Featured Artist March 2007: Winzenried (aka Hollywood Drunks)

Winzenried–the band, and the singer/songwriter (Eric Winzenried)–is the Featured Artist of the Month for March, 2007, as announced on Twirl Saturday, March 3. What does that mean? Well, it means we’re going to be featuring a whole lot of their great music on the show this month. It also means that I got to do an on-air interview with Eric himself on Saturday, March 17th. Congratulations to Eric, guitarist/co-producer Lloyd Stuart Casson, keyboardist Paul Sandberg, bassist Carl West, and drummer Sebastian Sheehan.

This L.A.-based quintet released their debut, Hooray, back in 2003. There was something instantly familiar and comforting about this potent stew of rap, metal, alternative, and straight-ahead rock. What was it? Twirl Radio doesn’t really play a lot of rap or metal music (less than 0.001 ppm, as verified by an outside auditing service). So what did I find so appealing? In short, everything! Specifically, the singing, songwriting, guitar work, keyboard work, and wry humor.

Eric Winzenried has a strong voice, much like you’d hear from some of the better-known metal singers. But–he uses his powers for good, not evil. He doesn’t wail and flail, but uses his voice very nimbly. He’s a very able rapper. And his sense of songcraft is incomparable. There’s a lot of attitude in these songs, but there’s a lot of heart, too. The sound is equal parts Ugly Kid Joe and Freedy Johnston. No, really!

On Hooray, the track Ohio is probably the most representative example of the Winzenried sound. Each verse starts with a rap, then Lloyd’s crunchy power chords kick in. As the band dives over the edge into the chorus, Eric sings “here I am, once again with…you”. Listen to the way he powers through the word “with”. This one word showcases the guy’s hard rock roots coming through! Looking Backwards is an uplifting rocker. Smarter One and Soul Is Mine, both keyboard-driven, are also positive, the former is an exercise in humility, the latter, a reminder of our worth as individuals. But the ones that really crack me up are Can’t Stay At My Apartment and Punchline. Anyone who’s an adult has been the victim of freeloaders and bad relationships. Eric fights back with his music, while making us laugh. THAT is what I find comforting and familiar. These songs remind me of getting together with my best buddy over drinks, or at the game, and commiserating about the rough parts of my life. That’s what many of these Winzenried songs are about. And you do feel better at day’s end.

Swell continues the theme. The songs remain positive and funny. Carried over from the first album are the references to the unappreciative, low-tipping customers from his days as a pizza delivery guy. And the secret weapon of the band, as on the first album, is massively talented guitarist Lloyd Stuart Casson. He plays everything from funk to alternative to hard rock, and is the single most important element of the Winzenried sound. Without him, this would be a different band. Songs like That Age and Getting Young acknowledge that we’re growing up, getting older (and better), and that others are now depending upon us (such as his newborn). Wake You addresses being the oldest guy at the party. Sort of a modern take on Jethro Tull’s Too Old to Rock ‘N Roll, Too Young to Die. And there’s a delightful cover of the Sesame Street theme song. It never occurred to me to cover a song like this, but the Winzenried treatment reminds me of what a great song this is. It’s fun hearing it performed by a bunch of adults! There’s definitely some personal and musical growth on this album, and Eric’s vocals get more sophisticated, reflecting his life changes.

So grab your copies of the two Winzenried albums, and put them on after a long day. On those days where you start to ask yourself, “am I crazy, or…”–Eric’s your bud–he understands, because he’s been there too. And I’m proud to have him and his band as the Artist of the Month for March.

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