Echo Of Youth the debut album from Winterbourne is a 12-song opus of exhilarating, anthemic indie-rock. The album comes after long-time friends and collaborators James Draper and Jordan Brady spent years honing their craft in the studio and on stage. Echo Of Youth is their most ambitious, fully-realised work to date; an album rich in lush synths and soaring, sing-along choruses that recalls the glory days of The Verve and The Strokes.
Thematically, the band take us on a thrilling journey through distinctly modern fears and anxieties: social media, aspirational culture and fractured, strained relationships. The band say Echo Of Youth is the album they’ve been waiting their whole career to create: “We wanted it to be ‘This is Winterbourne’ ” says James. “We wanted to have something that we could say ‘Just listen to that, that’s what we are. That’s what we sound like’ ” adds Jordan.
Echo of Youth was recorded over six months at La Cueva, an idyllic, remote studio in Byron Bay, as well as a few stints at The Grove on the Central Coast. “No one was around and it was just really, really perfect” says James. The duo worked with their self-appointed musical dream team consisting of producer Andy Mak, engineer Jackson Barclay and multi-instrumentalist Thom Mak. Each track on Echo Of Youth started by being played live from start to finish, giving the album its distinct frenetic energy, with hundred-year-old guitars, synths, delicate acoustic, layered electrics, piano, Hofner bass and cutlery drawer percussion creating its richly textured and distinctive, genre-defying sound. Yet, they still managed to preserve the simplicity of the Winterbourne sound, with James and Jordan’s singing and guitar-playing at the album’s centre.
Winterbourne’s origins are on the Central Coast, where James and Jordan grew up. They met in high school and began playing music together immediately, taking any opportunity to pick up a guitar that presented itself. The pair spent much of their time fantasising about releasing an album of their own. “We didn’t have songs. We’d just write track names” says James laughing. However, songwriting together came naturally for the pair.
Earlier forays into songwriting were influenced by AC/DC, The Killers, Green Day and The Living End, and were mostly relegated to guitar riffs. But a music teacher’s suggestion that the pair should listen to Simon and Garfunkel proved to be formative. It would lay the blueprint for the melodic, elegant harmonies for which they are now known.
After high school, the pair began busking at Pitt St Mall in Sydney, playing original songs to crowds and selling homemade CDs out of their guitar cases. The band quickly amassed a loyal following and have been playing better and bigger venues ever since. Winterbourne have become known for their energetic, animated stage presence, and their ability to cultivate real and honest connections with their fans. Over the past two years they’ve sold out shows across the country, and have supported the likes of The Rubens, Lewis Watson, Little May. Last year they spent three weeks co-writing around Europe/UK during which time they also sold out their first ever London show and secured a UK/Europe live agent (ATC Live).
Winterbourne have put out two celebrated, promising EPs – All But The Sun (2014) and Pendulum (2016). Echo of Youth, while retaining elements of their previous sound, feels far more experimental, bold and accomplished.
The album’s first single “Better” is indicative of this new direction. The song weaves rollicking guitars with pop sensibilities, as the lyrics rip apart cultural pressures around bettering yourself, something worsened by social media. “There’s just this feeling that that’s what you need to be, and what you should be like” says James. The song is a call to take one step at a time when it comes to self-improvement. “Too Many” touches on similar themes. “It’s so easy to find the problems with yourself and go, ‘I do this too much’; You constantly focus on what you wish you did, and what you haven’t done” says James.
Album opener “Revolutionary, Man” also relays similar incisive cultural critique. Through surrealist imagery and exuberant melodies, the song warns of the perils of technological dominance over our lives: “Sitting in a shoebox in the sun / I shoot imaginary guns / Into my iPhone seventeen / Cause nothing that good ever happens to me” sings James.
“Take the Golden” was written in Berlin with German musician Tobias Kuhn and is the undeniable party song of the record. The track was inspired by a detour to the beaches of Dunkirk, France, after the duo watched the film of the same name. While punctuated by a rousing chorus, the song is about taking a moment to step back and reflect; “Take the golden, Take the grey / Take the moment with the weight” as the song intones.
The album ends with the album’s titular track “Echo Of Youth”, a stirring slow burner on separation, truth and change. And things have certainly changed since to the duo were learning to play guitar as teenagers. While there are pressures, expectations, and their own ambitions and anxieties, James and Jordan retain their sense of level-headedness by always reminding themselves of their humble beginnings: “If we could look at us now that we’re putting out a record of 12 songs, we would be losing our minds” says James “We always think that if our 15 year old selves would love what we’re doing now, then we should be proud of it”.