ICON: Firstly, can you explain how Winston Surfshirt evolved from a solo act to a six-man-strong band? Did you always want to branch out?
Winston Surfshirt: “No, it was never really a set plan. I’d always played with Mi-K who plays the guitar now and then we got Bustlip who plays beats come to join in because a bar gig opened up and they asked for a band so we got an extra member. And then he went to LA for two months so we got two other people to come in and fill in while he was gone. He came back so we kept them and then we got a trombone player and now we have six.”
What is the band-dynamic like? Are there any moments of tense creative difference?
WS: “Never. We just have fun.”
Your real name is Brett. Why the change? Where did ‘Winston’ come from?
WS: “John Lennon’s middle name was Winston. I never liked the name ‘Brett’. My Dad did the exact same thing when he was about 12. All his school reports were ‘Timothy’ and in two years they all said John, when he decided to change his name. [For me], it’s been two years now.”
You have amassed a passionate fanbase quickly. What has been a main lesson for you since you started creating music in the early days?
WS: “Lesson? God. Be healthy? I don’t know. Always waiting, always learning. The more you do it, the better you get.”
Can you recall your first encounter with Elton John and Zane Lowe?
WS: “The first time I ever met Elton John or saw him, I was in Venice. A week before, we were going on a family holiday – I must have been 12 – and I thought I’d seen Ross from ‘Friends’ in Central Park in New York and no one believed me. And then in Venice, I saw Elton John walk past and I went, ‘Oh look, there’s Elton John’, and my mum said, ‘Don’t be stupid’, and it was Elton John. So we all chased after him and looked at him in a shop. That was the first time I saw him. We [the band] met him in Sydney when he was here touring. And we just hung out and talked about music.”
As one of Australia’s most recognised indie-bands, what is your opinion on the NSW Government’s approach to strict licensing and regulations at music festivals?
WS: “I’m not surprised, I don’t know. We live in a very particular ‘nanny’ state in Australia, I don’t even know what to say. There isn’t the hugest live music scene for emerging bands so it doesn’t help the cause.”
What is the songwriting process when it comes to creating new music?
WS: “It’s different all the time. Sometimes, someone will bring a beat. Beat sometimes, cords sometimes, it’s always different.”
Where do you draw inspiration from for new material? Who do you listen to?
WS: “I only listen to old music. I haven’t found anything new for while that I actually love. I just go back to old music. If I was just going to play music after this, I’d probably play Camp Lo. Or… I don’t know what I feel like.”
What can fans expect from your forthcoming album ‘Apple Crumble’? Where did the name come from?
WS: “I’m really bad at describing my music. It’s like dance… Like disco hip-hop. My Grandad used to make the greatest apple crumble. So that’s where that came from. My Dad is trying to learn the recipe.”
Lastly, which country is your favourite to perform in?
WS: “Australia. Of course. I’m more comfortable in Australia. And they always want a good time.”
Winston Surfshirt’s latest album ‘Apple Crumble’ is out now. For more, visit the website here.