Winston Surfshirt

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Northern Beaches locals and veterans of the Sydney live music scene, Winston Surfshirt, have quickly garnered a dedicated fan base since the early days of playing weekly gigs in Manly. What began as a cult following has manifested in global recognition, with nods from industry greats and international airplay. This comes as no surprise when you listen to their unique sound, equal parts soul and hip-hop with a relaxed, buoyant vibe. 

The six-piece have brought their boisterous show to stages around the country and are about to embark on a nationwide tour of their new album Sponge Cake. We had a beer with two of the Surfshirts, Winston and Mi-K, and chatted about their new album, the origins of their nicknames and casual phone calls with Sir Elton John.

BN: Hey! So firstly, can you introduce yourself and the other members of the band who aren’t here? 

Winston: So, I’m Winston. We have Mi-K who’s right here, he plays the guitar, he’s been in London for three years and has just gotten back. Bustlip plays the beats, Bik Julio plays the bass, Dool plays the keys and The Bone is a trombone player. Is that six? 

Mi-K: Yeah, that’s the six of us. 

BN: Are these nicknames that you all appointed within the band or were they already your nicknames? 

Winston: Some of them were already there. I was always Winston, Bustlip was always Bustlip, Mi-K has always been Mi-K. Bik Julio just kind of found that, Dool’s sort of always been Dool.

Mi-K: Dool… I mean, that’s a long story.

Winston: And yeah, The Bone plays the Trombone so that makes sense.

BN: And Winston is John Lennon’s middle name, right? That’s where it came from?

Winston: Yeah, my guy.

BN: And how does it work being a six piece, logistically?

Winston: So easy. We don’t really practice too much…

BN: And live performances, are they more fun with more people in the band?

Winston: Yeah, for sure. The more people in the band the more fun it is.

BN: So where did it all start? How did you come together?

Winston: It all started at a little venue… I’d been playing as Winston for a few years just playing solo gigs, and there was a little bar in Manly that knew Mi-K and wanted a band to play there, so he was like, “Why don’t you just play with me, and Bustlip will play behind you?” So we just ended up doing that for about three years and more people came in and out, and then it just become a big thing. Junkyard festival was kind of the first big gig we did, like in the city.

BN: And how long has Sponge Cake been in the making?

Winston: It’s been about three years, but it’s been done for about two years. We had it done, and we were going to release it, and then we got involved with Astral People and they wanted to hold into it. They wanted to add some songs and take some out and got it remixed and everything, so that just took a while.

BN: So how does it feel now?

Winston: It’s good! It was definitely worth it, as opposed to just throwing it out.

BN: Is it nerve racking at all?

Winston: Not really, you don’t really think about it it that much. I’m just excited that it’s going out and that somebody will care, I guess!

Mi-K: I guess if you think about whether the reception is going to be positive or negative, you could maybe get nervous but I think that we're pretty happy with it regardless.

BN: What’s your favourite thing about the album? Do you have a favourite song?

Winston: My favourite thing was just the process. I just love sitting at home and making music, it’s really all I like doing.

BN: Were you doing separate projects beforehand? Did you know each other?

Winston: Well, I was in other bands and then I started Winston as a solo thing. It was sort of Beatles-y with a bit of hip-hop. But yeah, Bustlip has always been Bustlip, producing on his own.

Mi-K: Me and Winston have always been in the same band, same as Bik Julio actually. Dool DJs and produces.

Winston: Yeah Dool’s a DJ. He doesn’t know how to play keys and he’s our keyboard player… so he started learning about a year ago. H’s killing it.

BN: Ha! That’s the best way to learn though. And have his keyboard skills improved?

Winston: Yeah! We’re a makeshift band

BN: And I want to ask about this Elton John situation! That’s wild that he played you guys on his radio show.

Winston: Yeah, it’s just crazy. From the moment when we found out he has played us, that was the best thing ever, and then a few months later he wants a phone call with us.

BN: Oh really? I didn’t hear about that!

Winston: Yeah he wanted to have a chat with me on his Beats show, just a little interview, and he called and just asked questions about Winston and stuff.

BN: That’s amazing! What’s he like? Nice bloke?

Winston: Haha he’s lovely! I’m in love with him because he loves Winston.

BN: Did you love him before?

Winston: Oh for sure.

BN: But now you just love him on a whole new level.

Winston: Absolutely. My mum would always listen to him. …”Rolling like thunder under the covers… I guess that's why they call it the blues.” I used to love that song as a kid, I thought it was so funny. I thought those lyrics were hilarious.  

Mi-K: Didn’t you see him out one time?

Winston: Yeah! In Venice. Isn’t Venice the one with all the floods?

BN: Yeah, water town.

Winston: Yeah, I saw him there, we went on a holiday and I must have been about 13. We'd just been to New York and I swore I saw Ros from Friends walking through Central Park, and my parents were like “no you didn’t, you never did!” And then in Venice, I saw Elton John and everyone was like "no you didn’t!” and then you just hear all the Italian people screaming “Elton John!!” He walked into a suit shop and it closed its doors and he just went shopping with the place to himself.

BN: But be honest, what’s more exciting, seeing Elton John or the one and only David Schwimmer AKA Ros from Friends?

Winston: Well… at least I know Elton John was real. It’s only me that thinks David Schwimmer was real. I probably just bumped into a tall man and said, “That’s Ros, because I’m in New York!”

BN: Everyone looks like Ros from Friends in New York. Speaking of legends, you guys supported Midnight Oil earlier this year?

Winston: Oh my god, they’re such a fun live show. They played for like two and a half hours, it was so great.

BN: And that came about through Bustlip’s Dad?

Winston: Yeah, Bustlip’s Dad has known those guys for a while and is really good friends with the Drummer Rob Hirst, he's pretty much the reason we got that gig.

Bustlip’s Dad is a Director and has done heaps of cool stuff, and his grandfather’s done even more! You know The Wall by Pink Floyd, the cartoon thing, he edited that. He’s got BAFTA’s, he's a proper big dog. 

And yeah, Jack’s dad did the first Silverchair video and for the last ten years he’s been working with Cold Chisel on all their live stuff. And then his mum is an artist, she’s got ARIA’s in the house. I think she took the photo for that white Missy Higgins album. They’re just an incredibly talented family. 

BN: What about your families? Are they all super prolific directors as well? 

Winston: Well, my mum's a mum. She's a good mum. and my dad’s a dad. And he’s actually a secret spy. 

BN: You probably shouldn't be telling me that on the record. I’m going to edit that out. We’ve gone on so many tangents here I think we’ll wrap it up by talking about the gigs you have coming up! 

Winston: We've got a Sponge Cake tour coming up for the album as well as Falls Festival and Field Day and then a few smaller festivals. 

Buy Sponge Cake here and find tour dates here

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