By Nicholas Jason Lopez
An album centered around the title track about the intimidating feelings of formulating a eulogy for a deceased father figure, ‘The Lion The Reaper’ contains perhaps August Winters’ most captivating and vulnerable work yet.
His newest music in three years, ‘The Lion The Reaper’ was released this past August and can earnestly be described as what you’d get if The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Warped Tour had a wild threesome.
Winters is no stranger to the stage either, having gotten to open for the likes of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights and Bowling For Soup’s Jaret Reddick.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Winters about ‘The Lion The Reaper’ and more.
Music Bugle – What directly inspired the “August Winters” name?
August Winters – August Winters was designed as a persona, per se. I had just gotten out of a band and was looking to do more of a solo project, however, wanted to be able to bring other musicians in to work on it, so I came out with August Winters, as it could be seen as a single person or a band, but it has always been my stage name, I guess you could say. The idea behind the name is that of a man stuck in a cold dark place trying to find hope in anything.
Music Bugle – What creative advantages do you feel come with being a singer-songwriter?
August Winters – As long as I have done music, I have always been the singer and generally, the songwriter as well. With August Winters, it has been different for good and/or bad, as all the creativity is on me, so I can do whatever I want, but if people don’t get it or like it, then it’s on me. I write all the lyrics, rhythm guitars and most of the bass parts for all the August Winters songs and originally wrote drums too, but have lately been collabing on drums. With the new album, I have had a bass player help write more intricate bass parts, as well as two different guitarists writing lead sections, a pianist, two other drummers and another vocalists. I love collaborating with other musicians, but at the end of the day, the basis of all the songs and lyrics are all my ideas and I take pride in these songs, as I spend a lot of time ditching ideas. In this album, it’s 10 new songs and I wrote over 20 total, but ditched it down to the ones I felt should make the album and see daylight.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
August Winters – I’m so glad this question is plural, ’cause there are so many different styles on this album. I usually write very pop-punk-meets-radio-sounding material, however, on this one, I didn’t want sub-genres holding me back, as I wanted a rock album. I also had a few songs I wrote titled and inspired by local bands I grew up listening to and wanted to use their band names as the lyric inspiration and write them in the style they play, but the two hardest songs on this album were definitely my single “MMXX,” which is very new age Rage Against The Machine-sounding and the lyrics originally started to flow into a metaphoric love song, which eventually I used to write a love ballad on the album, but this song also was changed at studio and rewrote a bit between myself, the drummer for the song and the bassist and lead guitarist on it, because everyone had ideas to make it better, but that song challenged me lyrically to write in that De La Rocha-style lyrics. The second one is a song called “The Life and Times of a Salesman,” which is a very Linkin Park-style song that I was planning to collab with a local rapper on for the verses and he ended up having things come up and couldn’t do it last-minute, so it was my first time writing rap lyrics, which as the song went with just myself on vocals, I hated it. However, we brought in Coty Stinson from a local band Silver Lights out of my area to sing the choruses, which gave the song new life.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
August Winters – I grew up in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. The most excitement around us is Penn State University, so I grew up with tons of local artists to look up to. I’m proud of the small scene we had between 2008-2014, because we were having local shows I hosted in a small community hall every month and the few of us playing and the 20-78 attending – depending on the night – always had a blast, which led to me pursuing a music career both behind-the-scenes and performing, which I have been able to live on since 2014 and I can never thank those bands and locals enough that gave me the support and love and encouragement to do what I do.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
August Winters – The radio currently has Iron Maiden on, but my go-to artists have been Yours Truly and Hot Mulligan, both of which I recently got into. Corey Taylor’s latest album because he’s one of my inspirations and as always, old Good Charlotte and Senses Fail, who are my favorite.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
August Winters – I use to feel my stage presence, energy and engagement with a crowd were my selling points. However, with this new album, I would argue that if you like rock music of any sub-genre, there is something on this album for you. As I said before, I have a Rage Against The Machine-style song, a Linkin Park-style song, some more indie alternative-style songs and of course, some pop punk and emo-style songs, which are my roots. I’m excited, ’cause as of this album, I feel I don’t have a style barrier anymore or don’t have to only write in one style, that I can be a rock guy without walls.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your title track single “The Lion, The Reaper”?
August Winters – So, with my first EP, I was flat broke, couldn’t advertise or anything and there were some good songs on that album that suffered because of it. For me, this is never about me. It’s about the songs. I want songs that everyone including myself enjoy, so with this album, I made it a point that I wouldn’t let that happen again. With this single, it was my first song that had money behind it, support from a team working on it and was also the first time I shot a music video. My goals were to put out a good song, see it do well, which we pushed the music video harder than streams with it being my first video and we did 12,000-plus views in 10 days, which to some, isn’t that impressive, but that song alone almost quadrupled my Facebook following and created a bigger following for when “MMXX” dropped in late May.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
August Winters – Both? It’s a tough question, because honestly, it has created a lot of “smoke and mirrors” acts to me, but also has helped some really good acts come to light. “Smoke and mirrors” being a band that gives the appearance of being solid, but really none of it is them. To me, a musician’s true colors are shown in their live performance excluding composers for media. The hardest part for musicians anymore is cracking the algorithms of each social media outlet to get the exposure they need or are paying for, for that matter. I also know bands who are genuinely good people who get bullied or torn apart by social media, so I thinks it’s on a situation basis, honestly. I’m more old-school with word-of-mouth and come to a show and see how good the band is, but if you come, watch everyone and support the other artists. To me, a room full of people singing your song is more fulfilling to me then a high Spotify stream count, ’cause a show is an experience I am creating for that audience, a memory they will have for the rest of their lives.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
August Winters – I had been working basically full-time for an arena at Penn State as an Audio Tech and had been playing out weekly. However, all that came to a halt, just as so many other lives did. The pandemic gave me tons of time to focus on things at home and really focus on the new album. I had been picking at the album, slowly writing it since 2019, so this gave me time to focus on it and spend time getting to do a bunch of things I have been wanting to do.
Music Bugle – What do you hope for as 2021 comes to a close?
August Winters – Normalcy, as does everyone of course, but I myself, as well as the team helping me, have goals for this album, so we wanna see the album sales continue to go well.