The Vines' story is now a well-documented whirlwind of a musical history that saw them go from being four unknown Sydney music fans writing songs and recording them on old cassettes, to being one of the most talked about and listened-to bands of the year. In February 2002, The Vines left Sydney and spent the next 18 months playing clubs, theatres and festivals in front of thousands of fans in the USA, UK, Europe and Australia, appearing on the covers of countless magazines, from Rolling Stone to NME, and selling more than 1.5 million copies of their debut album, Highly Evolved, worldwide. Legendary television appearances like that on The Late Show with David Letterman found a band who genuinely behaved and played exactly as the moment took them - to put it mildly. Their glorious performance of "Get Free" at that years' MTV Video Music Awards put them in front of a worldwide television audience of over one billion people. Within so many extraordinary highlights, there were times when the real reason for The Vines' success - the songs - became somewhat obscured.
From the first incredible raw demos recorded on a temperamental 4-track machine to the fully realized perfection of Highly Evolved, central to The Vines' appeal is the fact that Craig Nicholls is a songwriter of rare talent, and that Patrick Matthews (Bass), Hamish Rosser (Drums) and Ryan Griffiths (Guitar), are the three people who can make the songs sound on record and on stage as they sound in Craig's head.
The stories accompanying Highly Evolved were of a rapid rise, drama, press, endless touring and a fascination with what was going on inside Craig's head. The band's second album, Winning Days, shows the progression of a band who by chance arrived on the scene at the very time that "rock" was declared to be the height of fashion again, but who had in reality been writing and recording staggering songs in isolation for five years without any consideration for where they would "fit in." To The Vines, as long as what they wrote sounded classic within the confines of a suburban bedroom, they had achieved their aim. The new album is an extension of that approach to writing and recording.
Winning Days is an album that succeeds in the notoriously difficult task of straddling a wide variety of musical styles while remaining cohesive. From the lush, harmony-laden songs ("Autumn Shade 2," "Amnesia") through the warm, acoustic folk-rockers ("Sunchild," "Rainfall") to the throat-shredding rock n' roll show-stoppers ("Ride," "She's Got Something To Say") Winning Days is an album of classic songs made by four friends playing together in the same room. Alone in the middle of the country, The Vines have made an album that clearly demonstrates just how great they really are, and that the promise they showed right from those early 4-track demos was no fluke.
After finishing their 18-month world tour with a triumphant sold-out show at London's Brixton Academy, The Vines jumped on a plane completely exhausted, promptly fell asleep as soon as they boarded and woke up in New York. From the city, they drove upstate to the famous Bearsville Studios in Woodstock and found themselves in the middle of a woodland idyll that must have seemed a million miles from the confines of the tour bus and hotel rooms they had come to know as home.
Finding themselves in the unusual situation of eating regular meals and getting enough sleep, they began rehearsing songs for the new album in a barn in the kind of laid back solitude they hadn't experienced since leaving Sydney. With producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Guided By Voices, Elliot Smith) back on board, the band settled into a relaxed rural lifestyle like the refined country gents they always aspired to be, starting work early in the afternoon and working late into the night. Setting up and playing together as a band, they laid down the basic tracks quickly before settling in and taking their time to lay down guitars, keyboards and the centerpiece of all Vines songs, Craig's vocals. Layering his unique trademark harmonies on each song while Patrick, Hamish and Ryan tinkered about the studio, The Vines were able to finally relax and get back to their main love - recording.
From the title alone, it's obvious that The Vines' second album takes a warmer approach than their grittier debut. The positivity of Winning Days as an album is reflected in the lyrics, the sounds and the songs. The drums sound like they did in the Bearsville room, the electric guitars come straight through old valve amps onto the tape, and Craig and Ryan's acoustics are pushed to the front throughout the record. While the band retain their ability to produce incredibly primal rock n' roll in songs such as the two openers "Ride" and "Animal Machine," this album sees The Vines moving into even more complex and textured melodic territory than before. Upbeat folk songs like "Rainfall" and "Sunchild" mix with the beautiful acoustic balladry of "Autumn Shade 2" and "Amnesia," while the off-kilter psychedelia of "TV Pro" prove that Craig Nicholls' songwriting talents are burning even stronger here. The songs themselves, and Craig's vocals - the melodies and layered harmonies - are testament to a one-in-a-million musical vision.
Winning Days is an album recorded by a band that exists purely to make great albums together. This collection shows a band not only living up to the promise they displayed on their first album, but moving way beyond it into a territory occupied by the genuine songwriting heavyweights, bands who run their own race.. artists of genuine substance.
--- from the official The Vines website