What’s led you to this new persona?
I began writing for Winterfalle after my old band Quick and the Dead split up. I’d never wanted to be a singer-songwriter but I felt that I should learn to stand on my own two feet. I also knew that I never again wanted to be in the position where my entire creative life was dependent upon the desires of other people. So I started Winterfalle.
‘Winterfalle’ runs together an old family name (Winter) with my surname (Falle). To me, Winterfalle is a fictional world which my music soundtracks. My lyrics tell stories set there. I wanted to hold up a dark mirror to experiences of growing up in the Island, to bring to light things we tend not to want to engage with either because they are too painful or too close to home.
I’ve been writing narrative-led lyrics accompanied by music that moves from stark and sparse to lush and dense sonic spaces. At its centre are always my voice and the acoustic guitar or piano. My brother John Henry has helped me to find my voice and has opened up all kinds of storytelling possibilities to me. I’ve also been inspired by various artists including John Grant, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, David Byrne and Brand New.
What has influenced the sound and rationale for launching with this video approach?
With Winterfalle, I’ve wanted to challenge the norms of what it means to be a solo artist in a traditional sense. Winterfalle is, at its heart my music. But for me, collaboration is still king.
I think that now more than ever, it’s important to create a multi-layered artistic experience. This is in part because I think that music, film, photography and so on are too often considered in isolation from one another. But also it’s because we are not consuming music in the same way we used to. This is especially the case in the way that music is shared online. Soundcloud links and Youtube videos containing just the song are rarely things we link to one another. Music is even less likely to be passed around when it’s unknown or unsigned music. However, I believe that an engaging short film, which the song soundtracks can be a much deeper, attention-holding experience.
As a result of this rationale, Winterfalle has sparked involved collaborations with some of my close friends from Jersey.
“Collaborate with people you know. Jersey is an artistic hotbed of talent. I bet everyone has friends who are making things right now. Make things with them”
A key collaborator is filmmaker Todd Macdonald. Since he traded his guitar for a camera, he’s been making visually gripping work. Todd’s eye has given Winterfalle its filmic character. He has directed two Winterfalle videos so far, the first of which for ‘I Know’ launched recently. From concept to shoot to edit, we worked hard to make a piece of work, which is as much a short film as it is a music video. With ‘I Know’, we wanted to create a window’s look into the world of Winterfalle, telling a story where we relive the sort of night we’d have had when we were in 6 Form – before adult life and living-for-the-weekend got in the way. The story of the film is also in a dialogue with the song’s lyrics, playing into the images and also straining against them. We’re really proud of it.
Max Burnett has also been central to building Winterfalle. Max – who recently made the viral tilt-shift photography video, ‘Little Jersey’ – has been working on the Winterfalle shoots with Todd and has also been taking striking pictures of the Island, which play directly into the mood of the music. You can see Max’s photography all over the Winterfalle web presence.
Another schoolmate Alex Pearce lent his mixing skills to ‘I Know’. I recorded the track in my bedroom but after listening to it a million times, I started to lose my grip on reality. Having Alex’s expert ears on the thing made a massive difference. Alex has been making waves in London as an electronic music producer under the name LeBreton – he pushed my vocals much further forward in the mix than I would have done, a move, which I think makes the storytelling far more engaging to a listener.
There are more Winterfalle videos in the works – the next is out in January. I’m also going to put together a Winterfalle ensemble in the New Year and I’ve just started thinking about how to bring visual elements to the live show. At the moment, it’s just me, my guitar and these stories. But ever since I saw The Oscillation play at Branchage Film Festival in the Spiegeltent a few years ago, I’ve been thinking about the exciting possibilities of combining visuals with musical performance.
Thoughts on how to breakthrough in the modern music industry?
I haven’t ever really ‘broken through’ – I’d also question what that means exactly – but I’ve been able to tour in the UK and Europe as well as put out records with my old band. That was good, but it took a lot of sustained hard work over a very long time.
I think it’s of utmost importance to lead your music with videos. Quick and the Dead’s biggest mistake was that we didn’t have promotional videos in even the loosest sense. People watch videos. People hardly listen to cold tracks. Go make one.
You’ve got be prepared to work hard. Gig all the time. Write all the time. Don’t be precious about putting out your stuff. Get it online. Submit it to blogs. Get involved with BBC Introducing. Yes, it’s never been easier to get your music out there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s also now easier to get people to care about it or get behind it. That will only come by presenting it in an engaging way, being a ferocious self-improver, being doggedly persistent and above all, being patient.
Foster a healthy DIY ethic. Don’t wait for ‘industry’ to come you. Labels, publishers, promoters, booking agents etc… – they aren’t going to ‘discover’ you or be interested in the slightest in what you’re doing unless you are constantly demonstrating that you are capable of doing it yourself. Again, gig, but also use social media properly and regularly. Even at times when I have nothing to bang a drum about, I’ll still be tweeting things I like and talking to people online as frequently as possible.
Don’t just write songs; build a world. This idea is at the heart of Winterfalle. I’m not saying it’s the ‘right’ way to do things, but to me it feels like the most creatively immersive and engaging thing I’ve ever done. It’s so much more interesting to me than simply releasing tracks.
Collaborate with people you know. Jersey is an artistic hotbed of talent. I bet everyone has friends who are making things right now. Make things with them. And don’t limit that thinking to forming a band. Think bigger and you’ll be surprised by what you can create together.
The debut Winterfalle track ‘I Know’ has been featured by BBC 6 DJ Tom Robinson’s Introducing Mixtape and has been featured on BBC Jersey. Sam toured the UK and Europe with his previous band and has recently performed at Oxjam Festival and Shuffle Festival as Winterfalle.