There aren’t many bands that can cultivate a loyal and almost cult following before even releasing a full record, but Detroit psych/surf-rock outfit Double Winter is one such band. After years of playing around the city, the band finally self- released its debut LP, It’s About Our Hearts, on March 31. The record’s beachy riffs, sentimental melodies, and charming honesty is a welcome distraction from COVID-19 chaos and leaves us longing for the spring we don’t get to have.
Vittorio Vettraino (guitar/vocals) says that the decision to release the record in spite of the global health crisis was made spontaneously. The group was set to have a release party at beloved Detroit venue UFO Factory on March 26th, which was obviously canceled due to the state-wide stay at home mandate. “We decided a couple of days before, let’s just do it,” Vettraino says. “None of this was really planned… We had a record release planned but after we rescheduled that, we were like, should we still just release the album? Like, why not.”
“It’s a weird time but we were like, we have to get it out there,” adds Holly Johnson (bass/vocals). A weird time indeed. In fact, I’m talking to the band via Zoom video call, each of them quarantined in their respective homes, reminiscing about the years it took to finally get this record out to the world. “We’ve had it ready for months now, so it’s not new to us, but it’s weird that people are hearing a lot of this for the first time,” Johnson adds.
Though compiled relatively recently for the band’s debut, some of the songs on It’s About Our Hearts have been written and played live for years, giving the band time to fine-tune their sound and perfect their playing. “I could pretty much play these songs with my eyes closed now,” says Morgan McPeak (drums). The group’s rehearsal time was extended even longer than they anticipated after their first attempt at recording the record in 2018 didn’t go as planned. “We originally recorded a lot of these songs and decided to re-record them and that didn’t happen until like a year after,” says Johnson. “Some of the songs were newer on the first one and we knew we could record them better and that was a really good decision.”
So, in 2019, Double Winter took a second try at recording with engineer Ben Collins (Minihorse, Matthew Milia, Stef Chura) at an old church-turned-recording-mecca about half an hour outside of Detroit, Willis Sound. Collins, who is a friend of the band, turned out to be a much better fit for their sound, capturing the energy of a live Double Winter show. With a spacious and acoustically immaculate tracking room, Willis Sound is the type of studio that bands like Double Winter – whose chemistry is almost equally important to the chords they are playing – dream of.
“The first place we recorded, we were all so isolated that it didn’t really feel like we were playing together,” says McPeak. “I get the benefits to recording that way…but it just didn’t sound like us anymore.” The second time was a charm for the band, though, and yielded a record that showcases years of friendship, countless gigs, and a settling of genre. “I feel like with this piece, it does span across several genres but we’re getting better at sort of funneling it in,” says Johnson. “It’s just showing that we’re getting more dialed into what we play and produce well together, it’s been really fun learning that, too.”
So what, exactly is the sound that best describes Double Winter? The best way I can put it is blase-but-sincere doo-wop psych, and I know I sound like an asshole. Genre labels aside, It’s About Our Hearts is a sweet and well-crafted ode to generations of good music — from Yo La Tengo to the Shangri Las. A body of work that could only be created by artists with a non-pretentious but impressive palette. It’s about all the little things that are actually big things and make up a life – heartbreak, friendship, fucking up, realizing it a little too late. And, since we all have a little more time to reflect right now, we might as well do it to some damn good music.