Last Winter: Facing A Brand New Season

Although Last Winter is on Lifeforce Records, don’t expect to find the metal and hardcore tunage that is usually unleashed from the venerable label.   Even in rock alternative mode, the compositions found within Last Winter’s newest album The Heart & The Broken Compass are intensive and impassioned – and should inspire music fans all across the board.   It’s been a few years since their previous effort Under the Silver of Machines was released – and after a few membership changes, Last Winter has arrived to face a new season of rock!  Highwire Daze recently caught up with Last Winter to find out more about the new album, the changes in the band, being an alternative band on a metal label, and other seasonal titles.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Last Winter, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Josh Calapa and I play guitar. The band has been together since November 2002.

Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there?
We’re based out of Orlando, Florida. As far as the music scene is concerned, I honestly couldn’t tell you right now. We haven’t played many shows in Orlando recently and if the current state of music is any indication of the scene, I’m sure it sucks…hahaha. I can say that between 2003-2008, the scene was definitely alive and we were a big part of that. There were some really good metal bands in Orlando and we found ourselves sharing the stage with them the majority of the time…not that we consider ourselves a metal band at all.

Last Winter is A LOT different for other Lifeforce bands. How did you wind up on the label and do you like any of the other Lifeforce bands?
This is a question we get asked a lot. Another Orlando band and former Lifeforce label mate, Hand to Hand, introduced us. We were looking at other labels at the time, but we really liked what Lifeforce had to offer and most importantly, that we would stand out on the roster. A lot of the other labels had similar genre bands and we felt we would’ve gotten lost in the mix. As far as any Lifeforce bands we like, we’ve always been huge fans of Hand to Hand and former Lifeforce artists, Between the Buried and Me.

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title The Heart & The Broken Compass?
Bo was responsible for the album title. His reasoning for it is as follows: “The title, ‘The Heart & The Broken Compass‘ came from the idea that the heart is not the best thing to use to navigate through the world. A compass is. If the compass is broken, then you may know where you want to be (that is what the “heart” tells us), but you have no idea how to get there (what the compass tells us). Following your heart is a terrible idea. Follow your compass. The title is a way of saying that most of us are only equipped with our hearts and a broken compass, we know where we want to be but have no idea how to get there.” We loved the whole concept and thought it fit the album perfectly.

Who did the artwork for the new album and how much input did you have on it?
John Radford from Squids With Skeletons. Not only is he an awesome artist, but he’s also the guitarist for Hand to Hand. The only input we gave him was that we wanted a more organic-looking album design than “Under the Silver of Machines”. We felt this record sounded more natural and we opted for a more realistic look. He did an amazing job. The guy is great.

What could one expect from a live Last Winter show?
Like all other bands, we know that intensity is what makes a live show a live show. We try to build the set so it encompasses all ranges of emotions from ballads to heavier tracks. Since we’ve had four albums, we’ve got a pretty broad catalog to choose from and like to pick songs from our earlier years and from the current album. Other than that, we’re just a good old-fashioned rock band that likes to have a couple of beers on stage and have a good time. No lighting guitars on fire…just yet.

How does this new one differ from your previous album Under The Silver Of Machines, and why the long wait between albums?
This is the first album where we’ve worked with a producer. We were very fortunate to work with Bret Hestla. He was the vocalist for Dark New Day and Virgos Merlot and also the touring bassist for Creed. Not only were we attracted to his amazing musicianship, but to his industry background as well. This album definitely differs from all our previous endeavors across the board. We really went back to the basics on this record. Bret was adamant that we didn’t use any “sound-replaced” drums and wanted minimalistic usage of vocal tuning. We wanted to make an album that sounded like the ones we used to listen to growing up and I think we nailed it with this one.

As far as the long wait between albums: we had a falling out with our original singer and took some time off after our Japan tour in 2008. We didn’t feel we were in a rush and really wanted the songs to just happen as opposed to us making them happen. It was definitely a different writing process than in the past. There were no time constraints and we never felt rushed. Also, everybody was at a point in their life where things like responsibilities and grown-up duties came into play.

What was it like touring in Japan and who else were you on the road with?
Japan is awesome! The place is like a neon candy store. They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and we really hope to go back there some day. On the first tour in 2008, we played with National Product and this time, we were lucky to go out with 2Side1Brain. Those guys are awesome. You should check them out.

Have you ever played in the Los Angeles area or plan to do so in the future?
Believe it or not, we’ve never made it to the west coast. We’re just so damn far being down here in Florida. The majority of the road tours that we’ve done have been confined to the east coast. A lot of our fans on the west coast have been begging us for years to come tour their area and we would love nothing more than to be able to do that in the near future.

What other bands has the new singer Ian Dempsey been in, and how did he become involved with Last Winter?
He was the vocalist for the band, Noon Blue. We’ve know Ian for years and were always a fan of his vocal abilities. When it came time to choose another vocalist, it was a no-brainer. Ian was the man for the job. On a side note, he’s a multi-talented guy…he wrote a jingle for a McDonald’s commercial. Hahaha! Sell-out!

Any final words of wisdom?
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it seems that music has really lost its value these days. I really hope that people don’t forget that music is an art and should be treated as such. It shouldn’t be an afterthought or a free gimmick when you purchase a coffee at Starbuck’s. I just hope that people are still touched by music as much as I was growing up and even now. Other than that, support space exploration!!!!!!!

Last Winter is…
Ian Dempsey- Vocals/Guitar
Brian “Fro” Effron- Lead Guitar
Josh Calapa- Guitar
Mark “Bo” Bowermaster- Bass
Chris Pock- Drums

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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