Sydney hip hop gurus Winston Surfshirt have had a powerful year, to say the least. A sequence which begun with their sleeper hit Be About You has now culminated in Sponge Cake, a 16 track beast which marks their debut album effort.
And we’ve been spinning it since the record dropped, but being such an expansive LP, we wanted to dive a little deeper on it. Speaking to man in front Winston, he ran us through every track on Sponge Cake, where they came from, and what they mean to him.
Delicious chords, delectable samples and dainty love songs: Winston Surfshirt take us through their debut LP Sponge Cake.
I had a completely different intro for Sponge Cake which was called Juan, so when it was replaced with a new song I just kept the title knowing I wanted it to be the opener for the album. One of the newer songs that made it onto the album. Just a vibe that sets the tone for what’s to come I think.
Another of the later songs. I’d been playing around with two chords for about a month with a vague idea of what I wanted, so I’d probably written about five or six songs with the same chords before I got to Ali.
Upbeat dancey track straight off the bat. Just about being with someone and craving their attention, wanting them to feel the way you feel about them, I think.
Me and Julio messed about with this one. He’d had his heart set on a tune with three chords, repeating the second one twice. I really like how simple everything is on this tune.
Just three chords that we reversed and messed with, a fire bass line, dope beat, raps in the verse and a melodic chorus.
Be About You
She my bay. I think I knew instantly when I had the chords and beat down to this song that it felt special. When I got the chorus we almost started playing it instantly and the reaction we got from a crowd for an unknown song was unlike anything I’d had before so she means a bunch to me.
Some strange chords and a deep bass line, I dig the simplicity in this one. Feels dark and mysterious. She came much later in the cosmos calendar Sponge Cake timeline.
Think the whole thing started with the looped vocal harmonies I did and then I messed around with some keys over it.
I found out about a band called The Moments. When I heard the tune Sexy Mama I was hooked on the beat and ended up messing about with a sample. Was completely formed as a song but nothing really happened with it until I got to London with Mi-K and we added some vocal ideas to it together.
He hadn’t heard a lot of what I’d been working on cause we were in different countries but when he heard this beat he forced us to finish it. Respect The Moments.
Had a couple odd sounding chords, kind of dissonant and a drum loop, Julio added a sweet bass line and we worked on those “oh’s”, then I put a couple verses and choruses together.
When I was in London we thought about the possibility of collaborating with a guy called Eric Biddines who we’d heard with Golden Rules, we hit him with a couple tunes to see if he’d want to work on something and he was drawn to Twenny. Couple weeks later hit back a verse and she was done.
On A Lock
Started with a sample from a song called Gimme A Little Action by Sylvia Robinson, really dig the intro but wanted to lead it somewhere so I added a completely different part with some filthy bass and some stabby chords in the same tempo and key that would end up being the main chunk of the song.
Slip Ft. Pop
Bustlip on the beats, was round mine banging away tempo-less, I was on d bass and then we added some chords and made a loop. Pop was there… she’s always there. So she slapped a couple little verses down. Nailed it. The ‘Uh One’ is Dool being a Dool.
When You’re Ready
Started this off with a beat and an idea of a chord structure in my head, Slip and I spent a couple hours just working on a kit and then I added some chords and bass, the chorus kind of came naturally, just had to work on the verses for a bit.
Indecision on both sides despite inevitability of knowing you’ll probably be together forever. Didn’t think I’d spend the majority of my life following one person but it just happened?
This song has been through a bunch of forms so I’m happy where she at now. Initially started it much slower and a lot more electronic but the chorus and pre-chorus pretty much came instantly.
I pushed her up a bit after playing it live and then we added some live drums and horns which really brought her to life.
One of my faves on the album, my favourite kind of love songs, in a way. Just some pretty chords. Another song about ma Dudley… just running out of ways to say it.
Another late addition, started with the chords then slowly added bass lines. Started with a low simple one, added a higher prettier one and then an even weirder one so there were three bass lines playing, kind of gives the groove to the song along with the beat.
She sits close to me, I really like the chords on this guy. All formed quite quickly and was another one of the later adds to Sponge. Once I’d finished her I knew I wanted it on this album. Kind of a sign of things to come.
Slower but somehow upbeat with some brutal sub and synth lines that come in and out with a pretty chorus line that’s dark but euphoric.
Round & Round
One of the first songs written for Sponge actually. Slower pretty vibes with a big chorus. I write without thinking and then sort of figure out what it’s about during, but this one was always a tough one for me to pin down, whether it’s talking about music and where it’s at at the moment or speaking of a loved one, but I like that it can be interpreted however you like.
Really simple start to this song, I was just playing around with one chord changing the root note and it just happened. I borrowed a friend’s cello to do the stabby sounds and then got The Bone to repeat the guitar and synth lines and she was pretty much done. I dig the TLC vibes in the chorus and the Snoop sounding pre-chorus.
Cast In Stone
I think I’m most proud of this song out of all of them. I’ve always been Beatles at heart and wanted to try to do a hip-hop Abbey Road kind of ending to the album. The initial idea was to create how I felt the album sounded into one song to kind of sum up the whole thing. Seven parts (lucky number), loads of tempo, chord changes and mood swings.
The basis of the song has been down for about two years including vocals but it took on a whole new thing in the past year. I ended up re-recording all the vocals and revamped some of the music ’til I was happy then got some live drums to flow through the whole thing so it glued a bit more, she ends on about four minutes of one song that’s scattered with samples from friends and family.
All in all I think I’ve probably spent about nine months working on this, like in terms of time. 273 days, 6,575 hours, 394,500 minutes… I think that’s an understatement.
Catch Winston Surfshirt around town on their Sponge Cake tour:
Friday, November 10 – Metro Theatre, Sydney (SOLD OUT)
Saturday, November 11 – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane (SOLD OUT)
Sunday, November 12 – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane
Thursday, November 16 – The Corner, Melbourne
Friday, November 17 – The Corner, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Saturday, November 18 – The Tah, Hobart
Friday, November 24 – UOW bandroom, Wollongong
Sunday, November 26 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Friday, December 1 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Saturday, December 2 – Fat Controller, Adelaide