Celestial Winds

Local Outfit Pop Winds Breeze Into Art Matters

Pop Winds will play the Frequencies Art Matters show this Wednesday.

If the Pop Winds were a spaceship they’d look like something out of Thunderbirds, only more practical, silver, and with a porthole for each band member to look out from.

But the Pop Winds aren’t a space ship and this is just a cold, wet, March day in the Mile End. The band is equipped with hot coffee, tea and chunky mango smoothies.

All hailing from different parts of Ontario, the band is comprised of Devon Welsh, Austin Milne and Kyle Bennett.

Any proper description of their sound must include the word languid. This is experienced in Welsh’s vocals, stretched to their innermost tension. Milne’s saxophone is lush and whimsical, subtly weaving in and out of the melody. Bennett, finally, is the artist who carries the bulk of the sound, weaving his vocals and his intricate drum and synth loops to support his band mates’ creations. The whole sound is beautiful and

The band formed in late 2009 when roommates Welsh and Milne met up in Montreal with Bennett, and so far they have released the EP Understory and a full length, The Turquoise.

“After I moved to Montreal for university, I recorded songs on my own for a couple of years and played with some people off and on,” said Welsh. “Then Kyle and myself started sending each other songs while he was in London, Ontario going to [university].”

When Bennett transferred to Concordia, the immediacy between Welsh and Bennett allowed them to record together and start up Pop Winds. The band gave themselves a year to flourish before playing their first show.

The band hesitates to identify any distinct influences in their music, content to let such processes be subconscious. They prefer to learn from each other as musicians, letting their ideas blend together organically.

“I think what interests the Pop Winds musically is something that we can play and sink into, feel alive and feel excited playing, and something that feels [natural],” said Welsh. “We’re not interested in stretching to do something that we think sounds cool […] We’re not interested in genre experiments or playing a certain ‘kind’ of music. We are interested in making and playing what just comes out.”

The Pop Winds make a point to play and experiment together every day. Rarely does one member bring a complete song to the table, and even then it gets played with and changed until the resulting piece is a completely different song.

“We challenge each other just by getting together and playing music,” said Welsh. “When I make music on my own, or when Kyle does, we are the only judges of what we make. On the other hand, when the three of us meet, everyone needs to be on board for us to continue developing an idea.”
All of the band’s music can be found online for free. While the band is now signed to Arbutus Records—a local label representing artists such as Grimes, Braids and Blue Hawaii—the philosophy of the label is towards free content as well. Purchasing a CD from them (The Turquoise goes for $5) ends up being more of a symbolic gesture for independent music and independent choice.

The band has toured across Canada in support of The Turquoise and they aim to tour the States soon, and maybe, one day, Mexico City.

“Our relationship with music has changed a lot since we started playing together,” said Welsh. “But I think the essence of how we do things has always been pretty much the same—we’ve always made songs out of collaborative/improvised experiences that we thought had a lot of energy and that made sense for us to play.

“In a different sense, our relationship with music has also become more serious. The more you work on music both on your own and with others, the more attention you give to every element of the process, and that’s true for us in terms of the songs, their quality in a live setting as well as in a recording, and the distribution of those songs to an audience.”

“Along the same lines, I think the three of us appreciate other people’s music when it’s apparent that it comes from the same place—the music that someone makes should be coming from a place that’s natural for them. Although it sounds cheesy it should come from their heart, in the sense that it shouldn’t be contrived or reaching for something in an artificial way,” said Welsh. “It should just come out of you, be an expression of you, and continue to express that naturalness when you play it.”

Welsh went on to say that the band ditches songs when they no longer feel a connection. “I think it’s important to keep a fresh creative process,” he said. “If something isn’t doing it for you anymore, you should get rid of it.”

The band will play this week as part of the Art Matters event Frequencies, curated by Derek Branscombe. The show will also feature light and video projections from Concordia artists.

Pop Winds at Frequencies / La Sala Rossa / 4848 Saint Laurent Blvd. / March 9 / 8:30 p.m. / with fuck fish, Omaha, Sibian & Faun, The Comission and Winderling / FREE

—with files from Ashley Opheim

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 25, published March 8, 2011.