The Long Winters: In It For The Girls

Scott Bryson
Publication date: 
March 27, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Long Winters: In It For The Girls

John Roderick has no one to blame but himself if Putting The Days To Bed doesn't meet expectations. Roderick, the brains behind much of The Long Winters' material, stepped into the role of producer and took complete control of the group's third full-length. Part a life warning and part a celebration of living, Putting The Days To Bed is a definite departure for the Seattle-based band. ChartAttack discussed a reborn Long Winters with Roderick via email, as the oft-morose foursome made their way through the central U.S.

"I've always had a pretty clear picture of how I wanted my songs to sound," Roderick says in describing his part as producer. "Although I've worked with some amazingly talented people who've definitely added elements to our records that I would never have imagined myself, I wanted to see what would happen if I didn't have any filters between myself and the process of record-making."

Along with Roderick's new role, Putting The Days To Bed marks a new sound in the evolution of The Long Winters. The mood on the record borders on joyous — a sentiment that's been somewhat absent on the band's previous discs.

"My operating principle for this record was to leaven some of the thoughtfulness of the lyrics with an upbeat, guitar-pop bounce," Roderick explains. "We go back and forth.

"Our first record, and the EP we released last year, were both much darker musically, and probably our next record will be as well. But sometimes we just wanna dance!

"I believe in self-fulfilling prophesy, and don't want to have to live under the shadow of too much bitterness. It's impossible for me to write happy-dippy lyrics about how everything is going to work out fine, but by the same token I don't want to convince myself, or anyone else, that happiness is impossible. My solution is to write somewhat sardonic lyrics, and then to bang a tambourine over them like crazy!"

Though The Long Winters, for years, have made pop music that would seemingly lend itself well to mainstream radio success, popularity with the masses has thus far eluded them. Roderick suggests that it might be due to the complexity of the group's songs — a feature that's somewhat hidden below the surface.

"Well, we're getting better at making records, and I think you can hear that confidence in the recordings. Most of our songs have multiple layers of sound and meaning, which can work against them ever being big, immediate radio smash hits. They take some living with to fully appreciate because they don't just pummel you with simple emotions and irresistible, lame-brained hooks."

Though Roderick doesn't have plans to write an intentionally radio-friendly song, his subject matter would certainly be familiar to most listeners.

"Like all our records, the major theme is girls," he states. "Or, more accurately, why do love and sex start out so great and end so often in disappointment.

"I'm also not a kid anymore. I'm watching my dad grow old, watching my friends settle, and trying to piece it all together. How are we supposed to grow old gracefully without becoming conservative-minded curmudgeons, or worse, desperate parodies of our young selves? Also, how do you bang a tambourine in a way that gets you maximum kisses from cute chicks?"

Putting The Days To Bed is a celebration of the fairer sex, but Roderick also intended the disc as a general warning that life should always be lived to the fullest.

"When I reached my mid-thirties, I noticed a lot of my friends started to give up on their wilder dreams. They had some spirit left in them, but they were parroting the same, tired rationalizations for why they couldn't be musicians any more, or why they couldn't take that trip to Europe or whatever. Everyone was putting on a brave face, like their responsibilities were a badge of honour, but the bitterness in them was real. I didn't want my life, or my friend's lives, to just become a grind of putting the days to bed, one after the other."

In The Long Winters' early days, some of those friends were Roderick's band members. But over the last few years, multiple lineup changes have led to a group that looks almost nothing like the original.

"I started the band with a group of friends who maybe weren't the best musicians," Roderick explains. "They'd be the first to tell you that, too.

"We were all having a blast, being on tour, but the music was… erratic. Now everyone in the band is a great player and we all get along well to boot. Every personnel change has made the band a tighter ship."

Not only does Roderick now have the right musicians on board, he's also in the right location. Seattle and Portland, Oregon and their surrounding environs have been a hotbed in recent years for indie bands that make it big, such as Death Cab For Cutie and the Decemberists.

"There are so many fantastic bands from the northwest that we forget it isn't the same everywhere," Roderick asserts. "The city of Seattle has consistently failed to appreciate how incredibly important the music community is to the life of the city.

"The cops are always shutting down all-ages shows and passing ordinances that make life hard on artists. They think too many fliers stapled to phone poles will scare away all the nice conventioneers."

Though Roderick mocks the atmosphere in the city he calls home, he admits that The Long Winters are looking forward to returning from their current road trip so they can make a dent in a new disc.

"As soon as this tour is over, we're back home woodshedding some tunes for the next record. I promise you it will be an unbelievable mish-mash of jazz-rock, art-metal, and polka. It's going to be killer!"

The Long Winters have two Canadian shows left on their tour: Tuesday at Toronto's El Mocambo and Wednesday at Montreal's Main Hall.

—Scott Bryson