The Cold Weather Company, “Warmth” with Bruce Hilliard
“We wanted to open up and find our unique sound. And now we’re going to places in songs we never thought we could go.”
So says Steve Shimchick, one-third of rising musical force Cold Weather Company. On Find Light, the third album from the New Jersey-based trio of Shimchick, Brian Curry and Jeff Petescia, the group expands mightily on their core of two guitars and a piano. Here, they’ve roped in a number of friends and contemporaries on percussion, bass, cello, violin, trumpet, flute, sax and clarinet, creating a soundtrack that moves far beyond the band’s lean sounds of 2015’s Somewhere New and 2016’s A Folded Letter.
“We’re really proud of the first two albums, which we recorded ourselves, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to fill these new songs out with additional instrumentation,” says Petescia, one of the group’s two guitarists. “We wanted to give each song the sound it deserved.”
Recording with producer Pat Noon (River City Extension, Brick + Mortar) and Grammy-winning engineer Alan Douches (Sufjan Stevens, Beirut, Grizzly Bear), Find Light still features a more minimal, singer-songwriter style on tracks like “Circles” and “Birds on a String” — but also a decidedly robust production on standouts like “Brothers,” “Do No Harm” and “Reclamation,” which find Zach Jones (A Great Big World, Sting) behind the drums.
“We were still writing as a trio, and we realized the extra instrumentation didn’t dictate our sound — instead it allowed us to explore the full potential of our music” says Curry. “While I always loved purely acoustic music, I started hearing all of my favorite artists experimenting with new approaches and growing their sound — I realized there are no rules — no ‘purity.’ Music is music, and sonic growth and exploration is essential to artists.” (Ask for influences, and the group casts a wide net, citing James Blake, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, the Decemberists, Dave Matthews Band, The National and Iron & Wine, among others.)
With the new record, it’s made the group impressively hard to classify. “Part of that is that we all write, we all sing, and we all have different styles,” says Shimchick. “Brian is a bit folkier and singer-songwriter focused. Jeff is more into jam bands and can come up with really rockin’ riffs. And I come from a classical background, but I really love a lot of indie rock. We all sneak in different styles where we can.”
Petescia, meanwhile, gives Shimchick his own due: “I would say he’s the light when Brian and I are dark.”
Finding that light in the darkness is a theme that not only permeates each band member’s songs (and the album title), but also the album’s artwork — a three-paneled cover of rocky shores and the violent collision of waves in Maine, with the sun reflecting off the chaos. “The concept throughout is about rising above, reclaiming your life, working through conflict and seeing the bigger picture,” says Curry, who is also the band’s in-house photographer and graphic designer.
Witness “Clover,” one of a four-song cycle from Shimchick that focuses on a relationship that swerves from wary optimism through defeat, reflection and, finally, letting go. “What’s interesting across the album is that even though we often wrote lyrics individually and wrote about different, personal events in our lives, we all landed on the same ideas and symbolism,” says the pianist.
As well, the slow build of “Reclamation” focuses on Curry’s two near-death experiences (a serious car accident and a fall through ice into a frozen lake), and their psychological impact. “Above all, it’s about me confronting depression and anxiety for the first time,” he says. “That’s a part of me, and I can share that now — accept it, fight through each episode, knowing the storm will pass, and most importantly, knowing one is never alone in the fight to find light.” (The end of the song, where the horns arrive, marks a triumphant turning point.)
While the sound and thoughts on Find Light are bold and new, the trio of Jeff, Steve and Brian is what you’ll witness live — and the collective creative force that will continue to guide the group. “We’ve been very thankful to have worked with a talented group of friends and musicians throughout this process,” says Shimchick. “But the core will always be the three of us. We’re three singer-songwriters, and our sound together is stronger than us apart. And this is the best representation of who we are and what we represent.”