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pic flag US - Illinois - Full Moon 68 - 04/27/02

The Winter Blanket
an interview with Doug Miller

"Method Acting" With Moline's Finest

Actors & Actresses is the second album from Moline, Illinois based four-piece The Winter Blanket. It featuresthe talents of Low's Alan Sparhawk as producer, engineer and musical side-kick and not very suprisingly The Winter Blanket's sound shows traces of Low as well. They throw in a bit of early Galaxie 500 and Beat Happening for good measure and actually sound terrific from start to finish.

We asked Doug Miller (who used to be in the band Darling previously), to fill us in on what's happening with The Winter Blanket (who also include Stephanie Davila, Kim Murrayand Paul Blomquist) in 2002.

Luna Kafé: What is it like to be in the Winter Blanket in the spring of 2002 (and how different is it compared to 1999, when your debut album Hopeless Lullaby was released?)
Doug: "It is an amazing feeling! I have been involved actively with bands since Darling began in 1994, this is the most success I have yet achieved. I am especially excited because The Winter Blanket is getting ready to do a two and a half week tour with the always incredible Richard Buckner. He has been a huge influence on us as of late and now he has given us our first major tour! Compared to 1999, we are much busier. Stephanie and myself are still in College so it is getting hard to balance everything, but it is truly exciting. I guess everything is better. Being on Al's label was a huge step up for us. The shows and songs are getting better all the time. Feelin' groovy!"

Luna Kafé: How would you think Darling compare to The Winter Blanket?
Doug: "They are similar in some ways. Darling is an influence naturally because Kim (our bass-playing guy) and I made three records in that group and played together for years. I learned alot about what and what not to do. It helped when The Winter Blanket formed. I guess Darling is more jazzy and free, a bit more difficult to digest. When I started The WB I wanted to do something more traditional/singer/songwriter style."

Luna Kafé: W.B. didn't start out as the four piece it is now...
Doug: "I started the band with Kim. We wanted to have a group where we could have creative input. I always remind people, I love music way to much to just be someone's drummer. We made a couple demos with me drumming, but we always knew we wanted a band. We had Stephanie and Paul in mind even as we made those demos. Paul and Stephanie had been friends for years. I always told Paul if I started a band he would be the drummer. Stephanie was looking to play in a band with our style after playing in a punk band, so she came aboard after turning down several other local bands that were fighting for her! We got her!"

Luna Kafé: I really enjoyed the male/female vocals, that kinda reminded me of Beat Happening. Was that sort of a masterplan to have two vocalists or did it just turn out that way?
Doug: "EVERYONE says we remind them of the Beat Happening, none of us have ever actually heard them. I guess its cool though, they seem to be well liked. It was always part of the plan to have male/female vocals, another reason Stephanie was essential. This comes from my appreciation of Low, Yo La Tengo, and Ida more than anything. I kind of envisioned the band sounding that way. I didn't think I was much of a singer, even though I am feeling more confident now. So, Stephanie was probably necessary to help me sound better too. She is excellent with harmonies and I think our voices really compliment each other. I try to hide behind her voice, but then she'll sing quieter dammit! I also think we have really learned something from each other in regards to singing."

Luna Kafé: I'm not the first to bring up the Galaxie 500 comparison, I guess. But I also noted some folk influences (that are also apparent in Damon & Naomis current work...)
Doug: "We love Bob Dylan, but I don't know what kind of folk you mean. We love Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Nick Drake, Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, and Fred Neil. I guess those guys are folky right, because I would say they are some of our biggest influences. I've never heard much Galaxie 500 either. I've only heard On Fire which I like, but I have never owned. The Galaxie 500 thing is most likely passed down from Low. Musical hand-me-downs..."

Luna Kafé: Would you say your general influences as far as the songwriting and the production of the album have changed since your first record?
Doug: "Influences are always growing more than changing. I don't leave influences behind, I have a hard time parting with any of my music. Songwriting has changed, but it is more a result of experience playing live and just playing in general. I had only played guitar a couple of years when we made the first record and I had never sung. Therefore the new album is much more confident and accomplished I think. I had put the band together and ironically I was easily the least experienced with my role in the band. The first record is much more minimal and more what you would call traditional slow-core. That wasn't necessarily a conscious decision, it might have just been the extent of our abilities. The studio was much more comfortable the second time around because we had definite ideas about everything. The new record is more "produced" I guess. Now we are really excited about the next record. We already have ten songs and we can already see what we might have done differently with Actors and Actresses. Stephanie is writing some amazing songs for this next record and its taking alot of pressure off me."

Luna Kafé: Low's Alan Sparhawk seems to be more than just a producer for you. Especially now that you brought him back for the 2nd album again - how would you describe his status in the band?
Doug: "Alan is amazing! We relate to him because we both come from these out of the way towns and he was the first person to help us who really had a foot in the industry door. He is so highly regarded and respected as a musician and as a person, it is always inspiring to be around him. He is an excellent role-model. As far as band status, he played quite a bit on the last record, he can sing those dead-on harmonies that I can't do and he plays some rippin' J. Mascis guitar stuff on some songs. The guy can riff man! He was in the studio on his knees like Jimi Hendrix and we were watching him through the control room window with our eyes bugged out freakin flippin out! I think he enjoys the chance to work with some other people and do something different. We approached him about the 2nd record and while we were recording we played a show in Duluth (his hometown), after he saw the live show he was blown away and decided he wanted to put our record out! It was an amazing night. Their posters grace my bedroom wall, so if you have a Radiohead poster on your wall, imagine Thom Yorke asking to put your record out. Thats the best I can explain it!"

Luna Kafé: Are the multiple references to acting in the lyrics and the title of the new album just a coincidence, or was there some kind of concept behind that?
Doug: "There was an intended concept that we worked for. It wasn't meant to be some ground-breaking philosophy, it was more just a survey of where we were at in life, what we were feeling being in our mid-twenties. The record deals with the dissapointment you feel when you realize you will be better rewarded in life for being an actor or pretender or phony then you will being an honest person. It's the old Catcher in the Rye concept. I know it isn't true for everyone, but it is true for a lot of people and I thought that was a tragedy. You don't have to take the record that way though, really they are just love songs for the most part. But love is often times a show and an act, right?"

Luna Kafé: I guess chances are pretty slim that you're gonna sell a million records with your kind of sound. So what are your goals and expections? Do you just regard it as a more or less selfish hobby?
Doug: "It is by no means a selfish hobby, we all have day-jobs and mine in particular happens to be very embarassing. We work really hard at it. We definitely have goals, but they don't deal just with record sales. We don't want Al to lose a bunch of money on us... We would like to eventually make a living at this, like Low for example. Just getting this tour with Richard Buckner was a huge goal! The bar is always set a little bit higher with each achievement, but I think we are really enjoying the ride at the same time. For example, when we were reording, we took a break and went to this state park in Minnesota and me and Stephanie swam in this waterfall and it was wild! We were just happy to be in Duluth, being outside you know... We always make the most of every situation we are in. We try not to stress out over goals. Alan once gave me some great advice; "Everything is an adventure." I try to remember that on 90 degree days when our van is broken down in the middle of Indiana. I guess in general I want us to mean something to people the way artists I like mean something to me. That's starting to happen here and there and that has alot to do with why we are really satisfied to this point."

Luna Kafé: Last question: What are your future hopes and plans for W.B.?
Doug: "Well, we are doing this tour and then I am moving to Minneapolis with Stephanie. I think we are going to at least go to England in the fall and then next year we will make a new record. I would like to play Alaska, for some reason everyone thinks we are from there, maybe we should see what it is all about..."

Copyright © 2002 Carsten Wohlfeld (photo also) e-mail address (photo also)

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