WINONA FOREVER #MONTREAL
Making the decision to move across the country in the hopes of making something groovy is no easy feat, but Winona Forever took the risk and jumped. Hailing from British Columbia, the quartet is made up of Alex, the drums, Sam, the bass, and Rowan and Ben, the guitar and vocals. Their music is full of sweet, catchy lyrics, finger-tapping-on-the-dashboard beats, and brewed with a sense of nostalgia, romance, and friendship. Not long after moving in together, Winona Forever drops their newest album, Feelgood, with popular hits like Joyride.
In this episode, we explore the origins of Winona Forever, the effect of the Montreal art scene on their lives, and their struggle to stardom.
How did you guys meet?
Rowan: I knew Alex through some mutual friends and then we started playing music together, and we were going to play a show with Ben’s band (Feng Shui), and we were practicing at the same studio right before the show, which was the first time Ben and I met. We started playing music together, and then we met Sam in Montreal when we moved here.
Sam: I’ve known Ben for a while, I met him like 4 or 5 years ago at some shows in British Columbia and Vancouver, and then I became better friends with you guys when you moved here, and I joined the band a couple months later.
Ben: Sam and I both joined the band by kind of hinting that we wanted to join. The members have changed a few times but we kind of just met playing music.
Sam: I hinted really hard. Before I joined the band, they were talking about adding a synth player and I said “you guys sound really good with the two guitar and bass set up” because I can’t play any piano - not even a little bit! I also have a bass so I kind of just weaseled my way in.
How did you decide on the name, “Winona Forever”?
Alex: Well, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were in a relationship for a while and he got a tattoo that said “Winona Forever”. And then he had to get it changed because they broke up, and I just thought that was the most ironic thing ever.
what was your first show like?
Sam: Didn’t you guys do a Marvin Gaye cover at your first show?
Rowan: Was that the first show? We definitely played it at that venue. Our first show was at a community center in Vancouver, and we were playing with Shui and some other bands, and we did a cover of “Let’s Get It On”.
Alex: Half the time, it was a capoeira studio. We’d play there and there would be kids running around.
Rowan: It was definitely a community center vibe.
Ben: Boy scouts were there.
what is joyride about?
Rowan: Joyride is a song that I wrote about 2 years ago. Alex and I both really liked the instrumental, and I didn’t write any lyrics that I really liked, so it just kind of sat for a while. And then we decided we needed to beef up the album, so we just kind of fucked around with it for a while and wrote more words to it.
Ben: I wrote more words to it once we moved to Montreal from Vancouver, and it took a few tries to get it right but it was mainly lyrics about the move, and that’s how we finished the song.
Does this song have any special meaning to you?
Ben: The song originally was just a jam that we really liked but we couldn’t really land on a concept. But once we drove across Canada and moved to Montreal, I just kind of had some imagery and words in mind, so the theme is kind of like a road trip that we actually took, and also some words about road tripping with a romantic partner.
Ben: At the time, I felt like a lot of Montreal bands had funny names like that, which they still do, but we’ve just kind of stuck with it for about 4 years now, so there’s no going back.
what are the three key words about joyride?
Ben: Bouncy, wonky, angular
how does montreal influence your music?
Ben: One thing that I really like about Montreal is that you can go out and see live music or see some sort of a show, even if it’s on like a Tuesday night, there’s always going to be some sort of after hours thing. I really like going out and seeing other people perform and other elements of culture, which Vancouver had, but there’s definitely a lot of different types and different styles of performance, which I think is really cool.
Sam: Yeah, it’s really inspiring. There’s a very high level of bands here and it just makes you want to go and work and make your own music more interesting when you see all these other bands doing really cool stuff.
Rowan: It’s a really nice city to walk around and it’s easy to get inspired. Where we live right now, there’s a lot of murals in the alley behind our place, and also you can work a lot less and spend a lot more time making art here, which is really important.
How do you navigate the music scene in Montreal?
Sam: The music scene in Montreal is very accepting but at the same time, very competitive. There’s lots of platforms for musicians here whether it be festivals or collectives or whatever it may be. There’s lots of venues that are always willing to put on new bands so it makes it very approachable for bands to either move here or start here, but at the same time, there’s a lot of music all the time. Every night there’s shows, especially in the summer, there’s like four shows a night that I want to go to. It’s good because it’s so competitive and there’s a lot of music all the time, so it really makes you want to be better and play the cool venues and find friend’s bands that you want to play with but there’s so much that you’ve kind of got to find your community.
Ben: There’s also cool organizations like Pop Montreal that do really cool showcases and they do pop-ups or different events throughout the year, which is something that I’ve been looking forward to once we moved to Montreal - getting involved in more of the larger scale festivals and industry related gigs.
Sam: It’s really cool because they actually support local artists. Being from British Columbia, it can be hard sometimes to get those festival’s support, and actually be shown off in your own city to people who might not actually hear you. But here, it’s almost like their mission to showcase what’s going on in Montreal, which is very different and very cool. It makes it a lot easier to show your band to other people.
What are some of your favorite places in Montreal?
Sam: Casa del Popolo for sure.
Ben: I really like Bar Le Ritz.
Rowan: I like L’Escogriffe.
Sam: I also like La Plante too, for house shows. It’s a very cool DIY space and they put on good shows.
Alex: The Diving Bell.
Sam: There’s venues everywhere.
Tell us about Arthur the van.
Sam: Arthur, our van, is a 2007 Chevrolet Uplander in a charcoal color. It’s seen better days but it’s gotten us across the country and back, and we bought it off a guy named Arthur, actually.
Ben: It’s our tradition to always name our vans after the person that we bought it from. In this case, it was a nice, mid 20s French guy in our neighborhood and he had just done a road trip to Miami, and he told me that the “check engine” light didn’t turn off but not to worry about it. I trusted him immensely, and I still do because our van is fantastic.
Sam: It’s still running and it’s still going, so thank you Arthur for giving us Arthur. It beeps a lot though, it beeps way too much.
What is something that people don’t know about you?
Ben: I’m allergic to bananas.
Sam: I’m allergic to chocolate. I sneeze so much whenever I eat it.
Rowan: I’m not allergic to anything.
Alex: Cumin is my favorite spice.