He's jittery, maybe a little drunk. Before he takes the stage with Team Growl at Sunset Junction, he giggles, handing out pink bubblegum “It’s a Girl!” cigars to the audience to welcome his new band member. Matthew Winters seems to be in no hurry to get onstage as he chats casually with the friends who’ve gathered for the show.
But when he does finally take the stage, playing a few light notes on his acoustic guitar, his earlier facade changes. He’s stone-faced, focused. As he plays more, things speed up. He screws up his face as he yells and sings into the mic, closing his eyes and raising his eyebrows to reach the high notes. His performance is completely unpolished — not sloppy, just spur-of-the-moment. Winters, 27, says it’s the best way he knows how to perform — honestly and from the heart.
“I don’t sing right. There are ways to sing from the gut — like, that don’t work your throat. If you watch close, I get this huge vein that pops out of my neck — I don’t think that’s natural. I’m not a good singer,” he says as he sucks down a cigarette before the show. “I’m not a good musician by any stretch of thought.”
The self-taught musician (whom many know as the door guy who takes money at Sunset Junction shows) is by no means a huge deal in Spokane, but the fans he has recruited here are missionaries. Converts. And they’re dying to tell you that Matthew Winters’s music is the most honest they’ve heard locally.
That its rough edges and ragged moments are what make people love it so much.
Winters’s music is composed of fleeting boy-thoughts.
They’re songs about broken noses, bar fights and gutter-punk girlfriends. Ballads about getting drunk in alleys. Bragging, lying. Dreams of stabbing another man. But onstage, it’s clear that the music — masculine and guttural — is made up of true stories.
“Every song I’ve ever written — it’s a diary,” he says. “In fact, I was just telling my girlfriend tonight, ‘Don’t ever question my fidelity — and if you ever do, just listen to one of my records. It will tell you everything I’ve ever done and why.’ It’s kind of a double-edged sword.”
Blunt and in-your-face, Winters’s stuff could so easily be punk or hardcore. But he’s tried that, he says.
“All these [metal] bands I was in … it just wasn’t what I was trying to go for,” he says. “So I ended up going from, like, some of the most severe metal … but I just turned into an acoustic kid.
“I think acoustic guitar is one of the most raw things you can do. It’s one of the rawest instruments. Rawer than any pig-squealin’ metal band you can think of, because it’s just full-on heart.”
Today, years and years after writing his first lyrics in journals, and long after recording his first album The Piss Sessions, Winters brings something completely different to the local singer-songwriter scene. Where others croon and serenade a crowd, Winters throws his words at listeners.
get so stressed out when people are talking in a bar. Some people just
get all prima donna about it and storm offstage and are, like, ‘They
don’t even care about my music — it’s so heartfelt,” Winters says. “But
just because you’re an acoustic artist doesn’t mean you can’t manage a
crowd, you know?”
Download Matthew Winters' song "Thoughts in a Wooden Box" here.