Cold Weather Company
Photo: Adele Sakey

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW | Cold Weather Company Talk Trouble, Music, and ChapStick

A few days ago, alt-folk trio Cold Weather Company released the music video for “Way Up,” a song about altering your point of view rather than surrendering to discouraging circumstances.

“Way Up” is a beautiful song suffused with delicious three-part harmonies, along with an alluring melody, simultaneously encouraging and refreshing. Put simply, it makes you feel better. The song is the first new release from Cold Weather Company, since dropping their Find Light LP early in the year.

CelebMix sat down with Cold Weather Company to discover how they got together, what they can’t live without, and what’s next for them musically.

What’s Cold Weather Company’s musical backstory? And how did you come to get together?

Jeff: The backstory is three individual singer songwriters finding each other through the Rutgers/New Brunswick music scene, collaborating to formulate a unique sound that blends influences, three distinct voices, and three distinct styles of playing.

Brian and I met by chance when I was a freshman at Rutgers, practicing on a bench for an open mic night. Brian, a senior, walked by on his way to class carrying the same style of guitar, wearing the same brand of shoes, and an obscure band shirt that happened to be one of my favorite artists. We introduced ourselves, jammed a bit, and exchanged numbers. We were on and off in touch for the next two years, occasionally meeting up to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another, and during these two years we met Steve at a monthly open mic night that we attended. I approached Steve and got his number after watching him perform because I was really impressed and figured it may be a good idea to stay in touch with him. About a year later, in the fall of 2013, the three of us decided to get together and make some music, and right away we were off to writing our first song.

Steve: After that point, while practicing in my building on campus, a friend came by and asked if we were a band and if we’d play their upcoming event. We said yes and the rest is history!

Who is in the band (names) and what instruments do they play? Who is the lead vocalist?

Jeff Petescia – upside down guitar/vocals. Brian Curry – guitar/vocals. Steve Shimchick – piano/vocals. When it comes to lead vocals, it’s a pretty even split between the three of us!

What are the dynamics of the band like? Does Cold Weather Company run like a democracy, everybody has a vote and majority rules? Or is it a benevolent dictatorship? Or something in between?

Our dynamic is pretty democratic, and while we can disagree on many things (which is expected when you put three creative people in a room together), there is a lot of respect, making decision-making a mature and normally smooth task. If one person is more connected to the song we’re working on, they do tend to take the lead in some cases regarding lyrics and structure. However, in other cases the formulation of the song is more of an even split. MDI (Mount Desert Island) is a good example of this, and you’ll notice each of us even have verses in the song.

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

Jeff: Probably in eighth grade when we were silly stringing cars outside of a movie theatre. I remember we tried sneaking in to Hills Have Eyes 3, and that didn’t work, so instead we loitered around until my friend had the brilliant idea of buying silly string. Some people were not happy with the art we made their vehicle into, so they chased us, caught us, and called the police. After the cops came they decided not to press charges, and we all got away with just a police phone call to each of our parents (so I guess we didn’t get in real trouble, but my friend’s mom screamed at us when she picked him up and that was terrifying). In hindsight though, those people overreacted and were ridiculous. It was silly string, and we were just a group of kids, bored living in suburbia. Calm down.

Brian: While it might not be the most trouble I’ve gotten into, I think one of the most fun to tell was when I was caught lighting smoke bombs with a friend in an abandoned warehouse when I was twelve or so. The building was set back from the road, but a passing patrol car spotted smoke coming out of a window and thought the building was on fire. The last thing the police probably expected to find upon entering the building was two goober middle schoolers chuckling over poofs of smoke on the ground, but that’s exactly what they got. The early 2000’s were weird (but some weirdness is probably attributable to myself as well). I learned a whole lot about the inner-workings of the North Brunswick Municipal Building during my community service hours, though!

Steve: I’ve never really thought about that too much, but I did get a Saturday-school in 7th grade. Now, if you’re not familiar with Saturday-school, basically you went to school on Saturday for doing something generally pretty bad, you know like the stuff you see in the movies (or so I thought). In my case, I was in a science class sitting next to a friend with a pair of scissors. I had the bright idea to take the electronic mouse wire and put it between the scissors and say “you won’t cut this wire” (because saying “you won’t x” was popular back then). Sure enough, he cut the wire! And, pun kind of intended, someone ratted on us. Even though we offered to replace the wire, Mr. Price insisted we receive the full extent of the discipline system. Sorry again, Mr. Price. Hollywood, I’m ready to turn this story into a feature film.

What are the three things you can’t live without?

Jeff: Three things I cannot live without are my guitars, soccer, and exercise in general. If family counts as a thing, they go in slot #1.

Brian: Yeah, if family and friends count, they’re number one. Followed by classical guitar, then my camera. If family is a given though, you better believe ChapStick is taking that third slot–they’ve had me hooked since middle school, and there’s no going back to those dry, chapped lips of the past.

Steve: These are good questions! Yeah I’m assuming family and friends are in that special #1 slot, but I also think it’d be tough to live without laughter/humor (read: the movie Elf), a piano, and even though I did for most of my life, Spotify.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

Jeff: Depends on the day/week, really. Am I in a Dave Mattthews phase that week? Or is it John Mayer? Grateful Dead? Decemberists? Radiohead? Blink 182? Etc, etc.

Brian: For me, it’s almost always either Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma,” or “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers

Steve: I’ve had the intro hum to “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris stuck in my head for a few years now, so that usually makes its way out! “My Girl” by The Temptations too! Really any oldie? Or “Last Nite” by The Strokes, basically the same thing.

What musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?

Jeff: Dave Matthews, Chad Stokes, John Mayer, Sam Beam (Iron and Wine ), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), and Thom Yorke (Radiohead). I’ve been told my voice sounds a bit like Colin Meloy the most, and I do think I do a decent impersonation of him. Guitar wise, definitely Dave Matthews #1.

Brian: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Luciano Pavarotti, Mama Cass (The Mamas and the Papas), Iron and Wine, Jimmy Buffett, Radical Face, Mumford and Sons, Brett Dennen, The White Buffalo – I could go on forever, but I’d still be forgetting some of them.

Steve: A lot of ground is covered by Two Door Cinema Club, Coldplay, Keane, Ólafur Arnalds, Muse, Matt Corby, Sleeping At Last, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Ben Folds, James Vincent McMorrow, and Jack Garratt.

Why make music? I mean what’s the point?

Jeff: Music is the only point, sometimes. I don’t mean that to sound dismal, but when all else seems to be going wrong, music is just always there. It is a need, an amazing outlet. For me, songs are little packages of issues and thoughts I get to assemble in a healthy way. Some I keep to myself while others I share, but regardless, it feels good to have a place to put those problems that we all experience.

Brian: For me, it’s the most cathartic form of self-therapy. I use songwriting as a way to work through my thoughts, worries, fears, hopes – everything is analyzed and explored. I say it often, but I like to think of songs as distillations of emotions or moments in our lives. Writing and recording a song is a way to capture that moment, and those feelings, forever.

Steve: Similar to what Jeff and Brian said, there’s a real special process in songwriting to express situations and emotions that you don’t get in too many other places. I also love the way music can connect you with others. I was recently listening to Coldplay’s live album from their A Head Full Of Dreams tour in Buenos Aires, and man it hit me pretty heavily! Partially because I was at their MetLife Stadium shows and have been a longtime Coldplay fan, but especially because you can just hear how much everyone from a country thousands of miles from where Coldplay started is just enjoying themselves, singing together, and hopefully forgetting their issues. Even if you’re not a Coldplay fan, it’s hard to argue with that level of unity.

Most bands like to believe their music is evolving. Is yours? If so, is it becoming more pop-flavored or tending more toward folk-roots savors?

Brian:  I think evolving sonically as a band is almost inevitable, and I definitely think our music has been growing from album to album. We’re never consciously trying to shift our sound, but we’ve been pushing our creative limits, which has been leading to some songs we’re really excited to bring to the studio.

What inspired your new song “Way Up?”

“Way Up” is a song about finding a new perspective, and seeking hope when things are looking bleak. I think we often find ourselves in situations that, at least from an emotional standpoint, seem insurmountable. We can feel caught in the rocks as the tide rolls in, ready to give up. It takes a shift in thought, or a change of viewpoint, and that’s what we were looking for with “Way Up.” Hopefully it’s a pick-me-up for anyone who needs it. The melody for the chorus was actually an idea we had in our first days as a band. Sometimes a song just isn’t ready to be written, though, and it was nearly five and a half years before we revisited I t — we’re just really happy we did.

What’s next for Cold Weather Company musically?

Next up for us musically is an EP featuring a variety of songs we’ve been working on over the past few months. There’s no shortage of ideas between the three of us, so we have a lot of ideas at different stages. We hope to have that out in the late fall. We have no plans to stop writing, so we’re just looking to bring our music to as many ears as possible.

Will you be doing any touring?

Definitely! There are so many great experiences we’ve had while touring, but still so many places to go. We’d had our eye on places like California, Texas, and Colorado for a while (and every other state, of course), but we’re also hoping to travel internationally and connect with our overseas listeners. Time will tell!

If you’re interested in keeping up with our travel and general music announcements, you can visit us at our Website or get in touch on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter – we’d love to hear from you!

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Let us know what you think of Cold Weather Company and “Way Up” @CelebMix

Written by Randy

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.