Monday (14th March 2011) sees the release of The Winter Olympics excellent new single “I Miss The Nineties” (reviewed here). In the run up to the release Kenneth John Porteous caught up with the band’s Andrew Wagstaff via a series of emails.
If you haven’t heard The Winter Olympics’ latest single “I Miss The Nineties” I heartily recommend you go and check it out. Here’s the video – go on, I’ll wait. You won’t be disappointed.
Back? Great. As you can no doubt tell, the song presents a sucker punch of nostalgia for a time period which now lies, quite scarily, two decades ago in a whole other century.
So you may be wondering: why bother eulogising such an ancient time? The Winter Olympics’ lead singer, Andrew Wagstaff, is clear with his answer:
“The song had to be about the 90’s because it’s a true story.
“I know on the surface it’s just a list song, but it’s also a little love letter to a couple of friends I used to have in the 1990s. Most of the famous names in the song are just there as a bit of context.
“Sure we loved T2, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain and the X-Files, and we really did stop up when the Tamagotchi died, but that wasn’t actually the important part of the night. The people the song is really about most folk haven’t heard of, but they’re the ones I really miss.”
A lot of the material reviewed by this site comes with press notes which talk about the long and arduous journeys bands have taken to be heard “since their formation in September 2010”. The final line of course, makes this difficult to take seriously. Not so with The Winter Olympics who were actually formed the better part of a decade ago, although Andrew provides this knowledge with a slight wink.
“Martin (Bowman – guitarist) and I formed The Winter Olympics about eight or nine years ago.
“The early days were by-and-large an excuse to go to the pub on a school night. We would notionally book band practice, but there was no real guarantee that we’d get to it. The practice place we used to use would ring the pub around the corner to see if it was worth them wheeling in the amps or whether we were just having ‘talking practice’.
“It’s a bit embarrassing thinking back on it now, but we had a very good time.
“Just before we got together I’d been working as a music writer. I didn’t pick up many plaudits for my work, but I did get an idea of what I thought a really amazing band should be like, and would moan and moan at Martin about how there weren’t enough of them around.
“Eventually, he gave in and suggested we try and do it ourselves. It’s been a long, personnel heavy, march towards turning our great idea into a good band ever since, but it hasn’t been boring.”
After this, it became a case of fine-tuning their sound. A task which, as Andrew admits, took them a while.
“I don’t think it was necessarily our intention to become rock and roll dance punks!
“We were just trying to do the best we could. And for a long time the best we could manage was being a watered down Weezer. It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve been confident and (nearly) competent enough to let other influences come through.
“Martin has always been a big dance music fan while my heart lies closer to Castle Donnington, so I think the sound was pretty inevitable.
“It wasn’t really a conscious attempt to try and put the Dio in Disco.”
Nonetheless, he describes their approach as influence heavy and says that the originality of tracks like “I Miss The Nineties” and B-side “This Is The Fourth Time (I Have Been In Your House)” is down to a combination of the much different inspirations drawn-on by both sides of their song-writing partnership.
“I’ve always been a fan of a twisted pop song; songs that are bold and bright and obvious, but with something sinister or unexpected going on underneath. That was certainly the plan with ‘I Miss the Nineties ‘and ‘The Fourth Time (I’ve Been in Your House).’
“Hopefully, there’s something a bit more to them than first meets the ear, and I think that comes down to the band’s love of the Pixies. On top of them, my musical upbringing was pretty metal – big hairy stadium acts like Van Halen, Kiss and Priest – and that’s definitely informed our stage show, you know, it’s important to make sure that the people at the back can see what you’re doing.
“Martin doesn’t like it when I get too meat-and-potatoes metal, though. He’ll ask: “What’s the point in rock without the roll?”. Weirdly for a lead guitarist growing up in the Nineties, he always preferred Underworld to Nevermind, and trying to ensure that people can dance to our songs is usually the first thing on his mind when writing new material.”
As for goals going forward, the band are trying to stay relatively grounded:
“Our immediate goal is to get our album finished, and for it to be as good as it can possibly be. Unbelievably, it’s been nearly ten years in the making: Nine years of sitting in the pub bickering about how it should sound and six months of bloody hard work. We’re really very nearly there – and it even has a name now; we’re calling it ‘Profit and Loss.’
“After that’s done we want to get out and play to more people. We’re hoping to ink in some festival dates: home, abroad, big or small, we don’t mind. We have a song called ‘The Great Outdoors’ and it’s high time we road-tested it outside.
“I first met Martin Olympics at a Reading Festival in about 1957 or something and we have a long, grisly, festival-going history since then, so a decent slot in a big tent somewhere, would be a big deal for us, and is exactly the sort of thing we’re setting our sights on.
“That said, Martin has always maintained that his ultimate musical goal is for the band to appear on Top of the Pops. There’s only one of those a year now, so it looks like we’re going to have to come up with a Christmas Number one. That can’t be hard, right?”
Profit and Loss will be out in September and features “twelve happy/sad songs about girls played quite loudly”.
“I Miss The Nineties” is out on Monday 14th March through Office Rock Records.