Image credit: Jordankmunns
Six-piece Sydney collective Winston Surfshirt have spent the last six years establishing themselves as one of Australia’s finest indie-R&B exports – but this October, as part of Night At The Barracks, they are set to return to where it all began, their hometown in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
It’s been a long time coming for the band – and especially the eponymous frontman – who cut their teeth on the stages of every Manly band room that would have them in their early years. But they haven’t had a chance to perform in the beachside suburb for half a decade – a fact they are keen to change in a few months.
Thanks to their dreamy, lackadaisical combination of west coast hip-hop and psych-pop and their brand of vintage rockstardom – that is led more by an openness to share their music with as many people as possible and less with ego – they have amassed an unshakeable, loyal following in every corner of the globe. Unassuming cult heroes seems to be the descriptor, and we think it fits perfectly.
Winston Surfshirt initially began as the solo project of the eponymous frontman, singer, producer and rapper, before calling upon some of his closest friends and other local artists to become the musical collective we hear today.
It was 2017 break through single ‘Be About You’ that saw Winston Surfshirt truly turning heads, from there sold out tours across Australia and Europe were just the beginning.
Two huge records have followed, 2017’s Sponge Cake and 2019’s Apple Crumble, earning praise from the likes of Zane Lowe and Elton John, and ensuring the band are an act you cannot ignore.
On the live stage, that reputation is taken to new heights. While Winston Surfshirt may sound good coming out of your speakers, they sound even better on stage. As tight as it is raucous, as versatile as they are smooth, this Winston Surfshirt homecoming is going to be one to remember.
Before they take the stage this October, we sat down with Winston Surfshirt to chat all things Manly homecoming and what fans can expect from their upcoming Night At The Barracks show.
What is Night At The Barracks?
Making its home in North Head Manly, perched high above Sydney Harbour, The Barracks is Sydney’s newest outdoor venue, taking performance outdoors and under the stars. The unique venue will give you the chance to experience your favourite acts in a whole new and unforgettable way.
Its inaugural program of events, Night At The Barracks, will bring 16 nights of music and performance to the venue across September and October.
Alongside Winston Surfshirt’s return home to the Northern Beaches, Night At The Barracks will also host Jessica Mauboy, David Campbell, James Morrison, Josh Pyke, The Rubens, Something For Kate, Australian Rock Collective (ARC) and their Beatles tribute, and a stack more.
Winston Surfshirt on returning home for Night At The Barracks this October
You’ve spent the last few years touring Australia, and the world, how does it feel to be coming home for Night at the Barracks in a few months?
Winston Surfshirt: “Honestly, can’t wait. We’ve only been as far as New Zealand since the pandemic. So many cancelled shows, whether it’s due to Covid or the weather, and as much as I can’t wait to get overseas to play more shows, there is nothing like a show in the hometown.
“We all live about five to ten minutes from the Barracks so it’s going be a special one, I don’t think we’ve played in Manly for four or five years, so I’m itching for it. Managed to go have a look at the sight recently – actually I’ve been up North Head so many times – but I’ve never been into the actual Barracks. I can’t believe there’s never been a gig there, it’s so perfect and going to be really special.”
For anyone who might not be familiar with the Northern Beaches and is thinking of heading out for your gig – what makes the area so special?
“I’m originally from England, so when my friends and family come here most of them end up staying. For my Aussie friends, it’s over the bridge which can be incredibly daunting. But just get a ferry, it’s 15 minutes!
“For us, there’s nothing like playing in Manly, and to be able to do it in such a dope spot is going to be great.”
You’d definitely have some incredible memories from across the years, but what are some of your favourite memories from those early days playing around the local area?
“Most people from Manly would know us from ‘El Beau Room’, we used to play there every Sunday for three hours. It’s a tiny little place and it would get wild, before that it was just me and a guitar and a loop pedal at 4 Pines, Pony Room, literally anywhere. Funniest was probably rocking up on a houseboat at the office and playing a gig on the roof.”
What can fans expect from your Night at the Barracks show?
“I’m coming in the crowd, and we are dancing! We’ll play some new songs, some old songs and sneak in a cover or two. Maybe even bring back some of the OG covers! Three-hour set, let’s do it.”
You’ve been steadily releasing singles since you dropped Apple Crumble, teaming up with some incredible and diverse artists along the way – how would you describe this era for Winston Surfshirt?
“I think we are still ‘just’ in the same era, the next era is still to come I feel.”
Who or what is currently influence and/or inspirations this era of Winston Surfshirt?
“Honestly, I don’t know too much new music. I never want to sound like anything that’s going on so I try to just stick to my own lane, but everything inspires me really and if I hear something new that I love it’ll be on repeat.”
What do you love about making music? What first led you down this path, and what is it that keeps bringing you back? Has it changed over the years?
“That’s it really, I generally just love making music. I love playing live but really it is making the music that gets me the most excited. When I moved to Australia, I was about 12 and I became obsessed with music and it became everything about me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing songs.”
Winston Surfshirt will perform at Night At The Barracks, Manly NSW on Thursday 6 October. The Barracks will host their inaugural series of gigs, Night At The Barracks, from Friday 9 September until Sunday 9 October. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.com.au.
Winston Surfshirt’s new single ‘Maybe I’m In Love With You’ featuring Talib Kweli is out now.