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The Windups plus Silver Clouds
December 4, 2021 @ 9:00 pm - December 5, 2021 @ 1:00 am
“We don’t really rehearse much anymore; we usually just show up the night of a show and quickly discuss what songs we’ll be doing,” Rob Pachol announces to the “crowd,” which consists of a Winnipeg Free Press writer and photographer. “But in the name of journalism, we agreed to strap on our gear for this rare, momentous occasion.”
With that, Pachol, whose rock ‘n’ roll resumé includes stints in Soul Scatter, the Turnstiles and J.P. Hoe, nods at Morton (ex of Dementia 5 and Hot Tub), bass player Rej Ricard and drummer Jacques Dubois (both of Telepathic Butterflies), before launching into Heart of the City, first recorded by Nick Lowe in 1976.
Moments after the guys have finished tearing through Blondie’s Hanging on the Telephone, XTC’s Crowded Room and the Velvet Underground’s White Light White Heat, they plunk themselves down at the top of a wooden staircase and say, “OK, what do you wanna know?
Morton and Pachol met in 1996, when both men were employed at HMV Canada. One evening, Morton, a music savant who, when a scribe mentions he recently learned April Wine didn’t write its hit You Could Have Been a Lady, remarks, “Oh for sure; it was first done by Hot Chocolate,” invited Pachol over to watch videos featuring Dr. Feelgood, a British pub-rock outfit that formed in 1971.
“They were like nothing I’d ever heard — just this hard-driving, fast, R&B sound — and after a couple of songs I turned to Andy and said it would be so great to put together a band one day that sounded like them,” Pachol says.
Fast-forward to 2002; Pachol, who had some time on his hands following the dissolution of the Rowdymen, contacted Morton, who was also between bands, to see if he was still interested in “that thing we talked about six years ago.”
After enlisting Ricard and original drummer Dino Desrochers, the guys holed up in Pachol’s basement, where they taught themselves close to 150 songs from a mix of genres, including the British Invasion (the Kinks’ Till the End of the Day), glam rock (T. Rex’s Telegram Sam) and new wave (Devo’s Uncontrollable Urge).
Christening themselves the Wind-Ups – a nod to the Dr. Feelgood ditty She’s a Windup — they made their debut in front of a sold-out house at Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club in February 2003. (Pachol credits Desrochers, who eventually left the band to devote time to his young family, for being able to pack a room “with one call.”)
“It was such a ridiculous concept: ‘Hi, we’re going to play all our favourite songs — few of which you’ve probably heard of,’ that we didn’t think anybody would even get it,” Pachol says with a laugh.
“But because there was a familiarity to the stuff — after all, even punk is based in rock ‘n’ roll — it wasn’t like, ‘What is this alien music we’re listening to?’” Ricard chimes in. “It was more along the lines of, ‘Wow, these guys are a rock ‘n’ roll band, and we haven’t seen a good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll band in a long time.’”
Word about the Wind-Ups’ tight, live performances and exquisite taste in song selection spread like wildfire. Before long, the guys were being booked into watering holes all over the city. (Ricard says one of the biggest compliments they received was when one of their fans put together a home-made, double-CD comprised of songs they regularly perform, as recorded by the original artists.)
“That first couple of years we were playing every week or second week, at least, and pretty soon, we started getting calls to open for the likes of Teenage Head and White Cowbell Oklahoma,” Pachol goes on, noting there were also a few “strange shows” along the way — like the time they played for a group of bikers at a bonfire/barbecue, west of the city.
“They were OK with our classic-rock stuff like Alice Cooper and the Who, but most of the time they were laughing at us, wondering why we were wearing suits and ties.” (For the band’s 10th anniversary show, during which they performed Iggy and the Stooges’ 1973 release Raw Power in its entirety, Morton did away with his usual, buttoned-up look, taking the stage sans shirt, a la Iggy Pop, the Stooges’ frontman.)
On occasion, the Wind-Ups get asked to play special events such as wedding receptions, but because they don’t ordinarily sing about brown-eyed girls, nights at the YMCA or raising a little hell, that’s generally not a good fit, they caution.
“We never tailor our sets, and it’s not like we’ve ever played anything close to a waltz, but every now and again we’ll get a punk-rock bride and groom wanting to hire us,” says Pachol, who is equally adept at the ukulele as he is his Fender Telecaster Thinline. “Sure, it works for some of the people in the room but usually not for grandma and grandpa, so when we do that sort of thing, we always feel like we’re ruining it for somebody.
Fourteen years in — they chuckle when they are reminded that’s four years longer than a certain band from Liverpool stayed together — the guys, who range in age from 43 to 55, don’t see any reason for calling it a day any time soon.
“Maybe there’s an advantage to being a cover band, in that if we’d been writing originals all this time, we might not still be together,” Ricard says, laughing when Morton interrupts, stating, “Yeah, we would definitely hate each other by now, if that had been the case.”
“But because it’s always been more of a side project for us, it’s pretty low maintenance,” Ricard goes on, explaining all four have careers outside of the band. “Plus, we actually enjoy hanging out together. It’s not like we ever don’t like seeing each other.”
That said, John Scoles, owner of Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, recommends if you haven’t experienced a Wind-Ups show yet, don’t put it off much longer.
“All four members are extremely talented and dedicated and that they can keep up the precision and quality of work they deliver is stunning,” Scoles says, guesstimating the band has appeared at his establishment some 60 times through the years. “I say it all the time; the more young musicians that get out and see the Wind-Ups play before they stop playing — and sadly, there will be a day they stop — the better the rock ‘n’ roll scene Winnipeg is going to have, over the next generation.”
Scoles, who lists Angel City’s Take a Long Line and the Young Canadians’ Hawaii as his favourite Wind-Ups selections, was never concerned about booking a true, blue rock ‘n’ roll act into his venue, which is still primarily a showcase for blues and roots-rock acts.
“It’s somewhat coincidental because when I started booking the Wind-Ups, I was just starting to change the focus of the room from a certain type of music to good music, period. Cause at the end of the day, we’re a bar… we’re a party.”
One other thing; Scoles will readily debate anybody who refers to the Wind-Ups as Winnipeg’s best “cover” band.
“Never mind cover band,” he says. “At any given moment during a Wind-Ups show — if everything is lining up just right — they might just be the best band in the world, period.”
Pachol shakes his head and grins as he sums up his and his pals’ ability to play what they like, when they like.
“When you think about it, no so-called ‘A-circuit band’ or ‘hits band’ would be able to get up and, in the same set, play Motörhead, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Chris Spedding. At the very least, it would be hard to find a place that would book them. But for whatever reason, we get away with it.”
Silver Clouds is the latest offering from Winnipeg’s always vibrant alt-rock scene, comprised of veteran players Rod Slaughter (Duotang, Novillero), Dave Berthiaume (Novillero), Sean Stevens (Novillero, Transonic) and Steve Payne (Boy, Transonic). The band’s self-titled debut album will be released June 26 on Disintegration Records, with the first single, “Minor Hesitation,” available now on all digital platforms.
In the years between Novillero’s demise and Duotang’s reformation, Slaughter – the principal songwriter for both bands – kept building a cache of songs that otherwise had no home. Twelve of these pop-infused tracks of disaffection formed the basis of Silver Clouds, fleshed out with long time friend Berthiaume on drums, with subjects ranging from a once famous actor’s internal dilemmas (“Peter Sellers”) to post World War I border security (“Maginot Line”), and lots of songs in between about just getting on with it.
When asked about “Minor Hesitation,” Slaughter says, “‘It describes a feeling of apathy, paralysis, and a fear of letting go of the known. We feel it’s a rather fitting introduction to a band that, until the global pandemic, had remained in a state of self-imposed delay.”
Working with producer Cam Loeppky, Slaughter and Berthiaume were joined in the studio by Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities) Rej Ricard (Telepathic Butterflies) and Keri Latimer (Nathan), among others, to complete the album. Having enlisted Stevens on guitar and Payne on bass, Silver Clouds are greatly looking forward to getting on stage (when the time finally comes) to play these blistering rock ‘n roll rides in their natural element.