WindfallFound is a group of musicians loccal to St. Catharines, come together to pursue creating new, explorative music. In an exclusive interview, The Brock Press was able to sit down with the group’s Matt Hew Jaekel and Cody Gogo to talk about upcoming projects, influences and past experiences.
Q: Your group does everything independently. Why?
Jaekel: When we started formally becoming a band, for some reason we wanted to record our own album, before we were playing a lot of shows. That was our priority. That’s what we liked about the artists we listened to.
Jaekel: At that stage, Radiohead. Grizzly Bear would have been another. Trendier bands like that. Radiohead was the big one we all kind of coalesced around.
Q: Are they still influences; who are you listening to currently?
Jaekel: Radiohead is, for sure. A lot of the bands change over time, but we still like and appreciate what they did originally. I’m beginning to appreciate some more score material. I’ve been listening to Ennio Morricone, who composed scores for some really famous Western films. Everybody knows the key points in the track, but listening to the whole score shows how beautiful his compositions are. He has a ton of stuff that is absolutely incredible. In the way that I imagine other people listen to classical music, I listen to these Western film scores. The way he structures his stuff, a lot of it is more pop-oriented in regards to the length of it. He doesn’t do huge long pieces, but these four or five minute tracks of huge orchestral instrumentation instead.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
Jaekel: I think at its core we focus on making good songs, with good structures and melodies, that are interesting. It’s basically pop or rock music, but we gravitate towards bigger or spacier sounds. So, we have a lot of influence in our music from ambient music and post-rock genres.
Q: New stuff you’re working on?
Jaekel: There is a lot of new stuff. It was only kind of recently, like maybe a month or so ago, that we took a step back. We were doing the whole process impulsively. We’d write a new song and then start recording it, or start writing a song and complete the arrangement right away. We had, more or less, 20 songs that were at some stage of either being recorded or being mixed. That’s definitely the luxury of having our own studio at our disposal. Obviously, no one really wants to hear 20 tracks that have no connective tissue.
Q: Why “obviously”? Why don’t you want to hear that?
Jaekel: An album or a collection of songs should be an experience unto itself. As much as we’d love to focus working on individual songs, continuously better and more engaging on their own terms, you can definitely do something more in terms of what you can communicate or how people will digest the whole thing if there’s more to it than just one song at a time. There’s a balance; you can go too far with it. People can lose focus entirely if it’s too much at once and that’s something we found after we released our first album without any real preparation. We were total amateurs through that whole process.
We released our first album in 2013, and that took nine months to record. Most of those songs were written before we went into recording it. Nine months felt slow, because we could’ve done it faster still, but figuring it out took time. The second record took a little over one year — partly because we were in and out of school during the winter and the summer (Pulling for the Heavens). When we started the first album, we were recording all of the songs we had as a group. Eventually, all of the backlog of material caught up to us.
Q: What’s the writing process like?
Jaekel: Either between Cody, Can and myself, more or less we’ll have an idea for something, or we’ll write the skeleton for a complete arrangement, and then bring it the group and figure our the arrangement from there. If it’s something a little more minimal, we’ll figure it out from there. Most songs start and end with one person’s ideas. They start it and then make most of the decisions for it, but obviously everyone else has input.
Q: How has your process developed since you guys first started?
Gogo: Evan, Matt and John White, the bassist, first began. Then, they brought Can in shortly after they first started writing music. I came in a couple of years after that.
Jaekel: Cody joined the band four years ago. Cody was a part of the band as we recorded the first album; an integral part. In terms of how the process has changed since then, because that was our first attempt at a serious project …
Gogo: Matt had a lot of songs that he’d written when I joined the group and those are the ones that were on the first album. The rest of us mostly did peripheral things. He had all the main ideas for the songs and we more or less kind of helped out and added things. He had the skeletons or outlines for the songs. Now I definitely contribute more of my ideas.
Jaekel: In terms of coming up with the starting idea we’ve definitely become more collaborative, which is better. Since we started, we’ve grown more receptive to negative feedback in the group. It’s a strength. The goal is just to make the best thing possible.
Earlier, I talked about someone coming up with a skeletal arrangement. It’s as simple as having your rhythm, your harmony to go along with that and then your melody. If something doesn’t work when it’s stripped down to its bare elements, then something needs to be fixed about that. You can obviously bring an arrangement like that into a full band and you can do something flashy with it, but if the bare bones don’t sound unique then you don’t have a good song. It’s better to have an interesting song on the most basic level and then to build a performance around that.
Q: Is the goal to get that response from people? Relatability? To make music that people respond to?
Jaekel: Yeah, I think so. It’s a matter of what kind of response you want to get, too. [However,] making something just to trigger a certain feeling in someone else isn’t the goal, I think you have to do it out of a place of authenticity — something you initially respond to. Something that compels you to follow through and make the initial song.
Gogo: If you like the song, hopefully other people will like it. If there’s something you identify with in the song, chances are other people will identify with that too. It can be personal, but a lot of times it’s universal. If you have that idea or that feeling, chances are it will resonate with other people.
Q: What did you listen to as a kid?
Gogo: Mostly just stuff my dad was listening to. Lots of embarrassing 80s hair bands. Ozzy Osbourne and stuff, metal and rock music. I eventually picked up a guitar from there. I suppose it starts from a place of enjoyment and having fun, and I think that’s always got to be an element: you have to enjoy what you’re doing.
Q: If you stop enjoying it, will you stop playing? What do you want to do with this music and this group?
Gogo: The ultimate goal for me is to make music that people really enjoy. I guess it goes back to the previous question — do we want to make music that resonates with people? I think yes, definitely. That way, you’re communicating with people and hopefully bringing of benefit to them if they enjoy it. You’re able to connect your ideas with them. In that sense, it’s a way of communication.
Jaekel: I have a vague belief that good music can make the world a better place and bad music can make the world a worse place. So, you need good music to combat that bad. Something constructive I got out of music, beyond it just being a cultural thing — there is definitely an aspect where musicians or certain artists are there to validate a certain subculture; to say things a lot of people might be thinking. A band like Radiohead, what they represent to me, is a group that didn’t start off making very good music. Their heart was in the right place, but from album to album they got better and more creative, and challenged themselves. There is something innately good about trying to find new ideas.
Gogo: I really like Radiohead because, aside from their music being good, they always try and stay authentic to themselves. Even if they miss the mark, they’re still staying true to themselves and their music, and that still keeps an aspect of humanity in their music.
Q: Do you feel that way about your music, too? Even if nobody listened, if it was genuinely what you wanted to do, would it matter if people didn’t like it?
Gogo: It would still be worthwhile, because it’s an honest thing that we would be ultimately doing for ourselves. That’s a positive thing, if you ask me.
Jaekel: To me, they’ve made decisions with some sort of moral compass. They didn’t always do what was easy to do; they made choices that were challenging but ultimately they’re a success story. They gave us something new to listen to. There’s an aspect of their music where they’re critical of society. To not give up and to be relentless in trying to create new things. To not sell out. We can all sell out, even if we’re not musicians.
Q: Can we talk a little bit about the content of your music? Are you political?
Gogo: Not overtly. With the stuff I write, lyrics-wise, not overtly.
Jaekel: More philosophical than ideological. I don’t think it’s about converting someone to a certain way of thinking. There are ways you can inject some kind of morality or explain what your moral positions are on something through lyrics or in tandem with the music, but it’s not obvious. For example, the scales and sounds we’re using sound kind of like you’re journeying through the desert. Something about the imagery of a desert connects really well with an ocean, because a lot of deserts are just dried up seabeds. Then, there’s the issue of climate change going on. That makes me think of things that become deserts or become underwater.
I’m less interested in trying to say that climate change is real or isn’t real and telling people what to think about it, but there are interesting themes surrounding that. If you saw the human race as a story and you were trying to analyze it as a story, and looking at the decisions we made and so being critical of us as a people, the over-arching themes are interesting.
In the case of climate change, an interesting idea to me is how people confront an impending, looming danger. You can know intellectually that it’s there without actively doing something about it. I think that’s something that I can relate to in my personal life and other people can in their’s.
Gogo: Meaning-wise, my lyrics are just a call to being conscious. Just to be aware about what people are telling you and how that can affect your decisions. You see that play out in the real world, politically. I’m not saying anything too overtly about current politics. It’s not like Green Day’s album American Idiot, which explicitly talked about the Bush administration. We try to explore these lyrical meanings with sounds. With the desert thing, we try to have dry or barren sounds.
Q: What are your day jobs?
Gogo: I work at Brock as a TA — Stats for Psychology. I do some research in aero-science labs.
Jaekel: I recently got a job doing some data entry at a telephone company.
Q: Did you go to school for that?
Jaekel: No, I went to school for TV and film production. The dream’s not dead. I didn’t want to go straight into TV because of music. Music is a young man’s game, I’ll have time for that other stuff when I’m older.
Q: What are you doing right now? Musical projects?
Jaekel: We do have our own studio space. We’ve been starting to record little off-shoot ideas that aren’t necessarily real songs that the band would tackle with lyrics, vocals or those kinds of arrangements. We have interest in video game music or instrumental hip-hop, or ambient sound-scape stuff; some things find their way into our “real” music, but it’s always a lot of fun to just throw away any expectations that come with making a “real” pop song, and just explore the ideas for what they are. The way I think about it, The WindfallFound Studios Project is primarily about sound and we more or less try to create a song structure around something cool. Sound first, song later. With the band stuff, we focus on the song first and sound later.
With the WindfallFound Studios Project, every month we’re releasing one new track; so far they’ve all been instrumental. We’ve had one more or less easy listening ambient music, stuff you could probably fall asleep to. We’ve had some instrumental hip hop tracks, kind of between electronic and chilled out beats, and other things like that.
Gogo: One sounds kind of like a 90s hip-hop track. The other one sounds like newer hip-hop — I played guitar in it.
Jaekel: Another song is just done completely with synthesizers. It’s a nine minute track that is an odyssey down to the bottom of the sea; there’s a hellish progression. It’s basically our less tangible ideas. We go into those sessions and it’s totally impulsive, there’s not really an end product in mind. It’s important to explore and always have something going on. It’s a retreat in part from the more serious work we do.
Gogo: It’s a good way to keep things fun and experiment.
Q: Do you think you’ve been successful so far?
Jaekel: I would base our success so far on what we’ve done for ourselves and then hope that moving forward in the new year that will be something we focus more on — growing an audience or getting what we think are really interesting ideas out to the people. We’ve all been in school the last few years and some of us are coming out the other end right now. There’s a little bit more urgency to decide certain things: are we going to continue doing this or are we going to move to cities and do something else? You know, up to this point, over the last couple years, we had other things that were our full time focus and this was there as maybe the second most important thing. Things are changing.
WindfallFound’s music, upcoming projects and show dates can be found on their Facebook page or at WindfallFound.com.