The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Winterpills. Courtesy photo.


When: Saturday, Jan. 10, 9 p.m.
Where: The Press Room, 77 Daniel St., Portsmouth 
Tickets: $7 at

Winterpills play favorites on Echolalia

By Michael Witthaus

Echolalia began as a way for Philip Price and Flora Reed to keep busy while their band mates welcomed babies or made solo albums. Its journey from spare acoustic covers collection to lush Winterpills album was a result of two factors. 

“We had all the time in the world, plus we’d done a lot of upgrades on our studio, which is in our house so it’s ridiculously easy to record when we want to,” Price said in a recent phone interview. “We kept adding instruments — we got ambitious.”  
What Reed envisioned as a “stopgap” took over a year to finish, eventually including all of Winterpills — guitarist Dennis Crommett, bass player Brian Akey and drummer Dave Hower. 
It’s mostly a Price/Reed duo effort, however. The only full Winterpills track on Echolalia predates the new album’s studio work: “The Wolf is on the Hill,” from Beck’s sheet music collection Song Reader. 
“It was a request from NPR,” said Price, “but the idea of a covers album wasn’t even a thing until New Year 2013.”
Echolalia mixes recognizable artists with unappreciated gems. A few were deliberately chosen to spotlight musical contemporaries, like “One Day” from Sharon Van Etten and “Museum of Flight” by Damien Jurado. 
“Oh, we could do a whole other album that focuses on that idea,” said Price with a laugh.
Some were beefed up from spare originals, like Nick Drake’s “Time of No Reply” and Buddy Holly’s “Learning the Game.” Holly recorded the latter in a hotel room a couple of days before he died in a plane crash. Price’s first exposure to it was a 1972 Leo Kottke version — “with his big open tuning and terrible voice.” The fuzzy guitars and layered vocal take on Echolalia resembles neither.
XTC’s “Train Running Low on Soul Coal” is similarly recast. 
“I always wanted to perform it but I couldn’t do all those weird parts. I wouldn’t even know how to fake it,” said Price. “I took what I wanted from the song, which is either good or bad. I like the way it came out.”
Similarly, a downtempo version of “Bye Bye Pride” buffs away the studio excess of the original. “There are production issues with these ’80s records that troubled so many people, shit that does not translate, like gated reverbs on the drums,” said Price of the 1987 Go-Betweens track. 
“Cry Baby Cry” is relatively obscure by Beatles’ standards, part of the reason Price is drawn to it. 
“It’s a throwaway according to Lennon, which means he didn’t know what he was doing. I think when John Lennon is less conscious of what he’s doing he’s writing better than when he’s really trying to pay homage to some kind of rock and roll history or god.”
Price’s favorite on the record is “Open Your Eyes,” drawn from Jules Shear’s 1989 collaboration with Marty Wilson-Piper of The Church. 
“It’s got such a great hook,” he said. “Sometimes there’s one lyric that makes the whole song. ... He says, ‘Don’t hide from me inside your own mind’ — I  latched onto that right away.”
He’d tried to cover it before. 
“Years ago, an earlier attempt was real power pop [and] it didn’t really … convey the shimmeryness of the song,” said Price. 
The spark this time around came from Winterpills’ trademark element: the vocal interplay between Price and his life and musical partner, “that harmony with Flora where she’s going up and I’m going down.”
The upcoming date in Portsmouth is a Winterpills show. Work on a new batch of originals began a couple weeks ago. 
“We’re doing it in another studio, which is refreshing. We’ve engineered ourselves the past three albums, and I think we’re tired of it.” 
As seen in the January 8, 2015 issue of the Hippo.


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