Windsor for the Derby | Relocation
Copper Press, Issue 9 | Julianne Shepherd
introspective in scope and highly emotional in conceptSince its 1994 beginnings in Austin, Windsor for the Derby has made music for brooding and sleeping introspective in scope and highly emotional in concept primarily through guitars and the occasional sampler. As a result, they've been perched on the cusp of many musical arenas; the band's sound is uniquely organic, but at the same time, the ambience they make with guitars and patience often sounds electronic-based, or at least electronic-influenced. Perhaps it is their spaciousness, but when they want to, Windsor for the Derby closes the circle between atmospheric "post-rock" music and the newer, more music/less dance-oriented "intelligent Dance Music" (iDM).
After making several recordings of linear, spatial music, in 1999, Windsor for the Derby recorded Difference and Repetition, an album that was fully organic and intimate, complete with acoustic guitars and the occasional sweet, whispered vocals. The band waited two years to release their next record, The Awkwardness EP, on Aesthetics Records in late 2001; as if to further blur the line, the EP consists of remixes by such iDM luminaries as Pulseprogramming and I-Sound (and Windsor for the Derby themselves).
Daniel Matz and Jason McNeely have always been the band's core, along with a rotating cast of musicians that currently includes Karl Bauer and Ben Cissner. Past members have included Stars of the Lid's Adam Wiltzie and Bowery Electric/Calla's Wayne Magruder; it would appear that Windsor for the Derby's flirtation with a more electronic-based world is calcified by both history and association.
Surprisingly, however, Matz denies listening to current iDM; instead of staking a claim in an aesthetic crossover between Windsor for the Derby's music and electronics, he asserts, "I feel that we are playing an evolved form of rock music (as are our peers). Naturally, all the other music that we listen to is going to seep in to our projects. The important thing is to be able to combine them cohesively. I do not think it's only electronic music in this crossover. Personally, I don't actively listen to electronic music. I'm not sure about Jason."
But Matz doesn't deny that Windsor for the Derby has traveled on the path to electronic sound by way of organic instruments. " I think we were headed that way a while ago with the Metropolitan then Poland EP. We tried some experiments with samplers and sequencers for the first timeŠ the Difference and Repetition LP turned that completely around. Difference is so stripped down, it's almost a folk record. Some songs were literally recorded on the front porch. With the Emotional Rescue LP, we have combined these two ideas. There are some spare acoustic songs and some great songs you can dance to. We go into each record wanting it to be totally different from the last. We constantly want to challenge ourselves," he explains.
One of the most important aspects of Windsor for the Derby's music is that they are a largely (though not exclusively) instrumental band that attains emotionalism through patience and repetition. For many bands, that combination is a death knell, or at least a straight shot to listener boredom. However, Windsor for the Derby has the ability to translate quietude to intensity; each of their songs has a carefulness about it, but their climatic intention is always clear. "You have to know to use space in music; how to let a song breathe," explains Matz. "It is nothing we do intentionally; it's just something we have always done naturally. For me, it's too much busyness that gets boring."
Because most non-musicians primarily relate to vocals in music, and their vocals are so few and far between, Windsor for the Derby has the difficult talks of engaging listeners without language. "I don't think (not having many vocals) makes it harder to communicate with people, but it makes it harder to reach out to people," says Matz. "A lot of people need upfront words and other familiar concepts in their music in order to make a connection. Even structurally, people want to know that the chorus is coming back again, then a verse."
They succeed because they aren't just making music for music's sake. As Matz explains it, "I think, in a very oblique way, we are expressing our own feelings about the most very basic things in life. One of those that seems to come up the most is the old standby: Love. Love for family, friends, lovers, music, et cetera, and its repercussions. We are getting more comfortable with this concept and you can tell as our vocals get louder in the mix."
As with many quiet bands that demand full attention, live performances are difficult for Windsor for the Derby, due to the universal scourge that is commonly known as the "annoying drunks in the back talking." Matz laments, "Those annoying drunks are why we don't get out much. It's only happened a couple of times. Once, before Adam (from Stars of the Lid) was playing with us, he threw a can of Lone Star Beer at some Texas redneck at one of our shows. Another time, someone punched out a girl right in front of the stage. The guy later said he didn't know it was a girl!? Some of the best shows we've had are in Europe; all sorts of people come out and they are here to see some music, not do drink or socialize."
For the past few years, Windsor for the Derby has been a long-distance project, with Matz living in New York, and McNeely still in Austin. It wasn't necessarily due to the drunks in the back talking; Matz's move was merely environmental: "I moved because it was too damn hot! Now, after a five-year stint in New York City, I live in the Arctic confines of Western New York. Austin is a great town and the folks there are very friendly to us. It's a big school town and I think people just naturally move after school. Rumor hast it, Paul Newman moved because we did."
Instead of hindering Windsor's musical output, however, Matz thinks that being a long-distance project has helped their diversity in some way. "I might really be getting into the new Destiny's Child record, while Jason's on the other side of the country listening to an African drum record. When we get together, we both bring in these opposite ideas and they gel."
Above all, beyond the organic or the atmospheric, Matz is concerned with the
integrity of his music. "Personally, I just want to make real and honest
music," he says. "I want to make music that I enjoy first, and if
someone else connects with it, great."