While there’s a lot to be said for lush, layered, orchestrated music, sometimes simple is best. Local trio Wintervals makes a good case for that. The band, vocalist Lisa Tyler Ariola and multi-instrumentalist Trevor Walker, only just added drummer Jacob Ariola. On recording, Trevor plays bass, keyboards, mandolin and banjo but at Wintervals’ recent French Broad Brewing show, he stuck to acoustic guitar and vocals. And, while Trevor is an accomplished guitarist, Wintervals is really about lyrics and vocals — the interplay of the two, and how each offsets the other.
The band mixed covers (Neil Young, The Civil wars, Mac DeMarco, Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell) with originals. The cover selections hinted at Wintervals’ inspirations — alt-country and Americana — but the band’s original songs (credited to both Lisa and Trevor on their just-released debut album, Can’t Win for Losing) are hardly derivative.
Melancholy that runs like a thread throughout Wintervals’ writing, but it’s a delicious sort of sadness that never devolves into gloom. “Overnight,” with the line, “I know your secret, you know mine. You know I won’t judge you, I think you’re fine,” sways softly with a kind of unselfconscious delicacy. The songs are played with care, Lisa and Trevor’s voices wrapping around each other. They occasionally harmonize, but mostly duet or take turns singing lead.
“Ghost” is especially autumnal. “What does it mean to love the most and yet still feel alone,” Lisa sings, her upper register sweeping and wild at its edges. That voice is really a not-so-secret weapon, allowed in moments to go to some surprising places. Expression is valued over perfection and the occasional rough or raw tone only adds to the magic of the music. “Ghost” is a slow waltz — the band’s favorite tempo. For the frequent use of 3/4 time and the dusky, soft, close-to-the mic delivery, there are often hints of Mazzy Star. But there’s also a sense that Wintervals isn’t necessarily married to the bittersweet ache at the heart of these songs. While the musicianship is serious, Lisa and Trevor have a playful stage presence.
One of the band’s self-described hits, “Together,” with the intro line, “Every time we go out, we just talk,” is led by Trevor. It’s emotionally familiar and charged even in its down-tempo presentation. There could be a nod to Big Deal, though Lisa and Trevor’s voices are less blasé, and the compositions are more sophisticated. But it does suggest a Big Deal-style fuzzy electric guitar, only because the juxtaposition of heart-on-sleeve sentiments and aggressive strings is cathartic. “Far Away,” on the record, has exactly that kind of guitar, though it wisely moves from acoustic strumming and clear vocal delivery into that angsty and pitch-perfect solo.
So far, Wintervals’ shows are few and far between, but they’re worth catching. Follow the on Facebook for more info.