A conversation with Winchester 7 & the Runners about “Heart of the Golden Mystics”

Q: Hi! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the album “Heart of the Golden Mystics” and the overall concept or theme you wanted to convey?

A: Hey! Absolutely! So, during the pandemic we watched a lot of British mysteries. We ended up being inspired to write a song, Miss Merry’s Memoriam, that we imagined would fit one of them.

With a deceased established, we thought to then introduce a killer. So, we wrote a sequel to our song, The Saint Simon Killer…named The Saint Simon Returns, of course.

That was when we decided there was more story to tell and, before we knew it…we had a concept album on our hands.

Q: How would you describe the musical style and sound of the album?

A: Well, I’m usually at a loss to describe our style beyond calling it “indie ukulele rock”. It’s solidly indie; I play an electric ukulele, though you may not always know it; and we are firmly rock oriented. Beyond that, we usually try to mix things up.

Q: What was the creative process like during the making of “Heart of the Golden Mystics”?

A: It was a lot of fun! We live with quite a bit of distance between us these days. Jack’s over in the UK, Phil lives in Amsterdam, and I’m in Atlanta. But, with pandemic restrictions easing as we started, we were able to get together in-person once again!

The guys still used their home studios for some of it, but it was great to be able to be in the same room with one another! It proved a sense of normalcy, really. I think that our entire last release was written and recorded entirely remote of one another while in lockdown! So, this was a very different, very welcome experience.

Q: Are there any specific tracks on the album that hold special significance to you as a band? If so, what are they and why?

A: I think that we all have our favorites from it. Mine is Your House of Cards. It’s a song that I think anyone who’s ever hated their job can relate to.

Jack really likes Married for the Money. I like it as well, but he gets a laugh that he got a writing credit out of it though it was written, near in its entirety, while I was quarantined with COVID and watching Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols mini-series, Pistols.

Finally, Phil is quite happy for us to have covered New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. He’s been after us to cover something from Peter Hook, a big influence of his, for a while.

Q: What challenges did you face while working on the album, and how did you overcome them?

A: Well, apart from my quarantined moment, I think that our biggest challenge was towards the end of the album. At some point, we were beginning to get a little tired of writing about a single theme. So, we took a short break and ended up thinking of The Sum of Our Mistakes, which imagined a moment of self-reflection from our killer.

It proved a tough one to record though too. In fact, we spent so long in production on it that it’s hard for me to listen to let alone play, even now.

Fortunately, as we approached the last song that we would record for the album, Things Would Never Be the Same, we started having fun again and, I think, ended up finishing strong.

Q: How do you feel this album represents the evolution and growth of Winchester 7 & the Runners as a band?

A: I don’t know that we’ve thought about it in such specific terms. We did work more closely with our mix engineer, Jon Paz, on this one; with him and I sharing co-executive producer credits. I think that that closer collaboration and some of the choices we made around pursuing an album-length narrative and leaning into our earlier analogue synth tones were certainly something though.

Q: What do you hope listeners will take away from the album and the overall experience of listening to the album?

A: A desire to listen to it again and explore some of our other releases would be quite nice! But, overall, we set out with each release to produce something that you can tap your feet to and may find yourself humming later on. I hope that we delivered on that.

Q: Are there any particular influences or musical inspirations that played a role in shaping the sound and direction of the album?

A: I’m not sure about the album, specifically. We have a large amount of influences though spanning classic rock, new wave, punk, post-punk, and alternative genres.

Q: What are your plans for promoting and touring in support of “Heart of the Golden Mystics”?

A: We’ve been doing some pop-up shows rather than having an official tour schedule. That sort of flexibility seems to fit us well and allows us time to work on, and occasionally live workshop, some new material that we’re developing for a follow-up release due, tentatively, later in the year. With any luck, we’ll be back chatting with you again soon.