Live Review: Winterbourne – 18th June 2016 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Sometimes, it doesn’t become apparent how large of a role studio production plays in music until one sees a band live. In the case of Winterbourne, their two EPs (All But The Sun and Pendulum) sound like entirely different bands, and live they sound like another band again. Luckily for Winterbourne though, the live version of the band is by far their strongest incarnation.
On their first EP, All But The Sun, Winterbourne seemed to draw most of their inspiration from folk acts like Mumford & Sons, and Fleet Foxes. The demonstrated a gift for sweet harmonies, and melancholic melodies, especially on standout Cold, but overall they felt like a band still finding their sound. That feeling was only amplified by the recent release of Pendulum, which largely abandons the folk-rock sound for something closer to Oasis, or The Beatles. The group’s live presence splits the difference between these two sounds somewhat, as is expected, but it also injects some other elements into the mix.
The most notable of these elements is the shift in James Draper’s vocal style. Whilst on record he can be a dead ringer for Marcus Mumford or Paul McCartney, live he almost sounds like Brandon Flowers. He gives a boisterous, rock performance, and his harmonic interplay with Jordan Brady forms the core of the band. Tracks from the band’s debut EP like The Boy Prince take on a new life in a life setting, feeling like electrified barn-burners, with thumping drums and crunchy bass, whilst Brady’s mandolin strumming gives the songs an earthy texture. The songs from the new EP, in spite of sounding very different on record, feel of a piece in a live setting. The very Beatles-esque, uplifting harmonies of My Perfect Sunday form a strong counterpoint to the more melancholic songs from All But The Sun.
The strongest, and most individual moments of the show came when Draper invited a cellist (apparently his childhood best friend, in Sydney by chance) to join them on stage. Whilst he added a lovely textural variety to the more folksy tracks, the rock-styled tracks also benefited from his presence. The last track before the encore, When I’m Under climaxed in a wash of pounding drums, delayed guitar stabs, and a thrilling cello solo that more than justified the addition. It added a lot of dynamism to the songs, and the band would do well to experiment with such things on record, in the future.
Even though Winterbourne feel like a band still trying to find their identity, on stage they are a charming, lively presence. Between their warm, crunchy sound, the genuinely funny banter between Draper and Brady, and the strong, harmony-heavy songwriting, the duo exude potential, and their career should be an interesting one to watch.