Winterbourne take The Music behind the scenes of their new album, 'Act Of Disappearing'.
We worked on this record a little bit at a time for a few years in various places and various arrangements. This is us recording the electric guitars for Velvet, Honey & Wine in James’ old house. We recorded them live at the same time and tried to create parts that were completely different from each other, which complimented each other well. The result was a call-and-response vibe with a guitar panning on either side, which came from a lot of takes and a lot of trial and error in this little room.
Jordan and James playing guitar together. Credit: Winterbourne
This record was done in pieces; there was no long stint in a single studio like last time; everything was done in short bursts with totally differing vibes. Our go-to studio for this album was Damien Gerard on the Central Coast, which has a great big live room with a ridiculous array of gear. We ended up recording many of the beds on the record live, sitting around the studio trying to keep ourselves as isolated as possible while still being able to see and bounce off one another.
In the studio with Winterbourne.
Jackson Barclay is the most hardworking and brilliant person we’ve ever worked with in the studio – he was perhaps the most crucial member of the team when we did Echo, so it was inevitable that we would call on him once again for this record. We produced Act Of Disappearing ourselves, which would not have been possible without Jacko’s ears and brain, which is so perfectly calibrated to the Winterbourne sound. Here’s James and Jackson laughing – probably the photo that most accurately captures our time spent working together.
Winterbourne with Jackson Barclay
The acoustic guitar is the driving force within Act Of Disappearing from a sonic standpoint – we didn’t really set out to do this on purpose, but the songs seemed to lend themselves to that old-school rock idea of letting the acoustics take the reins and allow everything else to provide the decoration. This is something we’ve always done, but I think this is the best we’ve ever executed it – the blend of acoustic guitar (and, in many cases, twelve-string Nashville tuned guitar) alongside the Farfissa synth became the defining tone of the album. This is one of the many incredible acoustics we found in the storeroom of Damien Gerard – I believe we used about seven different acoustic guitars on the record.
James playing acoustic guitar.
Act Of Disappearing has always been red and yellow. I’m not sure when that decision was made, but it wasn’t even something that required any discussion between the two of us – something about the world we created in the songs just belongs in autumn or at the very beginnings and ends of days. The colour ended up being the hardest thing to get right; the grass we were ordering online was consistently too green, and we made a habit of cleaning out the buckets of red and yellow flowers at Koch & Co. Here is James chanting the invocation ‘needs more yellow’ in a droning monotone while sprinkling yellow powder after three hours sleep.
James using the grass applicator
We are obsessed with including tiny references to ourselves in just about everything we do. This is an obvious one; we covered part of the artwork in Dandelions as a reference to the first song on the record. Those flowers were the only living element on the artwork and were extremely hard to find and even harder to keep alive, but we simply had no choice but to get some dandelions on there. There are so many little easter eggs on this album cover that we may never reveal – in fact, we have already forgotten many of them.
Jordan using the grass applicator
A particularly sobering aspect of the artwork creation this time around was how bad it looked and for how long it looked bad. Where last time (for Echo Of Youth), we smashed the whole thing out in one day, this one was weeks and weeks of trial and error, of glue and dirt and Styrofoam and static grass and resin and rocks and glue and dirt and glue and grass… so when it didn’t look amazing right away, it was pretty hard to persevere, if only because we weren’t even sure what was wrong with it.
The answer usually came in the form of ‘needs more stuff’, which is the mantra we chose to follow and ultimately became the answer to our problems. The more colour we added, the better it looked, but I must commend our resilience in getting ourselves to the finished product. It may take years to fully decompress from the intensity of the experience - perhaps that’s why the damn thing is still sitting on the floor of my studio.
Winterbourne working on the Act Of Disappearance album cover
Creating an album cover is possibly the most exciting part of being a band. Albums are defined by their covers - I can clearly see the album cover in my head whenever I listen to the music I love; somehow, the music always conveys the image just as much as the picture evokes the music. When we first started to become obsessed with the idea of being a band, the thing that captivated us most wasn't the music but everything that surrounds it - the album structure, the track listing, the lyric sheet, the live aesthetic, the music videos, and of course the album covers. Great albums will invariably have a cover that seeks to convey its concept or vibe, and for us, a boring album cover detracts from the experience of the album as a whole.
When we built our debut album artwork out of moss and flowers in 2019, we knew we had opened a can of worms. It was a relief, in a way, while recording our second album, Act Of Disappearing, knowing that the album artwork would have to be something built on a 2x2 metre slab, and all we needed to do was figure out what to put on top. Act Of Disappearing was yellow and red from the get-go; that was obvious to us.
It was Autumn, whereas Echo Of Youth had been Summer. We were also fortunate to have developed a visceral world for our album - the songs are all set in the land of Angelo, a fictional and confusing microcosm of the real world. Having an actual place in mind allowed us to lean into the idea that our artwork needed to be habitable for the songs and characters within them. Not being able to just throw flowers on the floor and having to think things through made everything more challenging but ultimately brought us an album cover with as much depth as we tried to include in the songs themselves.
Act Of Disappearance is out now via Island Records Australia.