Words by Oliver Marshall
Sydney six-piece Winston Surfshirt have already had a massive year... playing at festivals like Splendour In The Grass, appearing on triple J for 'Like a Version' and being interviewed by Sir Elton John.
And it’s only about to get bigger, with the Sydney lads set to embark on a national tour following the imminent release of their debut 16-track album Sponge Cake. The album was almost released two years ago, but held back after the group secured a record deal.
Frontman and founding member, Winston Surfshirt, is stoked to finally be able to share the tunes with the public.
“It's good. It’s strange to just put it out and stop listening to it because you spend so much time just listening to it, over and over again. But I don’t know - it’s just like a weight off your shoulders to get it off, and let people listen to it, and stop thinking about it now,” says Winston.
Fans of the group may recognise ‘On a Lock’ on the album which is set for release this Friday (September 29). It was released a couple of years ago, but has since been taken off their Spotify.
"We popped that out and then about three months later we were just going to pop the whole album out. But we ended up getting management and stuff so we took it down and got it remixed and everything.
“We actually do get a lot of messages about that, that’s probably the most exciting thing about the album. Giving those people that song back that they had about a year ago.”
As well as some old songs, a very special collaborator features on the album.
Winston’s Grandma features at the end of the first track ’Juan’, answering the phone saying, “Hello there, who’s that?"
“Me and Mi-K [samples and guitars] were in London, I called her and plugged it into the thing and I didn’t say anything, so it was just her trying to figure out who was calling, and when I finally picked up the phone and said 'hello it's me' she was just so excited that I called her, I still haven’t even told her that she’s on it. She probably hasn’t got a clue that she’s on it."
Winston Surfshirt use elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop and R&B, amongst other things to craft a distinctive sound. But Winston admits his early taste in hip-hop might not have been as refined as it is now.
“I think everyone who is about 27 now grew up with hip-hop from the 90’s, you know what I mean, it has got bigger and bigger in the mainstream. I think listening to hip-hop, more when I was younger it was like Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliot and stuff, not like proper Biggie Smalls and Wu-Tang when I was young, it was more Nelly (laughs). Nothing wrong with some Nelly.”
The band have progressed from Nelly to now a very well received cover of 50 Cent's '21 Questions' for triple J’s 'Like a Version', which Winston explains as kind of just working itself out.
“We just got asked to think about what we’d do, and I went for a walk and that song came on a playlist and I sent it through to someone at the label we’re on, and he was like I was literally just about to message you about that one - so we ended up just being like 'yeah this is the perfect choice.'”
Sponge Cake is a hefty 16-track album, a pure blend of genres with a little something the band describe as 'Jazz Cabbage' in the recipe...
"I’ll let you work that out yourself my friend," laughs Winston.