Winter Moods have produced some of the most popular songs in Malta. Originating from Senglea, with rock roots and influences, over the years Winter Moods' music evolved into the most loved melodies on the island including Marigold, Everyday Song, Come To You, Sarah and many more.
Winter Moods are Malta's top selling artist. They consistently topped the charts and won a string of awards. The band etched its name in Maltese music history with memorable concerts and record-breaking audiences at the Valletta Waterfront in 2008 and The Granaries, Floriana in 2010 – the latter attended by more than 10,000 people.
Through their career, Winter Moods performed with and supported top international artists including Bryan Adams, Elton John, Roger Hodgson, Bob Geldof, Fish, Antonello Venditti and Deep Purple. Winter Moods also performed alongside Maroon 5, Enrique Iglesias and Akon in the Isle of MTV Malta Special and supported the CiaO’Scia concert held in Malta featuring Claudio Baglioni, Gianni Morandi and Riccardo Cocciante. Baglioni sang Winter Moods’ ‘Marigold’ together with the band.
In 2010 Winter Moods released their fifth album, ‘Argento’ which includes hit songs ‘Last To Know’, ‘My Neverland’ and 'Forward To Yesterday'. For more information log on to www.wintermoods.net.
Contact - email@example.com, 00356 9948 6548
Ivan Grech - Vocals
Melvin Caruana - guitars
Joseph Rizzo - Bass
Etienne Robinich - keyboards
Karl Fenech - Drums
Argento (CD album) - 2010
Ordinary Men (CD album) - 2006
Closer (EP) - 2005
Butterfly House (CD album) - 2003
Morning Ale (CD album) - 2000
Fool For An Angel (CD single) - 1998
Winter Moods (CD album) - 1996
Hang On To Your Smile
Fall Into My Arms
All the time in the world
Last To Know
Forward To Yesterday
[+ Show ]
Winter Moods are a self-assured, all-male quintet worth checking out. There’s an anthemic U2 feel to...Winter Moods are a self-assured, all-male quintet worth checking out. There’s an anthemic U2 feel to much of what they do on their album Argento. Opener ‘Sun Won’t Shine’ could be an outtake from The Joshua Tree. It has a robust vocal and a fine sense of drama. ‘That’s Where I’d Rather Be’ is slower and has a rugged undertow and lots of radio-friendliness. ‘My Neverland’ is a plaintive track that shakes off many of the U2-isms. It has warm strings, builds brilliantly with a passionate vocal and settles in nicely for a cosy few minutes.
An Emotionally Charged Show
[+ Show ]
The granaries in Floriana provide a fitting setting for this special night in Maltese music. The cro...The granaries in Floriana provide a fitting setting for this special night in Maltese music. The crowd shuffles in whilst new local band Cruz hit the stage. Cruz earned their place as opening act after winning a competition set by Winter Moods themselves in collaboration with radio station 89.7 Bay. The band’s blend of post-grunge and funk-rock warms the crowd up nicely. Finishing off with their winning song Red Tape, Cruz exit the stage, while the crowd waits expectantly for the men of the hour.
Shortly after 9p.m., the big screen on stage is filled with a Maltese cross against a red backdrop. Winter Moods enter the stage one by one to the sound of crackling radio frequencies and synth soundscapes provided by keyboardist Etienne Robinich. Each band member gradually feeds into the instrumental intro of Sun Won’t Shine, opening track from their latest album release Argento; guitarist Melvin Caruana injects sonorous guitar feedback into the mix, whilst bassist Joseph Rizzo and new drummer Karl Fenech form the steady rhythmic backbone.
Frontman Ivan Grech is last to come on stage, waving and showing his gratitude to the impressive 9,000 strong turnout. He is wearing a black shirt that bears the new Winter Moods logo on his right arm, and the Maltese cross on his left. Ivan is immediately on fine form, hitting big notes with his cool raspy timbre which has been a defining element of the Winter Moods sound over these last 25 years. When Ivan sings chorus line “The sun won’t shine without you”, the crowd is bathed in celestial white floodlights amongst rapturous applause and cheering. The band dive straight into second song Walk On By, after which Grech declares “Here we are, one big happy family,” while pointing to the entire audience. Clearly the band feels this is as much the crowd’s night as it is their own, a fact they are keen to emphasise throughout this emotionally charged show.
Evidently Winter Moods and the whole crew behind them have gone through great lengths to pull out all the stops and ensure the audience is treated to a show on par with international standards. Nine songs in and the Animae Gospel choir are welcomed on stage for two numbers. Crowd favourite Everyday Song is especially stunning with the supplemental gospel harmonies. Soon after, the band leave the stage and shortly reappear walking down an aisle from the back of the crowd up onto a small stage in the middle of the venue - a feat which must have required impeccable logistical organisation. Here they deliver a few acoustic numbers, including a bluesy rendition of Water and a poignant piano led cover of Maltese classic Xemx, originally recorded in the ‘70s by late Gozitan Dominic Grech and his band The Tramps, which gets most of the crowd singing heartily along. Another brief interlude and the band are back on the mainstage.
Surprisingly, fan favourites such as Jamaica and Lonely Vegas were left out to make way for the new and as yet, less familiar material from the Argento album. The band’s pièce de résistance Marigold is greeted with a flurry of sparklers in the front rows. Smiles all around, the ecstatic crowd sing their hearts out to this song which has already earned its place as one of the most popular Maltese songs ever, despite it only being a few years old. By the end of their two and a half hour set, Winter Moods have boldly proven that local music can be taken to new heights with just enough hard work and dedication ... and of course with the help of a Maltese public that holds you dearly in its heart.
Winter Moods Make History
[+ Show ]
Winter Moods have confirmed their position as one of Malta ’s top rock bands when they entertained a...Winter Moods have confirmed their position as one of Malta ’s top rock bands when they entertained a crowd of over 7500 at the Valletta Waterfront on Wednesday night. The band played through their string of hits in a two hour show that had the audience singing along through every tune.
The show kicked off at 2130CET with Fake Love, followed by All The Time In The World, Adrenaline and a string of hits including Everyday Song, Come To You, Sarah, Crazy Moon, Moonshine, and the show’s outstanding finale with Marigold.
During one of the most intimate moments of the performance, when Ivan Grech and Melvin Caruana were performing on the catwalk, George Curmi – il-Puse accompanied the duo on the violin in an outstanding rendition of the classic rock song Dust In The Wind and the band’s own Friends.
Winter Moods made music history with the highest number of tickets ever sold for a performance by a local act.
Ivan Grech said, “We were amazed by the turn out and the feedback. The people’s support made it all worthwhile. We had a fantastic time on stage, the crowd’s response to our songs carried us through our set seamlessly. It was an emotional experience and a dream come through for the band. We will carry this concert in our hearts for years and years to come.”
Rock Is Back With A Vengeance by Eman Pulis
[+ Show ]
Eman Pulis meets up with Ivan Grech, lead vocalist of Winter Moods in a not-so-wintery afternoon ...Eman Pulis meets up with Ivan Grech, lead vocalist of Winter Moods in a not-so-wintery afternoon
As I play Marigold it won’t take long to have me convinced that Winter Moods will be my next prey for this month’s Rocking column. So I meet up with lead vocalist Ivan Grech in a not-so-wintery afternoon to unveil more about Winter Moods’ success story - past, present and future.
Ivan is very receptive to the idea and is eager to uncover more. He takes off with a strong statement that music is an inevitable part of each band member: “We are a family of 5 friends who love music - it is such an important part of our lives that we cannot do without”. They are all passionate, friendly and emotional, not only on-the-field of play but also in their private lives.
I ask about their brand name ‘Winter Moods’ and its conception. Ivan is quick to retort that “it was the mood that inspired us in our teenage days - music, leather jackets, music, beer, music and rain”. As he pompously boasts of his hey days I can picture Ivan, 20 years younger, 20 kilos lighter, spend endless hours of song writing inside some garage in Senglea.
Things have changed since then. From the cosy confines in Cottonera, we now see them on billboards and top-up card advertising, rocking twice as hard in front of both local and foreign enthusiasts. I ask Ivan to comment about the response from his Maltese fan base: “I love the locals; we always get a good response when we perform because we reach out and connect with the crowd. It is so special when a whole crowd sings our songs, it is magic!” says Ivan.
All this justifies their four acclaimed albums, the latest being Ordinary Men. Lustrous wrapping, fine cover-design and eleven tracks, summarizing months of hard work within four studio walls and years of experience: if anything, Ordinary Men is almost futile at attesting that Winter Moods are The band, because that was made totally obvious by their first album. Back then I was 9 and I preferred Barney music to Winter Moods. But things change. The more I listen to their music the more I realise that theirs is a genuine, long-lasting trademark.
With four albums and an everlasting series of live gigs under their belt, I wonder who Ivan’s sources of inspiration could be. “Bono and U2” is his tip of the tongue, adding that; “U2 are and will always remain my favourite Band in every way”. Naturally, I couldn’t agree more to his affiliation. Bono is one of few celebrities who dare to help others in need. Through One (www.one.org), the campaign to make poverty history, Bono asserts that it is "wholly unacceptable," for children to die for lack of low-cost vaccination. "I'm going to spend the rest of my life on this; I'm going to make that kind of extreme poverty history." Similarly, possibly to a lesser extent, Ivan has also been drawn in various local campaigns aimed at raising awareness about AIDS and poverty in Africa.
It’s also thanks to a supportive wife, Deborah, and an understanding boss at Hamilton Travel that Ivan could pursue his music career.
As I scribble my last words on this “stick-to-one-full-page” article, I realise that Winter Moods and vintage wine have one thing in common. Before the batteries on my I-pod turn pale I play what I believe is one of the best songs on Ordinary Men – ‘Hang On to Your Smile’, indeed shedding light on Winter Moods as an unsurpassed local band. Who knows? Perhaps the countdown will strike zero for a fifth album release.
Simply Ordinary Men by Gabriella Gusman
[+ Show ]
Reaching out to an audience while keeping followers constantly interested in your music is a challen...Reaching out to an audience while keeping followers constantly interested in your music is a challenge faced by all long-time musicians world-wide. However, Malta, being a small island condensed with fresh and young flourishing talents, makes such tasks increasingly difficult, especially since there are limited resources for musical training and progression.
Going down memory lane, I can recall singing along to the likes of Ride, Water and Everyday Song which made local band Winter Moods incredibly popular, helping them gain a large following on our islands. What started out in the mid-eighties as a group of talented, young and hopeful musicians blossomed into one of the most highly requested and established bands on the island.
Twenty years down the road, the band has managed to attract thousands to their music, which literally sums up their realistic, down-to-earth approach that they have always believed in.
With three albums already in full blast, Winter Moods has put all their knowledge, techniques and efforts into their latest album Ordinary Men – an extension of their classic material but with modern and alternative undercurrents. Meeting up with band vocalist Ivan, gave me the opportunity to understand the album’s depth, while discovering how the members have gone through thick and thin to prove themselves and remain together as a team.
When you think about it, few bands have managed to get this far while remaining entirely devoted to their music and balancing this passion with every day’s responsibilities. “Twenty years is a long time and when you are fortunate to have an audience, people tend to like you for who you are. I feel we never looked back in terms of our music but always tried to move a step forward. We do what we do because we love it and the support of the people is what inspires us most,” Ivan told The Sunday Times.
Sitting down on my boyfriend’s couch last Sunday afternoon, sipping my mug of hot chocolate, I could not wait to pop in the CD to see what this new album had to offer – and I was surely not disappointed.
While maintaining a sense of identity, the band has still managed to renovate its sound. It is clear that they stuck to the basics, with their rhythmic bass lines, warm, edgy guitar riffs and overall catchy melodies. Fake Love has all of these elements, and seems to be on the lines of their second album Morning Ale but also makes more use of synthesized sounds.
“I think that there is more maturity in this album,” vocalist Ivan Grech explained. “There are new elements in the songs, such as new guitar sounds and electronic elements, but the rest is still very close to classic Winter Moods,” he added.
In this song we are made to see the importance of moving on and letting go of a relationship when it has reached its downfall. Such sad words compliment the sweet harmonious melodies and Ivan’s passionate vocals.
The entire album is all about real emotions and experiences, with an underlying message, allowing the listener to feel and experience what the musicians have put into musical notes and sounds. “It’s all real life and true emotions. Joseph Rizzo, who wrote a few songs, also went really deep. There is no fiction in our stuff and everything in here is about things that I have gone through or what others around us have experiences,” Ivan said.
A sense of hope when one feels desolate and gloom can be felt in the second number Crazy Moon. This ballad has a few influences from U2, especially in the deep, husky vocals, while the bass lines remind me of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Although a devoted U2 fan, Ivan is open to all music sorts and believes that the album was subconsciously influences by numerous bands which all members enjoy listening to. “Although I am a U2 diehard fan I am also open to various alternative bands including Keane and Snow Patrol. Without knowing it you are influenced by the music you are listening to and when you hear your final product, you realise that you are similar to some bands in certain areas. I cannot say that one particular musician influenced us. This is a continuation of Winter Moods, with more guitar sounds but with the same mysterious feeling as in Butterfly House,” Ivan explained.
Prior to releasing the album, Winter Moods had the task of deciding which song to release as their first single. With a wide variety to choose from, three songs were finally short listed, and Lonely Vegas was selected as the most suited give the public an idea of what is to come. This song reached number one of 89.7 Bay’s Top 40, Winter Moods’ second song to place first on the radio station, after Come to You, released in February 2003. This song shows the band’s eagerness to experiment with their music and lyrical content, which projects the obsession and addiction resulting from gambling habits. This song is one of my favorites in the album, most specifically due to its powerful, dominant guitar intro, creativity and strong meaning, accompanied by a bright chorus. Ivan’s voice also goes places from vibrant pitch changes to its tentative harmonious vitality.
Looking back at the band’s success who could forget all time hit Everyday Song, which not only won the hearts of the public but also got them the Best Single of All Time award during last year’s Bay Music Awards? “Those songs don’t come easy and Everyday Song reaches a wide audience,” Ivan said. Hence, is there a song, which might possess some of that magic? Ivan promptly referred to a wonderful ballad entitled Marigold and after hearing it, I tend to agree with him. The gentle acoustic guitars, harmonious keyboards and Ivan’s soulful presentation literally brought tears to my eyes. Talking about this song, it was clearly evident that it meant a great deal to him and literally portrays true feelings and sentiments. “I think Marigold will be knocking on Everyday Song’s door as it is very personal and is about someone you miss greatly,” he said.
Although some of the lyrics may appear to be dark and at times heartbreaking there is also a sense of optimism in quite a few of them. Moonshine can be interpreted as a love song as one expresses his love for a person even though there are rough tides. “A good life we have/ Before today/ I lived someone else’s life.” The rhythmic drums and bass are extremely central in this number and go hand in hand with its memorable refrain. “There is a lot of heart in our music. Everyone has been through these emotions, and the overall theme is generic open,” Ivan explained.
Apart from remaining on the forefront by connecting with the audience on a full time basis Winter Moods has also managed to attract the younger generation to their music, even those who are normally into commercial party tracks. “We have attracted people to our sound, the individual members and what we all have to say. We just do what we have to do and we don’t take anything for granted. From the feedback we have had, it looks like we are on the right track towards staying where we are. Seeing people sing your songs is the ultimate and we are also very surprised and pleased to see new, young people coming on the boat,” Ivan said.
With an innovative approach, Winter Moods did not simply stick to what has worked for them in the past but have also built up on their personal styles, polishing their instrumental quality while exploring new horizons by adding influences from a number of contemporary in-bands. This is evident in Walk on By a number all about leaving skeletons in the closet and opening the door to a future full of dreams and hope, with essences of gothic band HIM.
I once read somewhere that every instrument has its own voice and particular sound, which depends not only on its physical entity but also on how a musician makes use of it. In Ordnary Men it apparent that Winter Moods tried to be versatile in their sound, especially towards the second half of the album. Not Enough, which brings out the importance of not to take anything for granted, seems to be less conventional than the previous tracks and introduces us to the group’s willingness to explore techniques. The lyrics also talk about the hungry souls around the world and their need for more love and prayer.
In Life Will Never be the Same, Ivan shows diversity in his voice in a song, which has a few bass lines from Coldplay, combined with acoustic effects. Winter Moods explores societal issues even further here, stating that all the wealth and fame in world cannot buy you love and happiness nor can “all your highs you failed to tame.”
When looking back at their past achievements, all members make it their priority to remain honest and realistic, without allowing their success to get over their heads. “The title of the album says it all. We are normal people and we enjoy meeting those who follow our music. We prefer to call them our friends rather than ‘our fans’,” Ivan insisted.
The ninth track Ordinary Man highlights this even further with warm, mellow guitar riffs, and profound words on letting your heart out while singing about what is going on the subconscious. “I am breaking out, today/ To spell my heart”.
Can’t Help Myself, caught my attention not only because of its eerie, appealing sound effects, but also due to it being very usual for the band. Here, I detect influences from grunge music with the use of slow tempos and dissonant harmonies, and although similar to renown band Radiohead, demonstrates a different colour in Winter Moods’ music. There is also a sense of mystery as one is “falling down to earth” with “faces and clouds ahead”. I also really enjoyed how the song picks up half way with an exceptional instrumental piece, amalgamating electronic keyboards with guitar interactions.
Last but not least Hang on your Smile ends the album with a reminder of the band’s original style – the rhythmic drums sequence and catchy powerful chorus seen in their previous work. We are also left with a sense of comfort as the song tells us to keep smiling even when lonely, everything seems to be going wrong and difficulties are never-ending.
Remembering when they started out Ivan feels that he has achieved everything he dreamed of. Although their first album was released in the early Nineties, the peak of commercial, dance and techno music, they still managed to fight the obstacles, and are now one of the most well-known bands in the country. “Playing in front of an audience was always my dream. When I was young, I used to grab a broomstick, go in front of a mirror, lights out and pretend to play in front of a huge audience. Today I get to do that for real and that’s wonderful,” he said. “There are those who are only into party music but there are also people who go to such events and still know what real music is all about. I think rock is coming back, especially since I see more rock numbers on the charts,” he added.
Unfortunately guitarist Steve Caruana Smith is no longer a member of the band, however Ivan insists that they are still on good terms, even though he will be greatly missed. “Steve could not keep up with his family, job and band. We miss him like a brother. He did record the album with us, and now we will remain just the five of us,” he said.
So is there hope for more new material? “We love music and we are also always very creative. Soon after finishing Ordinary Men, we were already jamming together and working on new ideas. When Winter Moods started out is was just going to be one album, Every time we say it will be our last one and it never is. So this is our last album … till the next one,” Ivan said.
With another of gigs coming up, Winter Moods aim to make every person present feel the vibe, even if they are at the very back. “We also hope to do a concert some time. With four albums out, we have quite a few songs to choose from, so playing live is going to be a luxury. When people respond to your music, it’s magic and once you get there there is no turning back,” Ivan said.
German Summer Rain by Wayne Flask
[+ Show ]
"Musicians?" "Yes. We are playing tonight at the Ringfest in Cologne," says Ivan, answering the G..."Musicians?"
"Yes. We are playing tonight at the Ringfest in Cologne," says Ivan, answering the German passport control attendant.
Having eased his curiosity, aroused by an entourage of ten people and four guitars, he asked again, "Koln?"
We walk out, still hazy from the 5.30 am rendezvous at MIA, towards the first cigarette on German soil, towards the rainy Dusseldorf, and towards Winter Moods' finest ever outside Maltese shores.
* * *
Five hours later we are sitting, dejected, in our tent in the Mediaplatz in Cologne. We're not camping. The staff of WDR, one of the largest radio stations in Germany, and organisers of this event, have taken care of literally everything. In this elaborate gazebo you can tune your guitars, change clothes, gnaw at something to whet your hunger.
Unfortunately German weather isn't under their jurisdiction. By then we had seen only very little of the sun. Our trip from Dusseldorf to Koln was wet, and although the weather held for the short foray into the street adjacent to our Savoy Hotel for a quick doner, we knew that the massive dark clouds gathering above the concert grounds signalled discomfort. Debbie, the WM manager who organised the event in painstaking details, looked skywards with an expression of anguish, while the German staff worked relentlessly even though the first droplets could be felt.
By time the second band of the night, Orange Blue, have finished their soundcheck, Cologne was already looking darker. One of their musicians emerges soaked in rainwater from behind the stage, having been the unlucky victim of a gust of wind that blew the water off the tarpaulin onto him.
We are laughing our hearts out, but we could have anticipated the warning tones in those gusts. Barely a minute before the band went onstage for the soundcheck, Ivan comes into the tent, followed by Debbie, with the news that the concert might be cancelled, that the soundcheck is postponed indefinitely and that WDR are in contact with the authorities to get an extension past the 11pm curfew.
It's not the end of the world. Winter Moods have all the time in the world. There has to be some kind of solution. The band, including Debbie, Saif (stagehand) and myself are sitting in this tent about to look pale. Kurt Fsadni, the sound guru which Winter Moods wanted so strongly with them for this German performance, is still doing his job with the sound people on the other side of the square. There are reflections, slight groans and so everyone starts shooting alternatives: we should ask them to play tomorrow (the concert was spread over two days), even if at 1pm. We should ask them to give us a gig at Hard Rock café in Cologne. We should wait.
To cap it off, this is the brief from Jorg of WDR who came in the tent to tell us where we all stood. "There is a hurricane warning from Bochum, which is roughly 15km from here, and we don't know whether the concert is still on."
"We're so unlucky," says Melvin. The concert was about to be put off for the second time already, since in May the bassist of the Latvian band had died in a bike crash and all the event (set for June) was cancelled.
During that hour it stopped raining. The wind gave a few harmless gusts, while we consumed industrial quantities of cigarettes and chocolates (the latter were diligently distributed by the WDR staff in each performer's tent).
Winter Moods' own weather was slowly clearing up. More than all the others, Ivan showed obvious signs of disappointment. Debbie and all the band put in a lot of time in organising the whole event and being stopped by millimetres of rainfall was just too cruel. But the others kept their humour flowing throughout. Joe and Steve in particular kept us on full cylinders while Etienne (Bobby) occasionally put in some of his finer touches from his repertoire. Someone even suggested playing Crowded House's Weather with You, a reference to their ill luck with rain wherever they went. Happy bunch, these Winter Moods, we have been laughing since half past five this morning and even in these harder moments they find something to joke about.
When Anja from WDR bulged into the room - politely - she told us that it was ok if we wanted to do the soundcheck. The concert was on! There was a quick enthusiastic applause to the messenger and by an automatism we all stood up, guitars and whatever at hand, to walk to the stage.
From just beneath the medium sized stage I could hear the head of the crew saying to Ivan, "tell me what you want to have for each instrument and I can make everything for you." Indicative of their attitude: you are our guests and we'll give you a good time.
From that moment onwards, until their last note rang out, they kept their steady momentum without losing a single micro-g. The big family was back to work, down to the hard matters which they have always tackled with more than just an ounce of confidence. James sat at his drums and smiled widely when he heard the rumble the bass drums could produce; Melvin and Joe set up next to each other, left hand side of the stage, with Steve on the other guitar to Ivan's right. Etienne, next to James, completed the mosaic.
The interplay of noises went on for around twenty minutes, once everyone was content it could all go ahead. In five minutes time they were to take to the stage again: time for a quick run to the loo (on the third floor of a WDR building), a change of t-shirt and the omnipresent cigarette. Meanwhile, the audience size was increasing rapidly from a score of people clutching their umbrellas to a sizeable festival crowd just before the show kicked off.
19.00pm: Winter Moods are greeted with routine applause by the audience and get going with All the Time in the World. Never was one of their songs so fitting, never was one hour of extra suspense so beneficial. They played on and played out their relief. Their hunger for this gig seemed voracious: by the end of the first number it seems they had forgotten their tensions in the changing room.
They steamrolled through their forty minute set, without a single twitch, without looking back on anything that could have worried them. It was Art in motion, a true show that the band has the calibre, the charisma to make a name for itself. The crowd was theirs from the very first song, reactive and welcoming, answering to Ivan's helloes and hollering back like any of Bono's crowds. In part, the crowd carried them along, in particular the younger ones at the very front who were eventually looking forward to some quality rock-pop. No-one, in effect, seemed to mind the rain coming down in ten minute intervals.
Come to You, Water, Everyday Song, Eyes Open Wide. It was over all too early, I thought, but luckily they proceeded to an encore, Ride, much to the delight of the audience. All throughout, Ivan's singing was perfect and the band of wonders were, in one word, wonderful. The singer's final request was for the crowd to raise their hands in the air as a memento of the show. They beautifully did.
* * *
Ivan descended from the stage first, asking me what the sound was like. "It settled down immediately. It was a really great show," I tell him. The WDR people were of the same opinion too. Satisfaction was on everyone's faces. Somehow we suddenly forgot that we were up since four in the morning and that it was all about to go down the drain. Winter Moods, in Cologne's Ringfest 2004, had once again done more than just proving their mettle.
First stop after the show was the live interview with WDR, followed by dinner and the first beer of our stay. Smalltalk was about the sound, the comments from the Germans present at the show, the very good taste of the chicken we were devouring. No hurricane to be seen either.
"What an experience, the best Winter Moods gig so far! Considering how big and popular the Ringfest is, plus being here through WDR2 and sharing the same stage with great bands, is an achievement that makes us proud. The treatment we got from the organisers was incredible. We crossed over to a dream world for these two days. The response we got from the crowd was amazing. We managed to connect to the crowd from the very first song and that took our performance to a higher level. This is surely one of my golden memories," said Ivan later.
Some minutes later, Ivan asked Saif and me to grab a box of CD's of Butterfly House and go around the audience to sell them.
Ok, I thought, we won't be selling that many. But once the compere announced (in German) that CD's are on sale there was a trickle of people coming over to buy the album. In twenty minutes all the copies of Butterfly disappeared from our hands leaving the band to autograph the CD's to the small crowd we had created inside the Mediaplatz.
Throughout the rest of the night, then, we fraternised with the other artists (which included the once glorious London Beat and the blues-ish Orange Blue, from Turkey, whose singer Volkan delighted the audience with a lesson in stage presence. Beer flowed happily throughout the backstage and everyone was in very high spirits. The final act of the night was Fury in the Slaughterhouse, a very popular German band with a cult following. The Ringfest adventure was over for all of us as we bid our farewells and, guitars in hand, directed ourselves back to the Savoy.
* * *
I got a shock early on Saturday morning as soon as I peeped out of the window of my hotel room. Cologne presented itself as rainy, grey, dark, at 9.15 in the morning. Having woken up with a jump, I almost forgot that the slightly oriental swank of the Savoy was not to be reflected outside. Shower, breakfast and discussion on the events of the long night before (where, without a good tour leader, we got to the poor side of the Kolnisher nightlife.)
Saturday was all ours to spend, most of us devoting the morning to shopping (there's an infinite shopping street parallel to the cathedral). At two in the afternoon all the band met with Andy, a 6'9" representative of WDR, and with Holger, (the journalist who had made the first contact with Winter Moods for the Europa XXL competition) who guided us to lunch at a typical brewery in Cologne, the Fruh (where, I learnt, the Kolsch is the official local beer). Time for some sightseeing, first the Cathedral (the only visible landmark for those who, like me, have a disastrous sense of orientation) then down to the banks of the Rhine for a visit to the Chocolate Museum.
We left there without having consumed much chocolate, but, with more calories to burn in those exterminating walks from the Rhine to the centre, it was eventually time for a rest.
Saturday evening presented more nightlife and now that we knew our way around getting lost in the middle of an asphalt jungle it was easier to find better pubs. Some were run by Italians, but overall the German, be they full of beer or not, are a happy bunch and this weekend in Cologne has served to alter substantially my perception of the Saxons as a sullen crowd (save for an extremely rude sausage shopkeeper who had to offer James some very colourful German terms).
On Sunday it was time for goodbyes - to the reception staff at Savoy who had to bear with me forgetting my room number every time I enter the hotel, to the very helpful WDR people, and to the weekend of fun we had in Cologne. We left in the afternoon, ready for a long bus trip to Frankfurt, and from then, the return to earth.
Of course, we skipped quite a few queues thanks to the precious baggage of guitars, with AirMalta being particularly helpful with regards to arrangements in both Malta and Frankfurt. Too tired to say anything, the flight back from Germany would be of little news value, weren't it for the general air of satisfaction that hung in the air among us.
It seems they do carry their weather with them. Only that, when it pours, they reign.
The Third Coming by Wayne Flask
[+ Show ]
Winter Moods' Butterfly House will outshine the groundbreaking Morning Ale. Wayne Flask finds out wh...Winter Moods' Butterfly House will outshine the groundbreaking Morning Ale. Wayne Flask finds out why
It was all looking awesome. Beverly Cutajar greets you at the door, with her wide trademark smile and a reassuring handshake. The Alley at 12.30 had probably never seen such a crowd. It was on the cards of course; the countdown had finally struck zero and everyone was there, in semi-grandiose manner, to celebrate the release of Butterfly House. Winter Moods' third album, the diamond which took so long to form, has, at last, been launched.
Sleek packaging, wondrous design by Andrei Xuereb, eleven tracks, forty-one minutes and twenty seconds of magic encapsulating a year of hard work at Temple Studios and a weekend of songwriting in Gozo. If anything, Butterfly House is almost useless at proving that Winter Moods are the band, because that was made glaringly obvious by their second conception, the now almost forgotten Morning Ale. Winter Moods' third coming is not just a step ahead; it has moulded the Senglea six into a shiny phenomenon who can play with versatility in the same way Garrincha did with footballs whilst dribbling the defences of Italy and Argentina. The first time Butterfly House rings out in your stereo doesn't give you as much of a kick as its predecessor did, mostly because its biggest novelty is versatility and the variety in atmosphere. Pop lovers will not be disappointed though. As Ivan Grech himself told me, it does grow on you. You'll love it after giving it the third try.
There's a whole variety in those golden eleven tracks. There are sunny tracks like Lesson One (with Messrs Joe Tanti and Gianni Zammit on backing vocals), anthems such as Come to You and more sombre, down-to-the-heart tracks like Friends and Home Again. They did change some things but definitely haven't lost their sound, with some tracks like the opener All the Time in the World which remind all of us of how bright - and outstanding - Winter Moods have become since their debut album. Not that they were expressly looking for it. Joe Rizzo (bass) finds it "heavier, not in the metal sense, and even the guitars are brighter and up-tempo. If you had to remove the vocals from it and just listen to the instruments, you wouldn't think of it as a Winter Moods album."
"We wanted it to be a different album but whenever we tried to do that consciously we never really got there. Most of the songs were born out of pure coincidence, but the vibe it gave us was so good that we worked on them immediately. Ultimately Morning Ale was our inspiration and we didn't need to change its formula because it worked. Keep in mind that an album like Morning Ale encases our identity. If we'd try to change that, we won't, because man… that's what we can really create!" says Melvin.
They took one whole year off to craft this masterpiece, preferring to dedicate 2002 to the nitty-gritty of the new album rather than lingering on with a now fully-milked album. They are pretty surprised by my question as to how long it took them to make a noise. As Joe tells me, they didn't see that as a really long period. "It is normal for a band to retire for sometime into its rehearsal place to write new material. Maybe in Malta you can afford it less but in our case there were many other factors involved. It included the fact that we lazed around a bit and that our recording sessions were spread around the year. The bottom line is that because of jobs and commitments it takes longer for a Maltese band to record."
"Sometimes, especially in summer, I am too busy to focus on the band," says Ivan, admitting that sometimes earning himself a living makes him hoarse. "Our sessions were so spread out that we cannot quantify how much studio time this album took us. We used to record our songs on a certain day and add the loops and effects around a month later. But during the final month of recording we set out to finish off the job for good."
Morning Ale paranoia? Says Melvin: "We were slightly choosier in our compositions after Morning Ale, and perhaps out of three songs we would scrap everything apart from, say, a chorus. We were more sceptical about our songs and we often stopped to ask each other whether we were getting it right. Sometimes it took us a whole week of rehearsals to complete a song, even because we had doubts compared to what we did in Morning Ale."
They grin widely when they recollect how most of the songs got to be recorded. To mention some, the band had gone up to Temple Studios to give producer David Vella the chance to hear Lesson One but actually ended up recording it; another track only had a minute part written but shaped itself entirely at Temple thanks to David's golden touch.
"It was a difference experience from Morning Ale. We won't do it again though. Next time we'll go in and finish the album in one or two sessions."
Although it does give them doubtless elbow in terms of hype generated, the band seems less content with a one year timespan in between the first song they wrote and the last one. Other songs were left waiting for three months until the vocals were recorded.
I hint that perhaps Ivan was too lazy at it… "Yes, we all agree on that," says Melvin amid roars of laughter.
"What feedback did you get until now?" I venture.
"We were expecting some positive feedback - we had no doubt Come to You would do well because it has all the ingredients to make it a good radio-friendly hit and it's essentially a Winter Moods song," says Ivan. "As regards sales, we had a pre-sale session on Sunday [16th March] at Exotique and in less than an hour we sold one hundred fifty CD's. And some outlets have already asked us for a new batch of CD's."
Come to You did really well. It was an astounding return. Joe Tanti had no qualms about playing it twice in a row, Bay Radio seized the opportunity and got the exclusivity on its airing; a few weeks later Come to You was still on top of the chart. There was a deluge of SMS's requesting it on radio stations, and, typical of the popularity the band enjoys, a flood of best wishes from everyone, fans and musicians alike.
I ask them for those hard, tooth-pulling moments of the recording period. "I think," says Steve, "when I'm not present at the studios."
"No, rather, I actually think it's harder when you're there…" says Melvin. More laughter.
"There are always tough moments," says Ivan. "Other bands might have done it in an easier manner because they 'live in' with the producer and they can correct certain sounds immediately. It took us more to get a particular feel when the songs are being recorded so sparsely, but it was also because we were honing on our playing technique and could afford to choose between a number of versions of each song. We could also experiment more in the studio and that matured our music."
Productive lapses might have occurred, but they are also quick to point out that, thanks to Deborah Vassallo's able management, the band have also been able to concentrate more on the musical matters and allow the promotion machine to be run smoothly by Winter Moods' number 7. Debbie has done a lot for the band since she took over, and, in my opinion, is tackling the whole album business in a very convincing manner. It showed through and through during their press launch, a well organised PR/marketing necessity which kept everyone beaming (including the band). Although of course, much of the credit goes to the members themselves who have always been the "nice guys' band" and who never utter a word too much to prove a point; they're great to talk to in relaxed moments such as this interview and have unsurprisingly made a big number of friends among fellow musicians.
Another 'virtual' member of Winter Moods' is David Vella, the Midas of producers in that his experienced, golden touch is a luxury all the bands acknowledge. Even more so in Winter Moods' case. "From Morning Ale to today six local bands have recorded with David - and all of them are very good bands. In his own words, our music has matured therefore he could dare some ideas which he wouldn't do with someone else. It's not because we're better than them, but rather because our style fits well with Dave's vision. What he does is the dressing up of the song, not really writing it up. This time he did indicate his favourite sounds outright and all in all we had a bigger part in the production. And we also knew what we wanted from our songs."
Winter Moods are still away from the live scene, and judging by Ivan's tones, they will be long. A trip to Rome awaits them first - and Rome, as most will know, is the home of a certain Antonello Venditti, the Italian singer who was mesmerised by Everyday Song. Wonder whether he'll be looking closely at some numbers from Butterfly House.
The international scene has also been very good to them, with Radio Voyager (yes, USA) playlisting songs from Morning Ale and now also including Come to You for regular airplay. That's another two benchmarks they have embossed, together with the countless local accolades accumulated in the past. They will be back to steamrolling through local venues but not with the same frequency as they did in the past. They're getting older, yes, but that's nothing to do with them taking their foot off the gas a bit. Rather, their preference is for less, yet well-organised appearances which will inevitably guarantee heavy turnouts. Plans are afoot for a 'big' concert here in Malta, and, knowing the verve they have always put into their live shows, it's going to be one massive gig.
Having said this, the idea of Winter Moods packing up and leaving Malta for good is now looking more and more concrete. They acknowledge it takes a lot because disrupting one's own family life and job for the sake of music is a big thing. "If it's worth a try we will do it, some opportunities are there to be grabbed, but it's not easy Wayne…" says Ivan. For now, a distribution deal abroad is looking very good for the band.
It's a great feel of course, to add Butterfly House to my ever growing local music library. There are gems with names like The Truth, Y, Micromania, Destination Red, 48K and more. The new addition, like its colleagues above, is musically superb in every aspect, a must-have pleasure for your ears. It stands proud with its ancestors Winter Moods and Morning Ale, knowing that it will, some day, supersede them.
Perhaps it's because Ivan Grech, Steve Caruana Smith, Joe Rizzo, Melvin Caruana, James Vella and Etienne Robinich share a common feature with wine: the older they get, the better they become. Six friends, six great musicians, and quoting Ivan, one big family.
Even Garrincha would baulk in front of such composure.
Mediterranean Heartbeat by JJ Formosa
[+ Show ]
With their self-titled album released back in 1995, five nominations, award for Best Band at the Mal...With their self-titled album released back in 1995, five nominations, award for Best Band at the Malta Music awards in 1997 and a number of supporting acts for big names such as Marillion, Deep Purple and Chris De Burgh - Winter Moods were hailed as one of the refreshing outfits to emerge in the past decade, after a series of unfavourable circumstances for the crew.
The veteran six-piece have now bounced back with their latest record, ‘Morning Ale’, recorded over a span of two years, showcasing eleven tracks of pure emotion, basking in their own glow.
Winter Moods have rebuilt themselves as a svelte, sophisticated pop-rock icon, jettisoning everything that never needed to be there, educating themselves further in combining charisma with music, and incorporating spirit with innovative material arrangements and effects, condensing everything to one maximum outcome.
‘Morning Ale’ proves itself to be much more ripe and focussed than it’s predecessor, from both viewpoints of music and song writing and once again, the production was relied upon David Vella. His careful experimentation with effects, and overwhelming varnishes to the sound has paid off handsomely here, moulding the album into an exquisite creation.
“In our opinion, the sound of the album is the best ever heard on these islands from a local band. David Vella, or as we call him, “Our seventh brother” realised that there was potential in this material and so he gave his heart and soul to make it sound on an international level.” Ivan Grech and Etienne Robinich explained.
‘Lay Down’ and ‘Jamaica’ kick-start the album with exhilarating force, both exhibiting the band’s variety and depth, the latter which is the current single, proving to be a sugary and summery track with sophisticated dynamics.
“ ‘Jamaica’, was our first choice as a single because it has a bit of everything around it. Alternative guitar riffs with a gloomy voice on the verses which leads a pop rock catchy and bright chorus to a dramatic change just after the second chorus - a drop down break with an emotional feel.” Ivan Grech pointed out.
Winter Moods are bits of your favourite bands wrapped up in one cute package. You’ll hear Hootie & the Blowfish’s fresh and vibrant strumming, cuddling up to U2’s deep basslines; Del Amitri’s sweet fragility colliding with the latest jagged rhythms of Matchbox 20 – glazed with the alluring vocals of Ed Kowalczyk (Live’s front-man)
Ivan Grech’s deep and enticing voice wraps itself around your head within seconds – proof that he uses it as another instrument. On cuts like ‘Everyday Song’, ‘Better Now’, and ‘Brittany on the wall’ he seems to draw you into the song, tug at your heartstrings, and make you think that it’s all a personal treat for your ears only.
The rest of the band members are all able and competent on instrumental levels, especially Melvin Caruana on guitar; and the fitting electronic pulses of Etienne Robinich are no less than hypnotic.
“The band is made up of six musicians with different characters, influences and ideas. We all have our different styles and sounds. I might say that it’s needless to say that a voice has a major role in the band’s identity. I have improved loads with experience and have now discovered my voice nearly to the fullest. All the band members have their favourite bands, I like good music, real music, played music… but I hate dance music!” Ivan Grech revealed.
“Our style of music is a bit difficult to define as there are alot of different influences and ideas brought in together. I am more for the electronic side, Ivan is the melody man, Joe Rizzo is more a 70's rock and punk fan. Steve is in for anything hard and heavy, James Vella is more into Pure Rock, and Melvin is a Led Zeppelin worshiper. That is how I see the other members' influences, and I don’t know how we came out with a pop rock mainstream album!”, Etienne Robinich explained.
The skilful lyrics and muscular melodies of the substantial ‘Water' sound vibrant with that kind of packed energy and enthusiasm Winter Moods are known for. There is similar stuff in the way of the title track 'Morning Ale’, and a dramatic U-turn with the likes of 'Ride’ and 'Come with Me' - rather warm and soul-fuelled tracks, the latter sung in a very warm voice, with light drumming, dark and deep basslines and noteworthy keyboard washes.
At this point, I might suggest that the listener should approach the numbers individually. After lending your ears to the whole eleven tracks for a couple of times, you might tend to notice that certain songs sound slightly similar to each other in their structure and style. This is particularly evident in the likes of the closing ‘So Long’ which ambles towards ‘Sugarless, but on a more gentle melody.
Just before the release of ‘Morning Ale’ the band were chosen to perform in a massive rock festival in Belfort (France)
“The crowd went crazy while the band bravely gave the best performance the evening could offer. It’s a pity that we had did not have the CDs ready when we played there because we would have definitely sold allot as we were asked for any recorded material in our possession, so we had to give away the demos for free.” Etienne Robinich explained.
Upon their arrival to Malta, another prestigious invitation awaited them, being asked to support ‘The S.A.S. Band’, made up of big names like Paul Young, Fish, and other musicians from Manfred Man’s, Pretenders, and Spike Edny.
“Following the release of their album we performed a couple of sold out gigs and following the good live reputation, we were being invited to perform in Malta’s top night clubs. The next step is to play other big rock festivals and concerts around Europe and hopefully the U.S.A.
The record sales are great… It never stopped selling since its release and it’s still in the top 20 charts… Happily enough, I might say that it’s much bigger than we ever expected!
We do have high expectations regarding the album. We already sold hundreds in the first four months, sadly though – a lot of Maltese do not buy local product but we may say it is selling well, and we are sure that the sales will increase after each and every gig.
In January we started to get in touch with promoters, and record companies who already known the band and other new labels in Eire, the UK, Scandinavia & the US.
Although we had a lot of replies we are still waiting for the good one. We are not saying what the replies were, to leave it up to your imagination!”
For the time being, we are going to concentrate on more & more gigs, we could be playing three times a week with all the deals we are currently being offered, but over exposure is not on our agenda. People are there for us to pack just about every gig we play which will hopefully lead us to a massive Winter Moods concert in summer. Then back to winter hibernating to work on the next album.
I must say that we have put our lives in our music and this album is the highlight of my musical journey. I think it is a great album, and I am 100% sure that we can do better on our next one.” Ivan Grech & Etienne Robinich happily agreed.
‘Morning Ale’, clearly demonstrates that Winter Moods are here for the long haul. The plan here is to reach a wider range of people with songs instead of sonics and grace instead of clout. They may not particularly set the whole world alight, however if you’re looking for the next big thing locally, you will probably find it here, because as far as consistency and commitment is concerned, they’re definitely a bristling sign of life.
If you’re in for this style of music, hurry to your record shop to pick up this little gem before everyone else beats you to it!
Happy Birthday Winter Moods by Wayne Flask
[+ Show ]
Ivan Grech shares anecdotes and secrets of 20 years of Winter Moods with Wayne Flask The grey hai...Ivan Grech shares anecdotes and secrets of 20 years of Winter Moods with Wayne Flask
The grey hairs have almost run riot, although, admittedly, the dreaded process of hair loss has never threatened Ivan Grech. Nor has his age. His burly, 1m90 figure scoffs the myth of the skinny modern age rockstar; his eyes ooze confidence and his voice, borne with the stress of four studio albums and twenty years of Winter Moods, sounds as reassuring as ever.
That same voice is one of Winter Moods’ unique trademarks, starring from their early ‘Marillion’ years to the open spaces of Morning Ale, then to the arty class of Butterfly House and, finally, to the sentimental overtones of Ordinary Men.
By and large, twenty years have gone by and Winter Moods’ heart is still firmly rooted in the urbane ambience of the Cottonera that raised them and shaped their lives. Twenty years on, they are still doing what they like most, and once the tools of the trade have evolved, their sound has become clearer, with enough degrees of verve to leave an indelible effect on their music.
* * *
It is uncharacteristically sunny in Gozo, considering that Winter Moods have the mysterious power of the rainmaker that has accompanied them wherever they went. It’s Sunday morning and I am quietly penning my questions on the rocky hills to the right of Xlendi bay. My hands smell of salt. There is hardly a noise, hardly a movement. Soon enough, though, I have to be on my way to meet them: PR at 1 will see them have an informal lunch with radio competition winners.
The WM entourage has woken up to a slow morning. There are a few complaints about headaches, eyes are a bit heavy and throats are slightly sore. That night, at the XS Club, the best Winter Moods show in a long time was a fitting tribute to their twentieth anniversary. Seamless, from start to finish, they carried the audience with them through their meandering journey in history and emotions, with a new refined set that has brought them a few more joys.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that most of the thousand or so who crowded XS got goosebumps during their rousing performance, a show that included their everlasting Sarah and an unplugged version of Xemx among the highlights. It was, of course, an experiment that worked and, undoubtedly, one of the most convincing Winter Moods of the last few years.
All this talk of years prompts me to point out to Ivan that no one is getting any younger.
“Musically we are definitely still very young, and I feel the same about myself. I’m still a bit of a kid within, I’m always fooling around, and so are the others,” says Ivan. “Since we started recording thirteen years ago we’ve matured a lot, and we’ve done so together. Although we’ve had lineup changes, I think the main factor that has kept us together was our friendship.”
Interesting. Is their friendship so personal, enough to help out, say, with the occasional flat tyre?
“Yes, very much so. Our families are good friends with each other. We’re like brothers. Up until a few years ago I used to meet the guys every single day and to this day I see them more often than my relatives. Our partners are very supportive also. They knew that music was an important part of our lives and that we couldn’t live without it. I mean, it’s not easy, considering that Joseph has three children, and we really admire him because he manages to find time for everything.”
Twenty years ago it was a completely different story than today. Ivan is pleased to take a quick jog down memory lane to recount the early days of Winter Moods when their affections for prog-rock took up most of their time.
He grew up in a family of music connoisseurs. “My brother Alex was in the band club, Norman was a fan of Genesis, Asia, Pink Floyd, Joven was into Led Zeppelin, Queen and Deep Purple, and my sisters Josette and Edmea had other tastes altogether and my mother made sure to keep me in touch with music. In the midst of all this ‘cocktail’ I was exposed to a number of different styles – and Winter Moods was a balance between the creative and the commercial.”
“The first Winter Moods was Joe and Steve [Caruana Smith]. Etienne [Robinich] was a sound technician at first and the singer was a guy called Jesmond Attard. This is around the end of 1986. They had already played in Maltasajf of 1984 as Shades of Darkness, and they also used to play the occasional wedding.” (Steve once had the misfortune of fainting during a reception and collapsed onto the drums). “Etienne eventually took over the keyboards from Arthur Stanicic, with whom I had never got on really well.”
The first Winter Moods also included James Vella on drums, and the band would record their eponymous debut album in 1995, shortly before the arrival of Melvin Caruana on guitars.
The six piece remained unaltered until November last year, when Steve left the band for personal reasons. “The first repercussion was personal, we loved Steve and we’ve always had a great time with him. The second repercussion was on the music. The songs on the album were recorded with two guitarists and we had to find a way of playing them live with only one. We had to resort to technology and the use of loops. Melvin worked really hard to adapt but I never doubted he would do an excellent job. Our live act sounds raw in comparison, and we’ve become tighter as a whole even though we lost out on a great guitarist.”
“We tried to convince Steve to stay on but he simply had no time. He couldn’t attend rehearsals and that for us was the biggest setback. He had lost a lot of commitment to the band, and he was getting a bit lazy too. I’m sorry he’s no longer with us because he was a great, great guy to have on board. I am thinking of having him back for a couple of songs at the next gig.”
And, as we talk of lineup changes, here’s the little-known story of another, particular birthday party.
* * *
Two years ago, John Bundy’s A3FM was still broadcasting strong from the 101.8FM frequency. Winter Moods were the main act of the first birthday party.
A few hours before the show, the band is getting ready at Etienne’s apartment. The host is busy preparing our Spaghetti Bolognese. There is something missing though, a strange lack of buzz in the air. Etienne chides Steve again for smoking in the kitchen, but that, from the whole evening, is the loudest note he will strike.
After the show the atmosphere is more relaxed. Noise levels are much louder, some booze is flowing, and in a corner of the Blues Room Ivan is whispering in Joe’s ear: You can’t leave this band. This is what you’ve started, you can’t go now that you’ve reached everything you’ve ever dreamed of. And Joe understood perfectly what those words meant.
“At one point Joseph was going to quit altogether. If he left it would have been a big blow for me. He’s our devil’s advocate. He questions a lot – he questions the band in a constructive manner. He always pushes the limit, and what we think is the top is never enough for him. Ultimately the one that keeps us all together. It has been like that since we were younger. I have a very special relationship with him.”
Ivan also revealed that around the same time James was about to leave the band too, and that replacements were already lined up. They were never called for the first rehearsal.
* * *
Soft keyboard and guitar noises are arriving from the stage of the XS Club. We are halfway through the show, there is an eerie hush in the venue. The interlude slowly fades into the introduction to Marigold, probably the shiniest gem in Ordinary Men with its elaborate, sleek, heart-rending moments, as close to perfection as they could get, a thousand voices sang the song word by word.
The pressures and jolts of being a class act are long forgotten now. They are shaping their intricate tapestry, weaving emotions and notes. Ivan is at one with the crowd, and so are the usually detached Melvin and Joe. “I started to attach myself to Gozo after the death of my father, who hailed from Ghajnsielem. There’s this sort of bond with the Gozitans, and some will remember the great show we’ve had over here on New Year’s Eve.”
Thankfully, they have elaborated on their set, becoming more involved with their audience as a whole, adding the acoustic set and taking a few hints from the occasional DVD. Luckily, it doesn’t stop there, as fans will be able to catch the band at the Valletta Waterfront on the 30th April.
Ivan describes it as ‘The Big One’. “It will be great. Everything will be set up the way we like it, and many people who have missed us at nightclubs will be able to see one of our shows in a completely different setting. There will even be a ferry service from Cottonera to Valletta.”
* * *
Winter Moods have, fortunately, not resorted to the outmoded gimmick of the encore. The music is over. The lights have gone down. It’s three in the morning, and perhaps at their age they shouldn’t be up so late. But, thank God, they’re doing what they know best: ageing with grace.
A Band For All Seasons by Michael Bugeja
[+ Show ]
There are few sure things in this world, but one of them has to be that everyone in Malta must hav... There are few sure things in this world, but one of them has to be that everyone in Malta must have heard a Winter Moods song at some time or other. This can hardly be termed a difficult feat, especially because for the past three years at least, the radios – and I don’t just mean local stations – have been blasting Winter Moods’ music on the airwaves at a regular rate.
Making the play list (more than once, by the way!) of an international station like Radio Voyager has obviously been essential in developing the band’s profile beyond these shores, but they have also been busy on the live circuit, even hopping over to play a gig in Cyprus and France in between a tasking gig schedule that took in all of Malta and Gozo. The natural step was of course a new studio album, which is why Winter Moods seemed to fade out of the public eye around October 2001, their existence kept alive only by a steady presence on the airwaves. And while Joe Public was whiling away the time listening to songs like Jamaica, Ride, Brittany, Water and Everyday Song, Winter Moods retreated to Gozo for some brainstorming and, more importantly, song writing.
But that was then, and this is now. Winter Moods have bounced back among us, revived and most certainly relieved that the hardest part – that of completing the new album – is over. Butterfly House is the band’s new album, its name borrowed off the Gozo farmhouse that kick-started this very record into existence, and by now, you should already be familiar with Come To You and Adrenaline, the first two singles to be lifted off this sparkling new 11-track volume of Winter Moods’ music.
The new album’s mixture of upbeat songs and ballads reflects a varied mood to the record, but remains faithful to the contemporary rock direction that was the essence of Morning Ale, even if this time around, the sound oozes more of a live, recharged feel, as can be heard on tracks such as Adrenaline, Albino and opening track All The Time In The World. In between listening to Butterfly House and a million other things on my ‘to-do’ list, I managed to (finally) get some answers/comments from the singer Ivan and the band about writing, recording, radio and butterflies (not really!).
Q. With a good number of radio-friendly tracks, Butterfly House could easily follow in Morning Ale’s tracks and yield several singles. It is my feeling however, that this is probably not what the band has in mind this time around…
A. To tell you the truth, when Morning Ale came out, despite its catchy song writing and commercial richness, we did not plan for 7 singles to burn the airwaves, it just took a life of its own and each and every single did its job. ‘Butterfly House’ also has around 7 potential singles, but then again we’ll let it flow and make its own way through to the listeners, we already put out “Come To You” and “Adrenaline” and they both did very well, still loads to come.
Q. With Butterfly House, I sense a difference in that it has some tracks that – unlike Morning Ale - don’t necessarily hit home on first listen, but they do grow on you after further listening - your comments!
A. Yes you are right, a more mature touch maybe, we got this comment from most of the music critics. It’s good to hear that, its takes more then one listen for most of the new songs to get to you, but once they do, they stay there longer.
Q. Musically, Butterfly House seems to remain pretty close to Morning Ale. Was this deliberate or did it seem like the natural thing to do?
A. It’s a natural continuation, we did not hassle ourselves to stay fully in touch with ‘Morning Ale’. We were all aware that its the right formula, just had to improve and experiment with what we are now capable of. I personally think we just went to the next level of our musical journey.
Q. I think the release of Come To You as a single was a crucial moment because of its shift towards a more ‘pop’ sound. How do you rate the song in hindsight, knowing that it was well received? Also, how much of that ‘pop appeal’ do you think the album has been layered with?
A. I personally think that we should have given more time to “Come To You”. The album was released two months after it hit the airwaves and it was still at its peak, the first single ever to top Bay`s Top 40 and stay there for three consecutive weeks. It was also at No.14 on Radio Voyager`s Top 30, being played once every hour as a power shot. I wouldn’t call it pop though. It’s one of the best songs on the album and it definitely reaches a wider audience, it’s still in the ‘will grow on you’ list. Every song is a different story, I can’t compare one with the other. Second single ‘Adrenaline’ is a completely different song for example, but it is also doing very well, reaching No. 3 on Bay`s Top 40.
Q. Compared to your previous recordings, Adrenaline and Albino represent a rockier slant to your music, a sort of balance against the softer tracks like Come To You or Lifetime. Is the band venturing towards a broader musical range, especially since Lesson One is quite different from all the other tracks?
A. As I said there is such a different approach to each and every song, from Albino to Home Again, from I`ll Get Up Again to Friends, All The Time In The World to Eyes Open Wide, if you had to hear these songs without the voice, you can easily say it’s not the same band, but then I come in and ruin, sorry I meant sing, its obvious…
Q. When you retreated to Dar Il-Friefet to start working on the new album, how hard was it to get focused on the task at hand? More importantly, those first sessions seemed to be fruitful, as the songs seem to be more of a group effort this time round…
A. Group effort it is and always was, we do things together, everybody puts something in each and every song and that makes the whole difference. It was a good thing to get to Dar Il-Friefet and start a new page, Morning Ale was a good long phase and in a way we had to let it out if us, ride the good vibes it gave us and start the new trip to Butterfly House, the first session was an asset, we did the first song there which is All The Time In The World. That was a good start and so on...
Q. All your albums include the lyrics, which I interpret as a sign that you place a great deal of importance on them. What was/is the main inspiration for the lyrics?
A. People are now aware that our lyrics are deep, true and personal. They are a life in words, no fiction around. My lyrics take me places, mostly back in time and in touch with my childhood; its all about who I miss, what I`ve been through and things I wish would have happened.
Q. How different was it recording Butterfly House compared to the Morning Ale sessions and why?
A. Well we had a bit of pressure on us, we were very choosy and became more demanding, it did take a long time, I must admit that there were times of frustration and tension, it took us about a year and two months in scattered sessions to get it over and done with, we would never do this again, next time we will be in the studio for a whole one month and finish it. We even put a lot of pressure on David, our daily jobs, family commitment and health problems got in the way as usual and made the whole thing a bit dragging at times. I did all the vocal sessions towards the end (Christmas holidays included) and that was not so pleasant to any of us. With regards to the rest I must say that experience has given us a push, we knew what we wanted from each and every song, we knew our capabilities and pushed them to the limit, David did his bit as all great producers do and if we rounded all up, we can say it was all worth while.
Q. What bands/artists do you feel are the main influences on Butterfly House?
A. Its not an easy question, our roots were put on the table before and its no use going through them again, we all have our own different influences, each and everyone of us has his own favourite bands, but we personally think that the main influence on this album was (previous album) Morning Ale. We did not want to sound like anyone in particular, it all came out naturally.
Q. What do you think has been the band’s best moment so far?
A. There are a few to mention. For sure, winning Best Band twice with both previous albums 1997 and 2001; playing with Fish, Deep Purple and the SAS Band, plus the gigs in France and Cyprus and of course the success of Morning Ale!
Q. What should we expect from Winter Moods this summer?
A. We are getting ready for a big gig in Rome in June, then we’ll come back and play a local concert in July. There are people from record companies coming for this concert and the guys from Radio Voyager are also on the list, we need all the support we can get to make this concert a memorable one.
Q. Any news regarding the Venditti matter with Everyday Song?
Regarding the Venditti matter, he asked in writing to cover Everyday Song, when we last got in touch with him he had two different instrumental backings of the song, he was playing with words and melody. When his manager got in touch with me lately he said that Antonello was not finding it easy to fit his voice on the melody, my way of singing is very different obviously and that is a problem. He is still working on it so we’ll just have to wait and see, with fingers crossed.
Q. Finally, what is the personal favourite Winter Moods track of each band member?
A. IVAN: ‘Come To You’. It’s a personal matter, it’s so uplifting - a great song from all aspects.
JOSEPH: ‘Ride’. I can’t really explain why. The words are so real, the music is deep – I can’t say much more, it’s just a great song!
ETIENNE: ‘Come With Me’. It has a surreal atmosphere - another world!
JAMES: ‘All The Time In The World’. It’s a grand song; strong with a cool melody, plus it was the starting point of the new album.
MELVIN: ‘Friends’. It was my dream to record such a deep and emotional song. Its acoustic richness just takes me places.
STEVE: ‘Sarah’. This was the song that introduced us to a new audience. It’s an anthem to us. I must also say that “Eyes Open Wide” is in the same area, another favourite.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.