing is now that, you know, I have very distinctive musicians like Dennis in guitar is--he's an amazing musician just by himself. He's an amazing songwriter by himself, and he's has own projects. And Dave Power's an amazing drummer, as well, but they do totally different things than I would ever think to do. So nowadays basically if I write a song, I bring it to the band leaving big holes in it.

HANSEN: Flora, how easy was it for you to slip into this and, I guess, interpret the songs the way that Philip has in mind?

Ms. REED: Well, singing with Philip has always been--it's been very effortless. It's not something I've had to work at in any way.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) Ahhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhhh.

Ms. REED: When I sing, I actually try and approach it in a universal way; I'm kind of leaving myself out of it. And performing for me is kind of an extreme presentation of emotion, but I don't want it to just be what I'm feeling; I want the audience to be able to tap into some of that.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) All the green children--ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh--with you. Ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhh.

Ms. REED: The way Philip brings songs to the band, he'll come, you know, with a recording with, like, two or three harmonies already that he has thought up in his head. And so it's just been very--it's a very natural thing singing with Philip.

HANSEN: Does it strike you that the tone in many respects--"Want the Want" is a good example--melancholy?

Mr. PRICE: Sure. I would--yeah, they are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Is that conscious? Is that who you are?

Mr. PRICE: No, I don't think I'm that melancholy, am I?

Ms. REED: No.

Mr. PRICE: I'm a pretty...

Ms. REED: No more than the next guys.

Mr. PRICE: ...happy, go-lucky guy. I feel like music as an art form or songs as an art form are--is a generally cathartic art form. And, you know, who wants to purge themselves of happiness? I think if you listen to the general--the pop music canon that we, you know, hopefully might be considered a part of, there's a lot of sad music out there. There's a lot of music about heartbreak and disillusion and death and disappointment and regret. I mean, it seems to me, like, if you listen closely, that's what most of it's about ...(unintelligible) the melody may be "happy" or--you know, "happy" with quotation marks around it.

(Soundbite of song)

WINTERPILLS: (Singing) You are the most, the one. You are the one.

Ms. REED: I don't think of them as sad songs. I can say they're songs about sad topics, and I always feel somehow lifted and better after listening to songs that people would say, `Oh, so depressing, so melancholy.'

Mr. PRICE: Well, it's true, but people are different. They hear stuff differently. Like, you and I could listen to Elliott Smith, like, endlessly.

Ms. REED: Right, right.

HANSEN: You know, a lot of comparisons have been drawn between your songs and the late Elliott Smith's work.

Mr. PRICE: I know, they do say that.

Ms. REED: Mm-hmm.

HANSEN: How do you feel about that?

Mr. PRICE: Honored to be in the same...

Ms. REED: Yeah.

Mr. PRICE: ...breath.

Ms. REED: I think, you know, one of those late nights that we spent at Dennis', one of first songs that Phil and I sing together was an Elliott Smith song, "Between the Bars." And we would do that over and over.

HANSEN: Flora, I have to ask you about your biography. I know, you know, bands put things up on their Web sites, you know, that are made for yucks.

Ms. REED: Uh-huh.

Mr. PRICE: Is it true?

HANSEN: Yeah. Well, Flora, according to your biography, first of all, it says you're fascinated with Polaroids, Bjork and fish sauce. And...

Ms. REED: Oh, my.

HANSEN: Well, I don't know if we need to go there. But it also says on the record, you do harmony vocals and heroics. Define heroics.

Ms. REED: Oh, gosh, I didn't write that about myself. I think Philip came up with that.

Mr. PRICE: Did I write that? I didn't write that.

Ms. REED: You did.

Mr. PRICE: I did not.

Ms. REED: `Timid blasphemy'--who's in charge of that...

HANSEN: That's one--that's on his...

Ms. REED: That's his.

HANSEN: I wanted to ask him about timid blasphemy.

Mr. PRICE: All right, I wrote that.

Ms. REED: Philip, what--I don't know. What were you referring to about my heroics?

Mr. PRICE: I think of you as heroic. You're always heroic. You're my hero, that's why.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Philip Price and Flora Reed from the band Winterpills. Their new CD, "Winterpills," is on the Signature Sounds label, and they joined us from the studios of WBUR in Boston.

Thanks, both of you, and much luck to you.

Mr. PRICE: Thank you.

Ms. REED: Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: You can hear more music from Winterpills, including "Laughing" and "Cranky," at our Web site,

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

(Soundbite of music)

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