Q&A with Winterstate
Jan 12, 2022
Who are you? Tell us about your new release.
This is Alex Ortberg and Kelvin Killmon. We’re the co-founders and songwriters for the alternative rock band Winterstate. Our Sophomore album, “Technicolor” is coming out this Friday - January 14 , 2022!
Your songs have gotten a lot of airplay on college radio and AAA format stations lately. What has that experience been like?
Alex: It's really exciting to know that our music is being heard all around the nation, but it's hard to appreciate the effect it's having without being able to hear it ourselves or communicate with the stations. All we can do is be thankful that they're playing our music! I'm confident that it will result in positive opportunities for us!
A lot of music venues are struggling to try and re-open safely. What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on live music?
Alex: COVID is never going away, and it'll fall into line with the Flu eventually. Everyone will get their flu shot and their covid shot yearly. So once that happens, I think live music can exist in a way similar to what it was before. Of course there will be changes. Maybe capacity caps will be lower, masks might be mandated, vaccines might be required... Until then, while it's still being considered a pandemic, I think we will continue to see shows being canceled or postponed.
Your songs cover a lot of different topics. What’s one thing outside of music that influenced your lyrics on this album?
Kelvin: I was reading an article a while back about recidivism in the criminal justice system. They had a lot of interviews with people who had been incarcerated and later found it difficult to re-integrate into society after serving their time. Several participants said it was extremely difficult to make choices and structure their own time after spending so long in custody. A few said that it was so disorienting that they became nostalgic for the structure of life behind bars. Those stories offered a unique perspective on feeling like an outsider, and definitely had an impact on the lyrics of our new song “Run (Fast as You Can)”.
This is Winterstate’s second record. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from creating your first album back in 2019? How did that change the way you approached “Technicolor”?
Alex: I think the biggest lesson is how to release it. It was a while ago, so I don't remember specifics on how we went about it, but I know we didn't push to radio, we didn't do Spotify playlisting, and besides an album release show, we did minimal social media advertising. This time, we are pushing to radio, getting on Spotify playlists, putting ads on Facebook and Youtube, trying to drive views and clicks up, and really just putting more effort into the release.
That's part of the industry that is a mystery to a lot of artists, and everyone needs to know it. I see so many independent artists and bands release records without doing hardly any promotion. Their music ends up falling by the wayside, being heard by their family and friends and only maybe 25% of their followers (of which they have very little). And it's a shame because it's great music and it deserves way more attention than that. But they don't know how to do it, or don't even know that it needs to be done.
I've spent more time emailing venues, bands, radio stations, and online music shows this year than I ever have before. Because I know I want this record to go further than the last. It already has and it hasn't even come out yet! But I'm not sure we knew how to do all that back then, and I don't think a lot of artists really do!
There are a lot of transitions between songs on your album that sound like news broadcasts. Why did you decide to include them, and why are they all in different languages?
Kelvin: We recorded the bulk of this album in 2020 and 2021. The climate in Seattle was especially tense during the summer of 2020; the air quality was poor due to heavy smoke from wildfires. Some days you couldn’t go outside without a respirator, and the heat was nearly unbearable. At the same time we became the first community to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. People had taken to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which lead to violent altercations with the police – as a result, entire neighborhoods (like Capitol Hill) were blanketed with tear gas night after night.
That summer it felt like inaction just wasn’t an option. Several crises had all reached a boiling point at once, and civic engagement felt like an urgent responsibility. I wrote the song “Empires” around that time – but when we assembled the album the transition from the song before it was a little too abrupt. To ease the transition, Alex and I decided to ask our international friends to record fictional news broadcasts from around the world in their native language.
Each segment would talk about climate change, extreme weather, or political unrest. As a joke, we included a story about the two of us being detained at various protests around the world, and our music subsequently being banned in that country. In the end, all the voiceovers were so well done that we decided to keep them all as interludes throughout the record. We hope that all these sections encourage our listeners to be curious about international events, get involved in activism, and connect with a broader community.