Interviews

Winston Surfshirt and Young Franco have created the perfect summer vibe

Funky feel good collective Winston Surfshirt are back with another hit and it’s the perfect groove to get you feelin’ yourself this summer.

ARIA Double-platinum six-piece band Winston Surfshirt have teamed up with one of the most sought after Aussie producers going around the circuit, Young Franco, to bring you their latest release Complicated.

This track whips you up into a frenzy of vibes with a syncopated bass line that constantly flirts with Winston’s iconic falsettos. 

In what feels like the perfect time for it, Complicated is all about not letting the small things get in the way and between the can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head hook and Young Franco’s bouncy synth, this track really is the perfect thing to set your mind at ease.

We caught up with Winston himself to discuss the song that he apparently stumbled upon and finished writing in all of about an hour.

HAPPY: So Complicated – what a song. It’s fantastic, just to start.

WINSTON: Thank you.

HAPPY: I think you’ve perfectly timed the release as well, because with everything else, you know, everything opening up around the world, especially down in Australia, it’s the perfect song to dance to. And I feel like it would be a shame to have it come out in lockdown.

WINSTON: I know.

HAPPY: I know that you started [work on] it in March. [You] pretty much smashed it out straight away. Were you sitting on it purposely? Were you waiting for summer?

WINSTON: No, I think we had an idea of the songs we were going to release. And then as soon as that one was like half made, we were like, ‘we’ve got to get this one out as a single as soon as possible.’

HAPPY: Fair enough.

WINSTON: That was consistent among like labels and management and everything.

HAPPY: Yeah, Cool. Like I said, it sounds fantastic. It’s got a real Prince-esque kind of vibe to it.

WINSTON: Everyone says this. I don’t listen to too much Prince.

HAPPY: Okay, that’s interesting.

WINSTON: Just strange.

HAPPY: I think it’s probably just the falsetto that people are drawing the comparison from, but it’s also super funky, and I know some of the other stuff’s a bit more chill. Do you know if the album’s going to be a kind of mix between those things or more towards the chill side?

WINSTON: Um, bit of both. I think most of the stuff I do is like… some of it’s up and dancy and a lot of it’s just chill.

HAPPY: Makes for a good live show.

WINSTON: I try to make it all dancy really. It just comes out chill.

HAPPY: That’s fair enough. I know that you had mentioned that when you were listening to the track from Young Franco pretty much jumped out to you straight away. Was there anything… I mean, that combined with the lyrical content, was there anything about what was going on in your world that was really making you stoked or beaming, because it feels like it?

WINSTON: It was just the music I think initially. I usually write every song as music for lyrics, and sometimes I’ll hear something that someone else has made and be like, ‘Oh, that’s so me, I want this. How can I have this?’ And that was probably like the second beat he’d showed me. I was under the impression we were going to make some music, but I heard that and was like, ‘Nah, let’s just work on that.’

HAPPY:  That’s great! Do you have any plans to make any music, collaborate from scratch with Young Franco in the future?

WINSTON: Yes. Yes. We just can’t find the time now. Like six months ago, and we’ve had one session and many beers.

HAPPY: Oh, good. Now I don’t want to try and glean too much from the lyrics. I’d love to hear you just tell me. But from what I can hear, and it sounds like you’re smitten. But again, was that just coming from the music?

WINSTON: Well, in terms of lyrical content? I couldn’t even tell you what that song is about. Just blurted out. I think the chorus lyrics, that was like the first thing that came out of my mouth. And then I sort of work backwards. Just the standard me song, sort of love song that… you’re trying to make someone dance with you.

HAPPY: Mm-hmm, love that.

WINSTON: Yeah, I do it a lot.

HAPPY: I think it would work. It’s great. I love the music video as well. Bouncing between live performance and the animation. Was that your idea or was that from the director?

WINSTON: Well, from the director. He’s a friend of one of the boys in our band. We’ve been talking to him for, like, probably like eight years about potentially doing a music video. And we were just like, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it.’ And it was tricky because it was during COVID. It’s like as it was coming out, you had to go and get tests, you had to let the police know that we were going to go shoot, you had to wear masks all the time. But it was as fun as a music video can be for me.

HAPPY: Yeah, yeah. I imagine being on the streets, filming those kinds of shots would have been a bit more…

WINSTON: Not on a street, not on a street. A little green screen, and it was like six hours of doing that. The camera above me, by the end of it, I thought, ‘Oh my god.’ But he’d driven around, the guy that directed it, put a 360 camera on the top of his car and just drove around the city and then was just waiting for me to come in so that he could put me in it.

HAPPY: Awesome. That’s really cool. And of course, you would want to have Young Franco included in the video. Whose idea was it to get him on the shaker and get him grooving a little.

WINSTON: A bit of both. We were trying to get him to play the laptop. Yeah, because I went like during the session, I think I went out for a smoke and came back and he was sitting there pressing the M on his like keyboard, like his keyboard keyboard. And he was going, ‘Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep’. I was like, that’s so simple. He’s just using a keyboard letter as the instrument. But yeah, he was like, ‘Let’s find a shaker.’ And that was all we could find. There was about two little balls in there, so it hardly shook.

HAPPY: That’s great. Yeah, it looks awesome, but I would have loved to see the laptop as well.

WINSTON: Yeah, exactly. Next time.

HAPPY: Yeah, definitely. I wanted to ask you a little bit about your Live from Lockdown EP, Cover Your Mouth. I know you did a few covers of some of your biggest influences. I wanted to know if any of the artists that you covered saw that, or if they reached out at all.

WINSTON: Only one of them’s alive.

HAPPY: Oh, no.

WINSTON: I had to think then. I think we did hear back from Jamiroquai. I don’t know whether he’d heard that, but our label were having chats with him and they were just like, ‘Check out this guy. He’s a big fan of yours.’ And he was just stoked that young people were… young people. I’m 31. But another generation was still influenced by Jamiroquai.

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s cool. Really, really cool.

WINSTON: Very cool. Have you seen Jamiroquai’s Instagram?

HAPPY: Hah no not recently.

WINSTON: It’s pretty good. He does a posh character where he’s like, ‘Hello’. It’s very good.

HAPPY: I was a big fan as a kid, that’s for sure.

WINSTON: Yeah, that’s all I remember listening to on the way to school. My mom just put, I think, the album Love Philosophy non-stop.

HAPPY: Mm-hmm. Do you think that influenced you a fair bit?

WINSTON: A hundred per cent.

HAPPY: Yeah, I can hear that.

WINSTON: Like, I reckon like two years of just constantly listening to that. And then I went and saw him at… what was the Australian TV music thing? Not VH1?

HAPPY: Rage?

WINSTON: No. It was in like Fox Studios. It might’ve been MTV. But yeah, I saw him play at Fox Studios outside once, that was great.

HAPPY: That’s amazing. So the world’s opening up again. Going to get back on the road, I assume?

WINSTON: As soon as possible.

HAPPY: Awesome. I read somewhere that you are not a big fan of flying. Is that right? So how do you feel about that, do you think you’ll try to drive around?

WINSTON: Well, to be honest, we had the first lockdown and then we managed to play a few shows and for the first time ever, I couldn’t wait to get on a plane, which is strange. And now I’m the same. I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to just go somewhere and do something.’

HAPPY: Okay so it may have cured your fear.

WINSTON: Maybe. I’ll still be on the plane taking off going ‘Ahhhh!’

HAPPY: And I guess it has been a while since touring. Obviously, you’ve had the shows in between the lockdowns, but are you excited to be in close quarters with the band again?

WINSTON: Yes. Yes, very much. Yeah, I’ve been seeing two of them every now and again, because they’re family. And then, yeah, saw them all yesterday, it’s good. We’ve had one rehearsal since. We’re not prepared yet.

HAPPY: How did it sound?

WINSTON: We need a couple more. We actually only played Complicated for about three hours. But we’re close.

HAPPY: That’ll get you ready.

WINSTON: It was hard figuring out how to play it live.

HAPPY: Yeah, okay. I imagine.

WINSTON: Because it’s very Young Franco. We don’t know what he did.

HAPPY: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Ok, so do you think you’ll incorporate any of the original production from him?

WINSTON: Yeah, it’s just like the bass player plays the bass line, the guitarist plays the guitar, and then the keyboard players sort of like… and then there’s some new horns that we’re messing with.

HAPPY: Awesome. That’s exciting to hear the live version.

WINSTON: Yeah, I don’t know how I’m going to go singing that. Maybe I’ve got like three years of singing in me before it’s like Led Zeppelin, and I’ve got to pitch it down. Like singing that high, I know I’ve really done myself in here.

HAPPY: Yeah, that’s definitely something that you might not think about when you are recording through lockdown and stuff. Performance is pretty different. Well, I just want to say again, the track is amazing. I think you should be really proud of it. It’s really great. Is there anything else that you want to say about the song?

WINSTON: No, that’s about it. I don’t know if you know Jonty played on it. I don’t know if you know Jonty?

HAPPY: Yeah, I know Jony, that’s sick!

WINSTON: So I’m excited to get in a studio with him. I think him and Young Franco made it like a year ago or something like that?

HAPPY: Oh no way, that’s very cool! Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time.

WINSTON: Thank you.

 

Complicated is available to stream or purchase now.

Interview by Chloe Maddren
Photos supplied