Gabriel Winterfield Talks To Blurred Culture About The Future of Golf Alpha Bravo And What’s To Come BC Exclusive: Interview With Golf Alpha Bravo's Gabriel Winterfield
LOS ANGELES, CA- Back in 2014, I saw Jagwar Ma perform twice: once at Coachella, and second at a Twilight Concert at the Santa Monica Pier (whatever happened to that concert series?). I was hooked on this Australian band’s synth-infused, psychedelic rock. I started following them on socials, but after their 2016 album, took what seemed to be a hiatus to pursue solo efforts.
When I went out to shoot a friend’s show at The Goldfish in Highland Park, I was surprised to find Gabriel Winterfield, the lead vocalist and guitarist for Jagwar Ma, performing an opening set with his solo project Golf Alpha Bravo. Though I had been following his Instagram account, this was the first time since 2014 that I had been able to see him perform live. Needless to say, I was excited about this revelation and I subsequently reached out to him to see if he would be interested to talk a little bit about his music.
Gabriel couldn’t have been more genial during our talk. I got the chance to ask him about his life these past few years and the music he’s working on. We talked his past projects and finding amazing sound technology in unlikely places. We touched on his inspirations and I found out he’s about as passionate about music on vinyl as I am. He’s a solid dude, and his music is equally so.
The interview below is accompanied by photographs taken July 16, 2022 at Golf Alpha Bravo’s performance at The Goldfish.
Blurred Culture: Good to catch up with you. What are you up to?
Gabriel: Just chilling, right now. I’ve been doing some stuff earlier on and now we’re just I winding down for the year. That’s kind of where we’re at.
Blurred Culture: Everybody’s winding down. People just trying to figure out what they’re gonna do in the New Year. Right?
Gabriel: Totally. I just like finished my second record four or five days ago, as far as like all of the tracking and everything, it’s all done. So it’s kind of funny… it’s like… you know… I do everything myself so it’s pretty intense work… Everyone kind of switches the gear and wants to go and party and stuff. I’m just kind of taking a bit of a breather I guess.
Blurred Culture: When you say you do, when you say you do everything yourself, does that mean you’re producing mixing, mastering everything?
Gabriel: I have a home studio set up. I do all of the arrangements, play the guitar and sing and drums and everything. I have done mixes myself, but I feel like someone else can probably do a better mix than me so I’m speaking to some studios at the moment about getting into a proper studio with a proper desk so I can just like give it that final sort of polish. But it’s exciting… it’s done… it feels good … like the body of work is done… you know? And because the record’s guitar-based, drums, and vocals. From a mixing point of view, it’s not super complex. I don’t think of it as being very complex … and the sound that I kind of go for is not something too insane, I don’t think.
Blurred Culture: When you performed at The Goldfish, it kind of caught me off, guard. I didn’t know you were performing at that show. Also… maybe because it’s just the internet algorithm… but I wasn’t aware that you have been releasing music pretty consistently for the past couple of years. I literally just found out that you release an EP in 2022 because I went to Spotify to look up your music.
Gabriel: I put out my first record in 2020. I did my first few shows in 2019, and then obviously the pandemic happened. I had finished my first record by that stage and I was like, “Am I gonna… like…. not put this out and wait until this pandemic ends?” And I was like, “No. I just want to get these songs out.” I like putting music out. I don’t really I don’t like gatekeeping things for too long, and I also write things pretty quickly. I’ve always been a pretty fast songwriter. Then 2021 was basically making this other record. I did some tours and played some shows and stuff like that. I also moved in 2020 from the U.K. to L.A., where I live now. I did a residency at his place in Hollywood called La Poubelle. Then I did a residency up at this hotel in Malibu which was pretty sick. Um. So yeah and then I and I did my first like two, I played some shows in Australia… like three or four shows in Australia… and then did the same, in New York…. played my first solo show in New York, my first solo show in San Diego and my first solo show in L. A. as the band which was cool. That Goldfish show was a warm-up for that mini-tour that I was doing. It’s funny to think back to 2021 because it was still really difficult with touring because you could travel and stuff, but if someone in your crew got Covid, you’d have to cancel shows. So a lot of tours and stuff got canceled and push back and mucked around in 2021. And in 2022, things were a little bit more set in stone insofar as like even if someone did get sick it doesn’t mean the end of the tour. This year I did my first proper tour of the US with the band. We toured the Western half of the U. S. which was pretty sick.
Blurred Culture: How was it performing back home in Australia?
Gabriel: It was cool, I mean it was a vibe. We played up in Byron Bay and played in Sydney. Sydney was still pretty bad with Covid rules and regulations. They were very, very strict. Everyone had to social distance and so the venues could only be at like 75% capacity or something like that. So the shows would “sell out”, but they technically didn’t. But was good! It’s always fun. This project… I feel like it’s very much what I like doing. It feels more in step with who I am and. everything.
Blurred Culture: Going back to the music … It’s because you were playing music that you wanted to perform.
Gabriel: Exactly. You know… it’s funny because I know that a lot of people might be aware of my music or whatever, although it’s kind of changing a little bit now …know me because of my Jagwar Ma stuff… but I actually played in a band before that and I played in this high school band called Ghost Wood, which I started when I was like 15. And we like signed a record deal when we were like 15. We toured up until I was about 19, which is when I sort of started Jagwar Ma. We loved My Bloody Valentine and we loved The Cure and T.V. On The Radio and it was sort of like that sort of space. So, I kind of always really liked that more. And the guitar has been just a mainstay in my life. It’s like this other appendage. So I really wanted to make what I think is kind of… cool guitar music, you know?
Blurred Culture: I hear you. On your latest EP, you did a cover of “Like A Rolling Stone”, and I really love that whole minute-and-a-half intro of you basically just jamming out on the guitar. Is that the kind of stuff we can expect from your new music? Did you find more inspiration in classic rock like Bob Dylan?
Gabriel: Yeah… I mean I love Bob Dylan… um …. So that EP is all recorded live up on a mountain. That was why it was…
Blurred Culture: Really? That’s very cool.
Gabriel: Yeah, I’ll send you there’s actually live footage of that whole thing being recorded as well. I was just so frustrated. I think I did it at like the end of 2020 because I had this handful of shows that got pushed back by like three months because of the pandemic and I was just feeling really frustrated. I was like, “I just want to go and play some shows.” So, I did this thing called “Golf Alpha Bravo Heaven on Earth” and we recorded up on a mountain by the Griffith Observatory. Recorded the whole thing live. It’s so funny what I actually did to record it because I literally used a bunch of cell phones.
Blurred Culture: It sounds good!
Gabriel: It’s crazy. iPhone voice notes. It’s like one of the most underrated things … For real, one of the most underrated recording things. They must have this compression algorithm or something in them and if you set them up properly and obviously make sure that there’s no wind or anything blowing on them, you can get a very passable sound for like recording. And if you have multiples of them and you can kind of like just slate them. One near a guitar app and one near a drum kit and then one near your vocal microphone, near the bass, or whatever. Then you just get everyone to send their voice note over to you… because everyone has a phone… Depending on how many people you have with you have like a four-track recorder, you know? We literally climbed up the mountain with a drum kit. um and the guitar amplifier and everything in the national park. You should watch the footage is pretty sick.
Blurred Culture: I will definitely check it out. To be honest with you, it sounds like a studio recording. Maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough. Maybe there are some imperfections that could tell it was recorded outside. But, it sounds like a studio recording.
Gabriel: It was recorded live … completely live… out on the mountain. And the funniest thing is we were laughing cause we were lucky really because it wasn’t windy. But because the air was so still and because there were no walls, the sound is really dead … and we were like up on top of the mountain so it wasn’t reverberating off the canyons or anything like that. I remember Spenser who was playing drums… he’s a really great drummer… We were just looking at each other and were like the drums sounded really great. It was a surprisingly dead drum sound. And I was like this
Blurred Culture: You didn’t need dampeners for the drum kit.
Gabriel: No, it was weird. It was just like a funny thing. It’s kind of like playing in the flats of the desert. The sound would actually be quite dead because there’s nothing for the sound to echo off. It’s the opposite of like an anechoic chamber. It’s quite funny. I mean I had no idea what it was gonna sound like. It was a complete experiment. But I knew that the footage would look pretty good. I had a good feeling about the footage of it. So that was like a project that I did in 2021 as well. But yeah… I do love Bob Dylan. There’s this great live record I think from the Royal Albert Hall. I think. It’s like the bootleg series and there’s this recording of “Just Like Thom Thumbs Blues” that’s live. And it’s just the groove of it and the drums and just everything. It’s kind of like the early area of him going electric sort of thing. And it’s like 66 people still really struggling with that idea of him playing anyway. And it’s just so good. It’s just got this real swagger to it. The drummer and the way he hits the crash.
Blurred Culture: It’s kind of funny that you’re finding inspiration from the thing that everyone hates about Bob Dylan.
Gabriel: I think a lot of people that were there, like in real-time, like the old folky people that sort of believed in the message of whatever he was doing. I feel like they kind of got their wires crossed a little bit. They sort of thought of music as this real political engine… which it definitely can be…It can be that weapon. But actually, it’s like it’s supposed to be enjoyable. I mean it can convey a message, but I think it’s like… you know… Richie Havens … I mean I love Richie havens very very much. He’s like one of my favorite musicians. He’s definitely a warrior for peace. There’s no doubt about it. Deeply, I’d probably like to think of myself in that way. I’m a total pacifist, and I always advocate for those things. But I think it’s more complicated than that always. And I think that the older kind of first generation of those kinds of 60s musicians, like Richie Havens and Dylan, and you know, obviously the Beatles and stuff like that, they were kind of very aware of that. And it’s later on by the like later 60s, people start getting a little bit… I don’t know… confused and carried away.
Blurred Culture: And people beginning to… I guess… forget about having fun with the music and maybe getting a little too “serious” about it.
Gabriel: I think they become too serious about things that don’t need to be. And then also. just have fun with music for the sake of having fun as well, you know? Around the Beatnik era, people are really trying to solve the question of like, what is the American dream and what is the identity, and what is the actual point of going to war… And. why did what were the fruits of fighting in the Second World War, you know? Like why did that even happen? What is life? I think that that’s a really healthy line of questioning. You always want to make sure that life is valuable to you and that, you know, you’re not just sort of “living for the man” kind of thing., I believe that very strongly. I’ve realized that it’s part of my personality. I really value my freedom. I value my independence. I like to do pretty much whatever I wanna do so long as it’s not impacting anyone else.
Blurred Culture: I think everyone’s had that time of reflection over the past couple of years. I mean freedom and everything. Cultural freedom. Freedom to mask or not mask. Medical freedom. Monetary freedom. I mean I can go down this rabbit hole some other time, but anybody who’s true to themselves should have been thinking about freedom on so many different levels and I totally agree with you.
Gabriel: Yeah, it’s very relevant for now. This is a bit kind of like “grumpy men talking” in an interview, but I feel like the especially like the mask mandate kind of thing, I think that it was kind of healthy that there were some people pushing back on it because it’s not that I didn’t have a problem with it… it didn’t bother me… but I did think it was healthy from a cultural point of view that there were some people that were actually going, “I don’t wanna do that,” and. “I don’t want to be told to do that.” Because, if there aren’t people that are like that, you give them an inch and they take a mile. There wasn’t enough of that in Australia, for example, and they absolutely took advantage of how diligent everyone was. You couldn’t even travel from state to state in Australia.
Editor’s Note: We spent a few minutes talking politics and such but only scratched the surface, and I didn’t think it would properly set forth either of our convictions to publish any of what was said without further delving into the subject matter. Perhaps, another time.
Gabriel: I think of myself as just being a person on this planet that is just putting one foot in front of the other. There’s not much other consideration beyond that. I like doing my music. I want to be able to play my music. I wanna live my life and, I don’t really want to bother anyone, and I don’t really feel like anything in my life bothers anyone. As long as I have the freedom and the right to do that and go and explore. Just being interested in life and nature and just walking and seeing trees and whatever. That’s what I am 100%. The only thing I really care about in all of that stuff is environmental stuff that’s sort of the number one thing that is important to me. All of the identity stuff just falls away to me.
Blurred Culture: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what we can expect from Golf Alpha Bravo. I know you’re in the process of finishing, your album. Do you want to talk a little about the sonics of it? Is it going to have a surf rock, laid-back vibe that you’ve had on the prior releases, or are you doing any change of direction?
Gabriel: This one I wanted to make a little bit more rocking. I kind of wanted it to be more rocking and deeper in terms of tempo and guitar tones. There are elements of the first record that are almost jazz influenced. I guess I was still working out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do something in the trio form set because that’s what I always like, but I was probably listening… you know, there are not as many effects on the guitar and the guitar is quite “reverby”… almost like the earlier sixties, you know? I guess I was taking influence from things like The Zombies and stuff. A lot of like BadBadNotGood and those sorts of things. And then someone asked me how I would describe that and I said “surf blues” and then that kind of just like stuck and gets referenced a lot in interviews. So, I guess this record I probably want to just explore that idea a little bit further like what surf blues is. It’s kind of like. Kind of surf rocky um and kind of bluesy. They’re kind of like the two music genres I really love. I don’t know… somehow I try and make those two things work? It’s halfway between two but it definitely is more rocking.
Blurred Culture: Definitely more GAB.
Gabriel: Right. I mean I think I think the first album was a pretty good step towards me defining some things that I wanted to do. You know? I think there’s one song on there that has one synth on it. I don’t have any aversion to synths or anything. I love electronic music. I played in an electronic band for six years. But … First of all, it’s not my area of expertise. Second of all, I don’t really like when the guitar is just a flavor and it’s not actually driving the music. One of my main muses for the project … I want to make songs that kids want to learn the hard parts for. You know? The same way you want to learn that led Zeppelin, riff, or whatever. Even on the first record, I had fans hitting me up being like, “Oh what’s the chord in Blue Wave?” or, “how do you do this thing?” and, “Can you show us the tuning for this?” I was like, “Hell yeah!” That made me really feel like I was contributing because I wanted kids who are picking up the guitar to not just be like learning riffs that are decades old. I want them to be trying to learn things that are new. But in order for that to be the case, they’ve got to be juicy kinds of riffs and like cool things. Funnily enough, it’s like a big thing that I do keep in the back of my mind when I’m like, “Is this sick to play, and would someone want to learn how to play this as well?
Blurred Culture: Kind of reaching for a bit of legacy? Leaving your own musical imprint or history with kids?
Gabriel: I mean, I don’t know if I should be so bold and say that I want to leave a legacy. I guess I feel that at the moment, there is sort of this schism that’s happened in the guitar world where there are like dudes that are on the front cover of guitar magazines that are formidable players… amazing players… And then there are guys in a cool indie band that look great and have great guitar tones and all of that stuff, but they’re not shredding. You know,? Shredding kind of died really. It sort of died in the 2000s. There are exceptions of course […] but I feel like there hasn’t really been anything like that in a while, you know? I come from a different background […] and. I just wanna put my thing on it, you know?
Blurred Culture: When can we expect to hear the new music?
Gabriel: I’ll probably get [the album] mixed either in January or in February. And then, after that, I guess I’ll just roll it out over the first half of the year. But I really want to get my sort of vinyl and stuff all set up as well. I really I love all of the digital and streaming platforms, but I have like a little army of fans that know about what I’m doing and they’re very supportive and I have a relationship with almost all of them […] I guess probably because this isn’t my first project, I wouldn’t say I’m like trying to get like crazy monthly listeners numbers and things like that. I don’t really care about that. I just want to make sick music and I want to be able to put it in the hands of people that like it. I still think that word of mouth is probably the best way for music to find people. Social media is great … I think it’s also not very good for your mental health.
Blurred Culture: Tell me about it.
Gabriel: A lot of people really struggle with it, especially a lot of young kids. Their brains are still developing and so I don’t really wanna contribute to that in a way. I sort of think [social media] it’s like a business card. Just tap in. There’s a link to my website there. If you wanna, to have a direct relationship via email, just email me. We don’t even have to mess with any of the social media stuff. I kind of almost run it like a business in that way, you know? I’ve been building the band but I’ve also been building the business of the band and there’s like a lot of in that sense, I probably look to a lot of like independent skate brands and things like that that just do things really well. I really love the way that they have like a direct relationship with their homies that wanna wear their shit, you know?
Blurred Culture: Kind of organic.
Gabriel: It’s kind of like organic, but what you put the emphasis on, you know? I think sometimes people can put the emphasis on all of the optics and all of that. But people can also just, you know … like King Gizzard. Their social media footprint is actually vastly smaller than they actually, literally are as a band. They’re almost at the point of selling out stadiums and their follower numbers and things like that are probably less than some of the influencers on social media. That’s more important, especially in music. We’re not influencers. We’re artists. I would much rather have people turning up to my shows than have a bunch of people who follow me cause they like what shoes I’m wearing, you know? So that’s my focus. There are some people on the label side…. they’re like, “Oh. you know we want to build your social media following, and it’s like this step that’s like an intermediary step between and it’s like then once we’ve done that then we can promote like we can get record sales,” and stuff like that. And it’s like… I know people that have hundreds of thousands, you know, even millions of followers, and like they don’t get they don’t sell out shows. Some people follow you because they just like they like looking at you, you know?
Blurred Culture: 90% of social media is a lie.
Gabriel: Well, a lot of it is just visual, you know? It’s a visual thing. It’s not so much about listening. And that’s the thing. You know… I’m sitting here on a beanbag. I’ve got this magazine rack full of vinyl. I love my vinyl collection. I’ve been collecting over the last couple of years […] I’ve got about 30 records.
Blurred Culture: You’re very selective.
Gabriel: Very… yeah… very. I mean… There are actually not that many vinyl records I think where you really want to kind of listen to them from start to finish. And I think that was a big… that’s a big inspiration for me as well. Making a record actually listenable. Do you know what I mean? From start to finish. I feel like The Cure records like Disintegration. I’m hugely inspired by Disintegration at the moment. I’ve been listening to it, honestly, pretty much for a year straight. It’s so good and it doesn’t sound anything like my music really but it’s almost like it’s a photo negative of it. Mine’s all kind of beach and like golden and sort of inspired. Disintegration is just one of the most wintery-sounding kinds of records. But, I love the world that he built. He’s just such an amazing world-builder. And then he also is able to tie in these great little pop bangers in there. And he’s just, yeah, it’s just like masterful. It’s a masterful record.
Hopefully, Golf Alpha Bravo’s new music will be just as masterful.