INTERVIEW: The Winter Hill Transmission | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Paul Cummings

They say that good things come to those who wait… Despite forming eight years ago, Newcastle five-piece The Winter Hill Transmission are only now releasing their self-titled debut album, a tale of break-up and longing.

Sharing a kinship with bands who contain great lyricists, such as The Shins and The Burning Hell, frontman Ben Holland formed The Winter Hill Transmission after snapping up Andy, Neil and Pete from band Facia. After recruiting numerous drummers, they have settled on a “great drummer” in the form of Tom to complete the alternative outfit.

Fast forward to 2018 and Holland is now happily married with his second child on the way, but although this album tells the tale of a lost love from long ago, he still believes that these songs should be heard.

Good songs have relevance beyond the immediate confines of the person who’s written them or the band who play them. It’s just time to let someone else be miserable about them.”

Opening with the eerie Jupiter, which contains Bowie-esque echoes, vocals swirl around space-age chords before exploding into a mystical crescendo, leaving a dramatic short pause for effect before continuing. Although Jupiter and Satellites strongly suggest Bowie influences, moving through the record there are hints of earlier work from Death Cab For Cutie and Half Man Half Biscuit. Softer basslines and twinkling keys serve up the Americana vibes in How Could We Ever Know and Light Up The Dark Houses, whilst closing track Matador soothes, despite its heart-breaking lyrics.

The change of tone in lyrics throughout is a nod to Holland’s love of great soloists like local heroes Pete Scott and Nev Clay, as well as Jake Thackray. “Humour is still a dirty word with most achingly cool bands, but a little sideways glance – the ability to switch between sad and funny within the breadth of a lyric – I’m not saying it’s been fully achieved as yet, but that’s the aim.”

With a perfectly good record nailed – how did it take eight years to be released? “Births and marriages – and shockingly long bouts of procrastination that has slowed us down a bit. But we’ve got there in the end. We can do as much or as little as we want and on our own terms. We will never knowingly put out something rubbish to fulfil a contract but that’s not to say we’ll never unknowingly put out something rubbish.”

Luckily, it shouldn’t be another eight years before we hear more new material from The Winter Hill Transmission. “The conundrum is: how do you make a decent album when you’re happy? It’s not really a problem. I write a lot of songs. I like small town stories and writing about other people’s lives is always a lot easier. There’s at least two albums worth of new material ready to record.”

For now, fans of funny, sad and beautifully written music can get their fill at the band’s album launch at The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 12th May. Ben explains what audiences can expect. “My favourite bit of live music is often the impromptu bits in between the songs. Now you can barely shut us up. So we’re not going to put on a pompous self-important show. We just want to enjoy ourselves. And there might also be homemade spacemen.”

The Winter Hill Transmission launch their debut album at The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 12th May.




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