INTERVIEW: Canadian artist Windmills gets in-depth on the making of his new album

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photo: Joshua Jerrid

Kelowna, British Columbia-based solo artist Cory Myraas, better known by his stage name Windmills, is in the process of recording his second full-length Measures slated for release later this year. Known for his ambient-experimental sound and intimate performances, the Canadian loop artist describes his new record as different, having evolved into a full-band sound. Taking his stage name from the energy conversion concept of a literal windmill, Myraas takes the emotion from his personal failures and successes and transforms them into something beautiful. His ability to captivate an audience through heartfelt lyrics and emotive soundscapes lends itself well to setting himself apart from his peers. His talents have taken him on tours across Canada and to festival stages where he has performed alongside some of the biggest names in music. We were able to catch up with Windmills who filled us in on the process of recording his new album, what fans can expect to hear and the exciting plans he has for the future.

You’ve recently done some work with Streaming Café, you were a part of Golden Sound Festival in British Columbia and you recently filmed a music video for “Face To A Name.” It seems like you’re everywhere, how do you manage it all as a one man act?
Well about three years ago I made a deal with the…no. This has always been my passion. And it goes without saying that “windmills keep moving” has turned into my own personal philosophy. So for me, I do try to be everywhere, and do as much as I can. Sometimes I take on far more than one human should handle, but that’s where I thrive. There are periods of time where I sleep very little and take care of myself to the manner a small child would, but I think that’s necessary sometimes. At the end of the day you get what you put into your passion, and I feel as though you need to continuously—and for me, often recklessly—throw yourself at the mercy of your craft and passion, and see what the universe responds with.

I was introduced to your music after the release of Keep Moving in 2012. Since then you’ve performed all over Canada and alongside some big names in the indie scene. How has your music evolved since that debut album?
It’s always interesting, thinking about how my music has changed and evolved. With Keep Moving we recorded it all just as if it was a live show, just with some added production and polishing. So the instrumentation was just my guitar, floor tom and tambourine. Yes, we embellished tones, but at its core it was a very simple album. Since then, I’ve made some unconscious decision to add some new elements to my set-up—to throw myself out of my element and challenge myself to evolve along with my sound. So I added a new loop station, new pedals, I got rid of my floor tom, I have a sample pad now, I’ve started working with Ableton and backing tracks—all things I never thought I would do when I recorded Keep Moving.

My sound has definitely evolved in terms of incorporating these elements in my own way, rather than just passing them off as a new noise to throw around. The songs are still written in the same way as those first nine were, now I just have new tools, and hopefully new knowledge, of how to use my instruments and gadgets to create my noises and sounds.

A large part of bringing a vision of an album to life is choosing the right place to record. What brought you to EchoPlant Studio?
I have to give credit where credit is due. I found out about EchoPlant Sound and met Ryan Worsley through my friends Van Damsel. They happened to be in studio with him while I was touring in the same area. I stopped in to check out the studio and sabotage their recordings by singing on them and met Ryan. I was instantly impressed with the layout of the studio, Ryan’s professionalism and the sonic possibilities I thought could be tapped into. I remember leaving him with a copy of my EP Tilting and we touched base a little while later about working together in the future. It’s coming up here that one year ago we recorded “Face To A Name” and the rest has been an incredible journey and experience. Ryan works with some amazing talent and his roster of bands all seem to be doing great things in the Canadian music scene, I’m extremely thrilled to throw my name into the equation.

Your new full-length is titled Measures. What does that mean to you? What sort of concepts is this record dealing with?
Measures comes from a Jeanette Winterson quote from one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read, called Written On The Body. The full quote is, “Why is the measure of love… loss?” I toyed with the idea of that entire line as an album name, and then the idea of “Love | Loss” before realizing that every song on the new album deals in these measures of love, loss, existence, nostalgia and the songs all deal with them in these little bursts of extremes. The album for me has transformed my life over the past few years of writing and performing and squeezed out the most important core themes. I think there’s even a happy song or two on the album! The measures of our experiences, good or bad, all kind of poured out into this album. Once I started calling it Measures, even as working title, I knew nothing else would ever come close to describing the record.

Although you’re known for the intimate feel of your stripped-down instrumentation, you describe the new record as having a full-band sound. What brought about the change in the way you create? What can be expected of your live performances?
I wanted to push myself, and Ryan pushed me as well. I wrote the songs the same way as my old songs, stripped down, and then workshopped them, demoed them and reworked them, scrapped songs, completely rewrote songs, until they became the songs you’ll hear on the record. The beauty of working in a bigger studio was that there was more room for experimentation with different instruments, there’s some instrumentation on this record I never would’ve thought of. I’m excited to start sharing them. My live show is completely new, but I can still perform these songs stripped down and intimate like my old live show, so depending on the venue and the audience you can hear the songs in completely different ways depending on the night. Working with backing tracks and triggering samples has really allowed me to focus on the physical performance as well, I’m not as constricted as I may have been before, so it’s a brand new challenge every performance. Three months into 2015 and I’m still barely scratching the surface of where I want to be, this will be a fun year.

Is there any song on this album that resonates with you more deeply than others?
There’s a few that always resonate, for different reasons too. “Face To A Name” for me was the first song that started this new “Windmills” you could call it, and just the support I received after it was released blew me away. It’s also one of my favorite songs to play live.

“Her’s Place” is the most personal song I’ve written, and it holds an extremely close place in my heart because of what themes it deals with. “Shame” is a brand new song, the newest song I’ve written and the last song I wrote for the album. It’s half-love song, half-anti-love song, and it’s definitely sitting in a new place for me as a songwriting, across the board. And there’s an omnichord in it—I love omnichords.

You’re hitting the road with Mark Mills this spring; but knowing how busy you are there is sure to be more on the way. What can you share with me about what is in the works for the warmer months?
Without giving too much away, literally five days after I get back from touring with Mark I’m heading back out east for another two weeks. I’ve got a showcase in early May in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, which has a lot of independent artists as well as big-name Canadian bands. I’m an Ontario boy so I’m excited to play in my home province for the first time. After that, I’m heading back into the studio to finish the album, and then its festival season. I’ll be literally everywhere this summer, so I’m excited to see how it all plays out.

What is the likelihood of a U.S. tour in the near future?
Very good. Always in the works and always reaching out to make it a reality, I’ve made some great contacts the last few months, and while it may not happen in 2015 with the new record and focusing on domestic touring, 2016 holds great promise to get me into the U.S. I keep getting contacted from fans all over the U.S. asking me to come play, and I don’t want to not play, so I’ll make it happen. I also grew up in Florida for seven years so I feel like part of me has this unspoken duty to come back and play in the U.S.

Is there anything you would like to say to both your old fans and the new ones who are seeing your name for the first time now?
To those reading this and hearing me for the first time, hello. You can expect more noises and sounds from me, more terrible jokes when I play, along with some questionable dance moves on stage. And if you really want to get to know me you can find me literally everywhere; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.

To the old fans/friends, I can’t thank you enough for following this journey and keeping up with me over the past three-and-a-half years. You continuously humble me with your support and by reaching out on personal levels. I’ve made some great friendships across this globe, and I’m at a loss for words sometimes thinking about it. I’m thrilled for you to hear this new album, and to eventually get a chance to play in your city.