Artist Spotlight: Wind-Up Birds
NATASHA JONES // CONTRIBUTOR
Photo c/o Matt Okuda
Local Vancouver band and winners of this year’s Best of Capilano Awards for Best Musician/Group, Wind-Up Birds, are anticipating their upcoming album release this June. The band consists of guitarists and vocalists Matt Okuda and Sam Willett, as well as bass player and vocalist Santiago Ureña and drummer Atley King. While Okuda and King are Capilano University students (Okuda is a film student and King is a student of the Jazz Studies program), Willett studies English Literature at Simon Fraser University, and Ureña studies Creative Writing at Douglas College.
While the band members are all in different programs, their shared passion for music is what unites them. All of the members have extensive and diverse musical experience with playing in high school bands, with the addition of King specializing in jazz and Ureno in orchestra.
The band formed in September 2015 after Willett met Okuda at a house party. The two had grown up in the same town and had a history of playing music together. Willett also played in a band with Ureña in high school which was later joined by then-drummer Gavin Boyd, and upon his departure from the group, King stepped in. Boyd then came up with the name Wind-Up Birds, which derived from Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a work of Japanese literature that encompasses themes of surrealism and modernism.
The band’s first album, Casual Music Album, was recorded in August and released in October. The group worked with their friend and producer Liam Carlin, who is also bass player for local band Kai Bravewood. Together, they recorded all of the tracks in Willett’s basement, a cozy log cabin situated near Burke Mountain in Coquitlam.
The album features playful guitar riffs, laid-back vocals, fun beats and memorable hooks. The members find themselves to be heavily inspired by retro sounds and old movies. “We’re basically functioning on borrowed nostalgia,” said Okuda. When the members were each in their own bands in high school, creating an aesthetic was never on their minds, but upon the formation of Wind-Up Birds, the musicians have become excited to work on their overall packaging, one that would capture the band’s fascination with the past. “We felt nostalgic about things that we were never around for,” Okuda added.
The first track of the album, titled “Peach”, welcomes the listener with its upbeat and cheerful demeanour. It is also one of the first tracks ever written and a favourite of Okuda. “Fantastic” is Ureña’s favourite song, while King is a fan of “Walter”, an energetic track that emphasizes faster-paced drums.
Wind-Up Birds are influenced by a variety of musicians and styles. Aside from their varying backgrounds in music, the band has collectively listened to a lot of 70s hits along with jazz. Willett is a fan of latin jazz groups such as Bossa Nova, the rock band Steely Dan, as well as the cheesier genres such as “Dad Rock.” King is fond of jazz, the band Pavement, and Billy Joel. Ureno, with his background in orchestra, enjoys classical music and rock, and Okuda is inspired by electronic musician and producer Brian Eno.
The Wind-Up Birds’ Casual Music Album makes the ideal summer soundtrack, and its do-it-yourself quality, chill grooves and cool guitar riffs evoke a Mac DeMarco-esque kind of sound, though unintentionally. “We weren’t really going for that,” they said, adding that indie bands are often compared to the popular multi-instrumentalist.
When asked what the band’s plans are five years from now, given their upcoming album, they reflected on how far they came already. “We came a lot further than we thought, met a lot of lovely people, met some great friends,” said Willett, noting that one of the group’s favourite moments was when their audience sang back lyrics at a show. And though performing stands out as their favorite aspects of their musical careers, the band appreciates the entire recording process and highly anticipates their upcoming release.
In their spare time, Wind-Up Birds will continue to hang out and make music, and they are expecting their upcoming album to be ready by early summer. Following the debut Casual Music Album, Business Casual was a possible suggestion for the second album’s title, although the name has yet to be officially decided and announced.