By Quinn Thomas
After dealing with nightmare landlords and a flooded basement, Vancouver indie rock outfit Winona Forever decided to pack up and head east, moving to Montreal in 2018.
The move inspired the band to spice up their sound with feel good vibes and gave them an opportunity to try out new material in front of fresh faces.
After one long and cold Montreal winter of basement dwelling in their home studio, the west coast expats are ready to unleash their appropriately titled new album, FeelGood; a collection of songs they’ve been plucking their way through since they first set foot on Montreal soil.
“We first toured to Montreal in 2016 and were immediately taken with the energy in this city,” says guitarist and vocalist Ben Robertson. “We were essentially forced to leave a teardown house we had all been living and recording in, so we decided to make a big adventurous move instead of finding another overpriced place.”
Rowan Webster-Shaw (guitar and vocals), Alexander Bingham (drums) and Sam Gray (bass) formed the band in high school as a three-piece in 2014. They gained Robertson after moving into the same house together and the pieces were in place for a crisp sound that stuck. Together they crafted vibrato/chorus driven guitar tones paired with sharp songwriting in their basement, which doubled as their recording studio.
Living in Montreal has ultimately influenced the way they approach playing live and has helped change their songwriting style. They wrote their earlier material for the audiences in the all-ages venues they would perform at in Vancouver. Those songs contained a higher energy and heavier distortion but they limited their recordings to elements they could play live.
Now fully settled in Montreal, they can look back on their move with confident reflection.
“It definitely challenged us in the ways a new city or big change often affect people,” Robertson says. “We had to take the time to find housing and jobs before really digging into finding creative spaces and making connections to the Montreal music scene. In Vancouver we were working quite hard on our recordings and thinking of ways we could grow as a band, but the move really pushed us to book tours, apply for grants and give 110 per cent.”
Winona Forever’s FeelGood has just been released with Kingfisher Bluez doing a vinyl run. As for their hometown of Vancouver, will they ever come home?
“We absolutely plan to play out west,” says Robertson. “We all have family in BC and enjoy playing shows in our hometown. As for relocating back to BC, anything is possible but we feel pretty settled here for the next while.FeelGood, Kingfisher Bluez, Montreal, Vancouver, Winona Forever