Post-hardcore band Winchester recently released their debut LP Life Begins At These Dead Ends, and their sound is an eclectic mix of technical rock/metal, metalcore, alt-rock and melodic rock. To find out a little more about the band’s writing process, we had a quick chat with the band. Find out more below.
MOSH: How does the lyric writing process begin for you – Does the music come first, or the lyrics? Do you collect fragments and ideas when inspiration strikes?
Winchester: It has always been a mixed bag. Sometimes it will be the lyrics that come first and sometimes the music. Sometimes the lyrics and music for just a cahorus will come and the rest will come later. What is always a constant is that we are open to change once a demo is put down. I’m always collecting fragments at random times during the day but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will see the light of day.
MOSH: Is this process always straightforward for you? Have you ever struggled with ‘writer’s block’ or similar?
Winchester: It is never straightforward! There is a track on the album called ‘Safe In Sound’ that is actually based on having writers block. A lot of the time I get blocked based on the feelings I have towards what it is I’m writing. Whether it’s what I want to or should be saying. Whether it’s even good enough. It’s one of the hardest parts of writing lyrics really, judging what you are actually willing to put out into the universe.
MOSH: Do you go back to lyrics you have previously written and edit or refine them, or is it a case of ‘one and done’? Do you collaborate or share lyrics with other band members and take their feedback on board?
Winchester: I’m always editing and refining. I find chopping up lyrics to make them match the music quite fun. Finding a way to get syllable counts up or down for certain phrases. Finding different words to replace ones that are sticking out to me. I’ll usually take a finished draft to the band and see if it flies with them, I wouldn’t want to misrepresent them.
MOSH: Are there any bands or artists that have impressed or inspired you lyrically? Do you try and emulate any other lyricists in particular?
Winchester:I don’t want to emulate anyone. I’m sure some lyrics seem like they are in the style of someone but that’s only natural, I tried hard to develop a style I was happy and comfortable with but ended up with just me. I guess it will have to do! I appreciate lyricists that are willing to dive into the dark aspects of life. It is something we all need help with. I like lyricists that are essentially punk poets. Architects, Muse, While She Sleeps, Biffy Clyro. Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, letlive, Bring Me The Horizon, Marilyn Manson, Green Day etc. They all have my respect, not just because they are political but because they don’t solely want to give fans something to dance to or distract themselves with.
MOSH: Do you draw lyrical inspiration from outside of music, such as authors, films or artists?
Winchester:I’ve read and watched a lot of art that I love. It definitely influences me and inspires me but I’m not exactly sure how. I’ve absorbed a lot of non-fiction as well as fiction and at the moment i would say they both influence me. It’s hard to even tell the difference between fiction and non-fiction anymore. The lines are blurred. I’ve been very much drawn to cautionary tales of a dystopian future, from Orwells ‘1984’ to ‘Black Mirror’. It’s wise to keep a check on the human race and it’s progress. Look at what we’ve got up to so far!
MOSH: Is there a specific space (mental or physical) where you get ‘in the zone’, or can you write anywhere at any time?
Winchester: Night is my ideal time for getting in the zone. It can happen at any time though. My mind can start thinking about anything of any importance and spiral off into all kinds of scenarios and theories… it can come out a bit jumbled. It seems to make more sense at night. What I really want to get into is writing lyrics at the same time as writing and producing demos. It would be great to get the band more involved in the lyric writing process too as I think it will make for a better record and save time. It will be interesting to see what zone we can all get into.
MOSH: Do you choose to publish your lyrics or keep them personal? Is it important that fans be able to access lyrical content?
Winchester:It’s important to me for them to get out there. As an introvert it’s strange to say that but there are things that need to be said. Our album is a concept album so the lyrics to each song are important to the overall flow. They represent me and the band but they’re also written so they can resonate with a lot of people in their day to day struggles. As a lover of the written word and of music, lyrics are such an integral part of the overall experience for me. I love instrumental music and we are experimenting with that as well, but lyrics give people a place to voice opinions and tell stories. It is an important sanctuary for sharing different perspectives. Maybe even starting revolutions! There’s no denying the power of the written word and the sound of music. Why not bring them together and go all in?
MOSH: Can you remember when you began writing lyrics? Was it a conscious choice? Something you drifted into out of necessity?
Winchester:I was always writing random short stories, poems and weird serial comics when i was in primary school. My Dad and I started writing songs together in the middle of that just as an experiment. He is a singer and never really dabbled in writing originals so it was a fun little challenge for us. He has always been very encouraging and even supported me when I decided to get into guitar music and playing in bands. Looking back now it seems so natural that I fell into it.
MOSH: What is your favourite lyric and why?
Winchester: “Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here.” Tool – Right In Two. One of Maynard James Keenans greatest lines. It just stuck out to me when I first heard it and still does to this day. I think looking at the sky is one of the healthiest things to do. Gets me in the zone, changes my mood, opens up my mind to new thoughts and can settle me down as well.
MOSH: What is your favourite lyric that YOU have written?
Winchester:At the moment it is: “There’s so much more that’s left unsung, the tip of the iceberg’s on the tip of my tongue”. It’s from ‘Safe In Sound’ and is actually a lyric that Scott sings. It sticks out as a promise to myself and everyone listening. There’s a lot of work to be done.
MOSH: Is there anything you actively try and avoid when writing lyrics? Any topics or themes you think are overdone?
Winchester:On our debut album I very much wanted to avoid writing a love song. The album contains songs are mainly about the human condition and the ease with which a person could fall into depression and even extremism. It was mainly as a reaction to a period of time where I was exclusively hearing love songs everywhere I went and I considered the surplus and the focus as unhealthy. The pressure that film, tv, music and social media put on relationships is quite an unnatural assault and in my mind there were more pressing things I could be writing about. It is something to be excited for in the future but I won’t be writing your standard love songs. That’s for sure.
MOSH: Is it important to you that lyrics always tell a story or have meaning?
Winchester: I think that even lyrics that seem nonsensical ultimately are telling a story of some description on behalf of the writer. A lot of the time when I’ve interpreted lyrics one way the original artist will come out and say they have a different meaning. With a concept album like we have done, the story and meanings are quite close to the surface but there is definitely room for multiple interpretations and meanings for different people.
MOSH: Does your knowledge of your vocal delivery have any impact on how you write lyrics? Do you write to fit a vocal style, or fit the delivery to the lyrics?
Winchester:While I’m writing I do have a voice in my head that cycles through different ways I could approach melody, rhythm and style. This usually happens before I even try out loud! With Winchester I have tried to bring a lot of different vocal styles together within rock and metal. We try to make the dynamics of the music match the lyrical flow so my vocal delivery does vary and is often dictated by each particular section. You will have to listen to the album to get it I guess! Fortunately the way we work means there will be many more vocal styles for me to try out in the future. There’s a lot of room to play within all the genres we enjoy and we aim to have fun doing it.