“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
This past summer I traveled through the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia taking in the endless pristine vistas of tall snow capped mountains, turquoise rivers and lakes, and pine trees for as far as my eye could see. I listened to a lot of music in the car – and even though I enjoy a wide range of punk and metal it seemed more fitting to listen to Fleet Foxes, The War on Drugs, Bowerbirds, Bon Iver, and Damien Jurado.
I now wish I had a copy of Somewhere New – New Jersey trio Cold Weather Company’s debut album – it would’ve fit right in. Taking influences from the artists mentioned above, CWC have put together a stunning collection of reflective and gorgeous folk-tinged pop overflowing with strong vocal harmonies and introspective lyrics . It makes so much sense that some of the record was recorded in a cabin in the Catskill Mountains at the end of last summer – possibly why their music speaks to me of mountains, rivers, and trees.
The guys from CWC met at Rutgers University, situated in the small NJ city of New Brunswick, and although it’s easy to think of New Jersey in stereotypes by way of the Jersey Shore, or the industrial working class chronicled by Springsteen, it is of course much more than that. The Skylands in the Northwest part of the state is wooded, rural, and mountainous, and the Pine Barrens in the south is covered extensively by pine and oak forest. By taking their inspiration from nature when naming the band and infusing the spirit of Thoreau throughout each of the 13 songs comprising Somewhere New, CWC have made an exceptionally strong debut.
The boys were kind enough to answer some questions for us.
People say we sound like….
Fleet Foxes, Coldplay, Iron & Wine, Bear’s Den, Keane
Jeff Petescia, Brian Curry, Steve Shimchick
We are originally from…..
New Brunswick, NJ
50third: How did you become Cold Weather Company and what is the story behind the name?
(Jeff) Brian and I met three years ago and had on and off attempts to start some sort of a band or an acoustic duo. Meanwhile, whether it was as a duo or solo performance, we constantly played around our campus at Rutgers University at various open mics and coffee houses. This is where I first saw Steve perform and was very impressed. I ended up approaching him to tell him how much I enjoyed his sound. We then exchanged phone numbers so we could get together and collaborate. This happened during mine and Steve’s sophomore year of college (Winter 2012-2013). Unfortunately, due to living on separate campuses and busy schedules, we were unable to meet up with Steve until close to a year later.
Junior year began, and Brian and I continued jamming and collaborating in the attic of the house I was renting off-campus. Finally, in September of 2013, Steve was able to come over and jam with us. We knew that Steve was really talented and we were privileged to be able to jam with him, so we kept the word “band” out of conversation in an attempt to keep him from getting scared away. We continued to meet up weekly to jam and come up with original music, all the while making sure to not mention “band”. Eventually, we were hanging out and jamming in Steve’s building when a few fellow residents overheard us and asked us to play a fundraiser. This opportunity is what finally allowed the word “band” to be said and it ended up being our first performance.
The name “Cold Weather Company” came after the performance. The name was a result of a three-week group message brainstorm in which every two minutes one of us proposed a bunch of name ideas. Most of these ideas were very short lived and rejected by the other two members with a response of “ehhhhh”. We wanted something that defined our sound and defined us as a band. Eventually, “Cold Water Canvas” was suggested, and this idea was thrown back and forth until “Cold Weather Company” emerged. We decided on Cold Weather Company for a couple of reasons. First of all, our music is acoustic with harmonies and we felt it has a “cold weather” sort of vibe. We were also forming during the change of season, and this particular change of season always sparks song-writing creativity for us. Something about the leaves, the temperature, the greyness of fall and winter and as a result a bit of fall/winter blues makes writing songs inevitable.
50third: What music has had an influence on your sound?
(Jeff) We each have a variety of influences while we share many influences such as Iron and Wine, Chadwick Stokes, Coldplay, and more. My guitar playing is definitely influenced by my biggest music hero: Dave Matthews. However, other bands such as Radiohead, the Decemberists, and the Tallest Man on Earth also influence my style of playing and writing.
(Brian) I’m a big fan of vocal harmonies, so I would definitely say Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Radical Face have had a huge impact on the sound I try to create. Lyrically, I think some of my biggest influences are Iron and Wine, Brett Dennen, and maybe even Jeff Buckley.
(Steve) As the pianist I’ve naturally been drawn to piano-based bands like Coldplay and Keane, but I’ve also been into indie rock like Two Door Cinema Club, Electric Guest, and Friendly Fires. The music I wrote pre-CWC is much more electronic/synthier, so it’s great to be able to play folkier styles as well because I also really appreciate artists like Matt Corby, Roo Panes, and Ben Howard.
50third: Tell us about the scene in New Jersey
(Brian) I really believe there’s something exciting happening in New Jersey right now when it comes to independent music. Over the past year and a half, the scene has really exploded. No matter the genre, there’s a venue perfectly suited for it. The DIY music scene in New Jersey is also booming, not only for bands, but for venues. I feel confident saying that some of the best shows we’ve attended and/or played have been in the basements of New Brunswick. New Brunswick, specifically, has an incredible basement scene with nationally touring bands playing nearly every night of a given college semester. Overall, the New Jersey scene is extremely vibrant right now, and I can only see it getting better.
50third: How does the city, or landscape influence your sound?
(Brian) I’m inspired by the places I’m surrounded by. Most of my songs are set in nature, largely because that’s where I spend my free time. The nice thing about New Jersey is that we have a great blend of city, suburb, and nature. You’re never more than fifteen minutes from a respectable place to hike. I like to “find” my songs and stories on my travels. Fortunately, the state is also full of history, which allows for a lot of creative interpretation of the landscape. While the songs I write are generally about my own experiences, I like to set them in the forest, and abstract my own stories with imagery.
50third: Tell us about your live show…
(Steve) Whenever we plan a set we end up saying we’ll decide what kind of songs to play based on the vibe of the crowd. We have fairly slow songs like “Someone Else” to quicker ones like “Fall Low”, but we’re always trying to mix things up and help the crowd have a good time. We tend to mix some covers in along with plenty of pretty mediocre banter, which, if we’re lucky, brings in some laughs!
(Brian) Sadly, the only laughs we get are out of pity 🙁 But in all seriousness, we try to bring as much energy as we can to our live shows. People don’t really know what to expect when they see three guys set up with two guitars, a piano, and three mics. We love getting into the songs we perform and conveying the passion that went into them–especially during the crescendos and breakdowns.
50third: What influences the band lyrically?
(Steve) All three of us have different lyric-writing styles, but I think we try to relate emotions tied to love, loss, desire, adventure, and more to nature because there always tends to be some aspect of nature that we can link to and focus in on. The songs “Someone Else”, “Unlocked”, and “Seafarer” that I wrote all stem from the same situation, although I promise I write music with happier lyrics as well.
(Brian) I can’t make the promise Steve just did! For me, nine times out of ten, I write a song because I’m dealing with something I can’t quite figure out. The song is kind of like the solution for me. And it’s almost always sad or angry :(. We’re all happy guys, but in my case, my darker moments are what cause me to write.
50third: Our most memorable gig ever was….
(Brian) I think we can all agree that our favorite show so far was last winter at a coffee shop in New Brunswick called Hidden Grounds. Going into the show, we didn’t know what to expect. The coffee shop can hold around 40 people comfortably–and 82 showed up. I still smile every time I look at the picture–everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder for over an hour to watch our set. We had no amplification, and yet the space between the notes and lyrics was completely silent. When we looked up during songs, we saw a packed room full of listening people. Moments like that–when one can musically communicate with people; sharing what one loves with those who love to hear it–remind us of why we write in the first place. Because of that show, we decided to have our album release show at Hidden Grounds this coming Thursday (January 22nd). We hope to have another incredible time!
50third: If you could pick any time to travel back to for music, where would you go and what year would it be….
(Jeff) A diner in the 1950s so I can buy cheap coffee and put some awesome 50’s tunes on the jukebox (I basically want to be Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part I)
(Brian) I would like to travel back to the late 60’s to experience the huge folk revival that was happening at the time. So many of my favorite artists were at their prime in that era.
(Steve) I’d have to agree with Jeff and the 1950s, or I could get medieval and join in on some Monty Python Knights of the Round Table action.
50third: Growing up, at home we listened to…..
(Brian) I listened a lot to the Beatles, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler and Eric Clapton.
(Steve) Whatever my four older siblings were playing, they were a big reason I started listening to a lot of what I do. Ben Folds, The Strokes, and oldies. At home I listen to two radio stations from Philadelphia, one is 104.5 FM which is mainly new alternative/indie rock, and the other is 98.1 FM which is all oldies, “The Greatest Hits of the 60s, 70s, & 80s”, it’s the best.
50third: What tunes are on heavy rotation for you…
(Steve) Oh man, so many! I’m constantly listening to new bands and I have at least one new album on repeat every week! Over the past few months it’s been Shakey Graves’ album “And The War Came”, Josef Salvat, Satellite Stories, SOHN, Jack Garratt, Jungle, Chet Faker, James Bay, Kodaline, Hozier, Bahamas, I could go on and on. It’s basically a lot of indie/alternative/electronic or folky singer/songwriters! I’ve been sharing a “Song of the Day” on our Twitter (@coldweatherco) for months now which has been a fun thing to do because I love being able to share my new (and old) musical interests with others.
50third: If you could open for any band right now who would that be and why?
(Steve) Personally I’d have to say Matt Corby. I’ve only ever seen videos of his live performances because he hasn’t toured in the US yet, but he’s got one of the best voices I’ve heard, I’d love to visit Australia one day, and I’m really confident he’s going to have a huge impact on the US soon.
(Brian) Right now, I’d say Ben Howard. He has so much energy in his performances, and I really love the path he’s been going down when it comes to his songwriting.
50third: When you’re not playing and have some time off, where could we find you…
(Brian) In the woods. I’m pretty much always in some random outdoor location.
(Steve) At school, focusing on my classes (in case my parents read this).
50third: The one thing we want you to remember while you’re listening to us….
Jeff plays guitar upside-down and Brian and Steve play their instruments right-side up.
50third: What’s up for 2015?
(Steve): With our debut album, “Somewhere New”, coming out in two days (note it was released January 22), I think the three of us are just excited to see what happens with it. Jeff and I are still in college as he mentioned, so we will be graduating in May and by then who knows! Other notable 2015 interests of mine include: Part Two of Season 5 of The Walking Dead, Season 5 of Game of Thrones, Season 3 of House of Cards, basically a lot of TV shows.