Interview with Justin Birchard of Facing Winter

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photo by Jeff Goluszka

Here, today, we have the great fortune of putting up a nice little give and take between one of our contributors, Chris Darby, as he recently had a moment to submit a list of questions to Justin Birchard of Facing Winter, a local Chicago band from the western suburbs. Chris and Justin have known each other for the better part of 6 years now. Recently Justin took part in a singer-songwriter night at Phyllis' Musical Inn at 1800 W Division St. in Upper Wicker Park Heights, as Jeremy Raskin used to call it. Chris submitted some questions to Justin over e-mail and Justin sent these questions back. There is also a very small snippet of a longer interview from that songwriter night at Phyllis' that will be at the end of this interview.

A few notes about Facing Winter, certainly not comprehensive, but sincere. This band is a remarkable unit (Current line-up consists of Justin Birchard, Jeff Goluszka, and Drew DeWaard). They have a sound that is many things, and the two songs that will be provided as samples at the end of this post won't be entirely representative as most of their music is quite dynamic, but I often feel as though a loaded freight train is roaring past when this band kicks it into high gear during a set. I can't sing their praises enough on a personal level and with respect to their craft. I hope to do, as do many others also, as much as within my means to see that these guys get the recognition that they deserve because their music deserves to be heard. Their fans are rabid and it is infectious to be around this band's whole community. We'll certainly be writing more about these great men in the future. For now, we'll focus on the interview.

Great photo of the band in late 2008 at Abbey Pub in Chicago, IL. Liam Doyle on bass, Liam was the original bassist for the band. photo by Chad Headley

Please enjoy, and thanks for stopping by the blog for a look!


begin the Interview with Justin Birchard of Facing Winter

1) you have a new cd on the horizon. tell me about that. what was the process like?

The new album will be called 'Gifts from Gravity'. We do all the recording and mixing ourselves at our studio in West Chicago. We have a pretty simple setup and do all of the tracking onto a PC.
When I was younger I used to wonder why it sometimes took bands a full year (or more) to release new albums. I definitely don't wonder about that anymore.
I think the process could be equated to running a marathon. It's painful, monotonous, and time consuming. But at the same time it's peaceful, exhilarating, and empowering.

2) this being your second album, what similarities and differences do you find between the two? what can fans expect from this new material?

Strangely enough, I think GfG ('Gifts from Gravity' - forthcoming Facing Winter album) will be both heavier, and more mellow than SDIS (previous Facing Winter EP 'Seas Drain Into Space'). A lot of the key elements that we are known for will still be there... but the surroundings and atmosphere will have changed a bit. The drums and bass are more explosive, and there's a lot more vocal experimentation. There will also be new instruments... like accordion, xylophone, mandolin, and piano.

3) does the album have a theme? are there certain subjects that come into play more than others? how would you describe the mood/feel of the whole record?

A lot of these songs made me feel really uncomfortable. Especially at first. There is still penty of optimism... but as a whole, it might be the darkest collection of songs I've written. I was forced to see a different side of myself this year. Once I saw it, it changed me. And it changed my outlook on life. It helped me understand things I had no concept of before. I think the album definitely reflects that.

photo by Jeff Goluszka

4) what things shape your songwriting? do you gather ideas from the world surrounding, or the world inside yourself? maybe a mix of the two?

I try to mix the two... but overall I get very distracted with what is going on in my own head.

5) If you could name any artist, past or current, that is influencing you at the moment, who would it be? What about their music or their work that is speaking to you?

This is a really tough one because there are so many... but for the last month I feel I have been very influenced by the Shins, Cake, Ben Folds, and Sunny Day Real Estate.

6) are there any other musicians out there right now, that are unsigned or unnoticed by the masses, that you feel deserve a second or better glance because of their great songs and/or consistently great live shows/performances?

Another tough one because there are just so many... Nathan Kalish and the Wildfire, Them Damn Kids, Algernon, Dan and Leland, and Rachel Reis.

7) Any advice that has been helpful or insightful for you, that you might offer to aspiring musicians?

This is my personal advice: Sing and play everday... even if it's just for 15 minutes. Perform something somewhere for someone everyweek. Stay away from the opposite sex. Stay away from drugs. And when you can't do it anymore, keep doing it anyway.

photo by Chad Headley

8) you recently made a pretty drastic change in personnel. would you care to comment on this, and how the 'new guy' is filling out your sound?

Liam did a really great job for us for 5 years. It's really hard to see him go... both personally and musically. But I fully support his decision to move on and pursue other things with his life.
Liam will always be around. And he'll continue to be a direct influence on the music.
In fact, Liam helped us teach Drew how to play the songs... which is neat because it has made the transition much easier.
Just like Liam, Drew is a very special type of musician. But I'm not going to spoil it... I'll let Drew's bass playing speak for itself.

9) What does the near and distant future hold for Facing Winter? What are some goals you would like to accomplish by the end of both 2010, and 2050?

If I can give back what others have given to me through music... and if I can continue to understand myself and the world around me better by writing, recording, and performing... then it will all be worth it. No matter what year it is!

10) What are you reading these days?

The last two books I read were "Born on a Blue Day" and the "Celestine Prophecies". They were both pretty interesting.

A photo from a recent FW show (Thurs Dec 10 2009) at Mad Maggie's in Elgin, IL with new bassist Drew DeWaard. photo by Chad Headley

The next Facing Winter shows are:

Saturday Jan 23 2010 at Galvin's Public House in Chicago, IL
Sunday Jan 31 2010 at The Oasis Cafe in West Chicago, IL

A few songs to get new fans started, both of which feature Liam Doyle on bass. Justin is always writing new material. It won't be long before new Facing Winter tracks with Drew DeWaard on bass are unveiled for the world to hear.

Facing Winter - Colorful

Facing Winter - Killshot

A brief video interview with Justin can be found at: Derelict Songs on Youtube

Note: Justin braved 12 degree weather to chat with Derelict Songs for a time after his set at the mentioned Phyllis' show on Wed Dec 9 2009. Half of the interview was lost due to a technical snag, but this is a nice segment that still remains on tape. ShareThis

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