Winter Nights – Darkness Closing In

Tuesday, 4th August 2020

A continued presence within the NYC metal scene for well over a decade at this point, Winter Nights recently released their third full-length album. The eponymous release ushers in a dark take on melodic death metal – one that can be both sorrowful and triumphant sounding as you move through the release. It holds back no heaviness, and is sure to get the adrenaline pumping. As such, we had a chat with vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Farfan to find out what they’ve been up to since their last full-length in 2014, some details about their latest offering, NYC influences, and their thorough future plans.

Dead Rhetoric: Been a while since you guys put out new material, did anything kind of trip up the process?

Jeremy Farfan: We had two drummers that moved out of New York City – one moved to Hawaii with his wife and had a kid and pretty much never came back. The other one decided that NYC wasn’t for him and moved to Denver. I guess he just wanted a new start. That caused a pain in the ass during the tracking/mixing process, of getting everything done. So there are two drummers on the album, but we did the best we could to make it sound seamless, at least on the drum end. Besides that, we’ve moved our rehearsal spots about 12 times and have had two floods. That’s been a pain in the ass for the last couple of years – having bad luck with rehearsal spots.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a permanent drummer now?

Farfan: Yeah, we got a guy about a year ago. We have actually already finished a 4-song EP in the tracking process. He’s a quick one. He picked up all the songs in about a month or two and then we started shows. Obviously not now with the virus, but we’ve been sending stuff back and forth to each other.

Dead Rhetoric: How does Winter Nights compare to your previous stuff?

Farfan: I think it’s the next level for us, in my opinion. Every time we create songs, and I’m brainstorming things every day – I try to look back on what we have done before and try to make songs not sound the same. I try to try to do something different, just like every band – trying to find our own way of doing things. I think it shows the evolution of the band. In some ways, you can hear how it evolved on its own. There’s one song that was actually created 6 years ago, and it’s finally being put out into the light now.

Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything specific you can say about the artwork? I really like the dark vibe that it has going for it.

Farfan: I had crazy ideas for the artwork, all of this stuff going on in my mind – from woods and graves and all of normal metal things you tend to think of with this type of music. So I found an artist and they had done Evergrey’s vinyl. I looked at the artwork from their last couple albums and really liked it. He’s from Greece, I believe, Giannis [Nakos] and his rates were actually decent for the work he is doing. So I asked what the process was and he said to send him the songs and lyrics – do not tell any of your ideas. So I sent him the stuff, and just told him that we had a staple in the band. We have been using an icon for the last several years, which is a vulture. That’s our thing – we have it on our t-shirts, stage banners – it symbolizes the passing of death.

So he said he would see what he could do. He sent us the album cover a week later and we had no issues with it at all. That was it – it was amazing. It came out of his mind. He didn’t have any idea of what we wanted. It was purely from him listening to music and the lyrics. It’s interesting doing it that way, since you are giving the artist free reign. We were skeptical, but it turned out nice.

Dead Rhetoric: Is this a full concept album or no?

Farfan: Yes. Initially, when I completed writing all six songs and looked at the lyrics, going song by song, I didn’t see that it was conceptual. But when it was all done and I had to put the lyrics on one sheet and run through it with the music behind it, I realized that it was conceptual. It’s about taking your own life, but also something making you take your own life…but it’s also a choice. So it’s kind of weird. Most of the songs speak to some form of taking your own life. There’s being buried alive, being burned alive, being hanged – but it’s all metaphorical. The idea is there, but I’m not actually telling one to go do it. There’s drowning too – I think every song has a different method of suicide or forced suicide. In the end, it’s conceptual and about suicide. But I don’t like to say suicide because it gets thrown around like it’s a very emo thing.

Dead Rhetoric: I’ve been speaking to a number of NYC and Brooklyn based bands recently. Do you take any inspiration from NYC when it comes to writing music?

Farfan: I would say a quarter or half percentage is definitely influenced by it. When I think of NYC I think of big buildings obviously, and I’m there every day in the center of it all. I think about big buildings closing in on people and people who have never seen big buildings and how they could be very intimidating. For me, if I was from a small town or country and I came to NYC, I would immediately think that a building was going to fall on me [laughs]. So when I walk down the streets of Manhattan or wherever, I think about that – buildings falling and closing in, being kind of cornered in a way. Of course with all the people, it only adds to the fact that it’s kind of insane.

I think to what would be a way out of it if you were stuck. Like the movie, Escape from New York. If you were stuck in Manhattan. I walk the streets and think about the perfect way to get out of it. Ok – jump in the Hudson or East River, but you would drown. Unless you are a crazy Olympic swimmer. But I think about a way out, or escaping. With the album, a lot of the songs are about escaping in one way or another. Once again, a reference to taking your life or having it taken for you – it’s about escaping. The city itself, no matter how long you live here, even if it’s only for a week, you get to the point where you’ve had enough of it and you just want to escape. That’s kind of where my mindset is.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you learned from opening up for larger bands as they have gone through the area?

Farfan: Time is everything! The schedule that they are on – at first, it’s like “They’ve got their shit together!” Most of them have a tour manager that’s screaming at them, but besides that, time is everything. They use their time super wisely. Everything, from PR work before the show to eating dinner, the show itself, and afterwards how they can sort of party. Things like that. There’s a certain time to tune their instruments, to go over things.

I saw the vocalist, I believe from Morbid Angel, in Irving Plaza, in the bathroom singing. I went past their dressing room and he was practicing his vocals back there. That was kind of cool – you don’t get to hear that most of the time. I was thinking, “Maybe I should do that before I go on stage too?” So I started doing that as well. Now before we go on stage, I go into the bathroom and belch out a bunch of growls and different high-pitched stuff just to get my voice going. That was a great idea of how that vocalist does it, and a bunch of other guys do that stuff as well. But we’ve definitely learned how stage set-up works.

European bands, like Omnium Gatherum or U.D.O. – I remember them at Gramercy Theater and they set up their stage very interestingly. We found it to be really good for us. The amps are set up across the stage so you can hear it even if the monitors go out. You can still hear your amps because they are going into each other. It’s crazy. So we have our stage set up like U.D.O. and a couple other bands that we stole it from. A lot of things over the years we have taken from live shows, especially watching these big bands. We use in-ear monitor systems now, which is something we saw a Canadian band do. It’s been a godsend for us. We hear everything and ourselves without worrying about the monitor dying on stage, or having it not be there half the time.

Dead Rhetoric: How important is the core relationship with your brother for Winter Nights?

Farfan: I think it’s the glue. When we started, it was literally just us in a bedroom and 16watt amps and hundred dollar guitars [laughs] just fucking around with riffs. There was nothing concrete – we didn’t even have the idea of a song. We just record 30 seconds if something sounded kind of cool. Through the years, we have gone through countless drummers and bass players. Finally, our current bassist Martin [Tune] joined in 2011 and he has stuck with us for nine years now. He’s evolved with us. He’s had some crazy ideas about rehearsal stuff and ways to do things at shows. He’s not just a bass player, but he’s been a builder for the band.

Drummers, we have always had an issue with – we have never really had one that planted a seed in the band. We are hoping that our current drummer James [Yarusinsky] is the one. He’s had his feet down, at least for a couple of years. My brother and I, I think we are the face of the band. I don’t like to say it, but I think it’s true. We do most of the PR work, we go to the local metal shows or big ones and are talking to people. We see people out at bars and talk outside of shows. We invite people to drink, hang out in the studio, things like that. We are more ‘in the zone’ of getting together with people and just talking metal and life in general. But it’s always been the two of us making riffs and lyrics and presenting them to whoever is in the band at the moment. I think, when you say the core of the band, that’s right on the spot.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned going to shows – what do you like about the NYC scene?

Farfan: I like that you get to see some of the same people again. It’s also a bad thing [laughs] – you can get tired of them. But it feels like a community. At least for me, at metal shows in NYC I can hang out with a different crowd whenever I go to a show. It depends on who I am seeing, honestly. If I am seeing Korpiklaani, I will probably hang out with the drunkard guys and party it up all night – do the pre-party, afterparty, and all that and get absolutely blasted. But if I’m seeing Blind Guardian or something, I stay bit more level-headed and hang out with the people who talk music more.

There’s always an option, at least in NYC – I’ve been to shows outside the city but don’t know anybody, or out of the country and it’s you and a bunch of people speaking a different language. But I think there are options in NYC. I don’t know if other people see the same things, but I can go to a show and hang out with the pot crowd, the drunk guys, talk with the metal guys…there’s also a group of people who are in bands and trade information about shows that are coming up. Things like that really make it kind of worth it to go to shows, both local and the nationals.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you like about death metal in general?

Farfan: I like the feel that it hypes me up. Death metal is weird. It almost makes you want to punch something, but not. It’s not like ‘drink a Monster and punch the wall,’ it’s like, sort of an inner aggression. It pumps you up without having to act upon it. I love death metal that has build up in it. Where the song starts off slow and with some clean riffs maybe and then it comes into an orchestral sound where you can actually feel it. I think death metal is definitely misunderstood, as too much aggression in one space. But if you have the ability to break it down, you see there’s this almost neo-classical, Mozart-type of thing to it. People are building riffs and riffs on to it and it turns out almost magical. But it gives you that aggression and hype to do whatever you want.

It’s like getting high or drunk without actually doing anything – that’s how I would describe death metal for the most part. It is my favorite genre, so I’m kind of biased [laughs], but I don’t get that feeling from anything else. It’s cool to listen to other stuff, but death metal has this magical power behind it that makes you want to think you can do anything.

Dead Rhetoric: Has it been helpful to have Bandcamp out there in getting spread around?

Farfan: I think it’s the best route. Over the years, we’ve gone through all of them – Myspace, Soundcloud, and whatever – but Bandcamp has been the most consistent in their evolution as well. You can change things up, like your appearance. Everything in their platform has evolved to the point where its super easy. I remember having to type in crazy information out there to get an album out like 12 years ago and it’s so easy now. It’s cool.

I find so much stuff on Bandcamp, I can’t even keep up with it. Out of all of the services, I think it’s the best. I just downloaded the app for the first time last week. I didn’t even know about it, but a friend sent me a code for his band’s album and downloaded the app to put the code in and it’s wonderful. I bought so much on Bandcamp and didn’t even know! I went into the app and there was endless music to listen to. I’ll probably be using it more than Spotify.

Dead Rhetoric: We are in the middle of quarantine still, are there any plans outside of the album release? I know you mentioned you had more music coming already.

Farfan: Usually we do an album release party at Duff’s in Brooklyn and play the album and sell some merch and have a drunk time. It’s a bit different now, so we will probably hold that off until things get back to normal. We are going to be finishing tracking 4 new songs in August. We are planning to release it in autumn if we can, as studios open up. But yeah, we have four songs being tracked that I’d like to release around Halloween-ish, but that might be pushing it. We might do it on the day winter starts. I think it would be kind of cool to release an album on that day. Besides that, we already have the artwork and the tracklisting and song structures for the album after that!

We are kind of preparing and setting ourselves up – either for failure or the greatest thing ever. Our drummer has a lot of initiative, so we have been banging things out. He drums every day and livestreams on YouTube for like an hour. He’s very intuitive, so whenever we record something on interface, I send it to him and he instantly sends it back with drums behind it. We used to have to go to the studio, set up a time and have the drummer come and show a riff and then a month later we would get something back. Now, it’s the same day service [laughs]. So over the quarantine, we have been able to draft out 4 songs for tracking and we are picking out studios in New Jersey now. Ours in Red Hook closed down, so yeah, we are ready. Hopefully another EP later this year and then a new full-length next year.

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