author: ethan butterfield | a&c writer
Banding with Butterfield is back with Digital Summer.
Well, another week, another band. This week I had a chance to talk to Kyle Winterstein, lead singer of the group Digital Summer! Winterstein talks new releases, touring life, and medical scares below.
Digital Summer was formed in 2006 and has been making waves ever since. I’m curious, how did the band come up with the name Digital Summer?
The name refers to how kids spend their summers now, and how we spent our summer writing our first album. Everything is digital now. Kids don’t go outside and play anymore; they sit in front [of] a TV and play video games. They have a “digital” summer. Even our writing and recording process is mostly digital, so in a sense that summer was OUR digital summer.
Speaking of performing, what’s it like to play a live show?
For us a live show is about giving the fans their money’s worth. For us, it’s a full-scale cardio workout combined with a complete emotional drain…We leave everything out there. We’re jumping around all over the place, throwing guitars across the stage, we program our own lights, fog, cryo and intro audio tracks. Our show starts several hours before we ever hit the stage, from set-up to stretching, choreographing changes due to stage dimensions…we do everything we can to dial in a professional performance with the goal of fans walking away saying the live show is even better than the album. Any musician can get on stage, stand there and play music…very few can actually put on a show. I truly believe if you’re not willing to bleed on stage, you shouldn’t be there.
I’m huge of the fan of the band’s album Counting the Hours. I was wondering, what was it like working on that particular album? Any stories you could possibly share?
Counting The Hours was probably our most natural writing and recording process. We wrote a ton of songs for that record, some almost on the fly while just jamming out. Then we basically locked ourselves in the studio for 40 days and recorded the 16 songs. It was raw and to the point for us. That album made some noise nationally with licensing and radio play, including a number-one single on 98KUPD, our hometown rock station. That meant a lot for us, considering we were a completely independent, unsigned band with zero management or help in any area of the industry. Still my favorite album as well.
Word is the band is working on a new album called Aquarius. If you can say, how’s it been working on the new album? When can we expect to hear it?
Yeah, we’ve been working on Aquarius for a while. We had some personal issues arise that stalled the process. In short, I’ve spent the last three years dealing with an eye disease that basically came out of nowhere. I went from perfect vision to legally blind in about 18 months. I was told I’d be completely blind within two years. Long story short, I’ve beaten it thus far. I’ve seen specialists all over the U.S., spoken with specialists all over the world, had several surgeries, and three years later not only am I not blind, but I have decent vision, considering. Point is, that situation coupled with the fact that both my brother and myself had children in the last two years, the album got put on hold for a while. We have recently started working on it again and will be releasing it in the foreseeable future.
Digital Summer has been around for a solid decade. What are some of the band’s favourite highlights throughout its career? As well, what are some of your favourite groups that you’ve performed with?
Our arena tour with Volbeat was without a doubt the greatest accomplishment for us logistically and performance-wise. We ran EVERYTHING ourselves with only a sound guy and one drum tech. That’s it. For a tour that size, that’s unheard of. It made for extremely long days for each of us taking on such a workload and then performing, but it truly showed what we were capable of. We did our own press and radio every morning, our own social media push, then got a workout in, then started putting together our lighting rig, then pre-setup for gear, then emails and business, then sound check, then merch count and merch booth setup, then stretching and warm up, then performance, then tear down, then merch booth signing and pictures (until the last person is done), then after-show private acoustic performance for VIP fans, then pictures again, then load-out and we’re back on the road to do it all again the next day. We did that entire show with basically zero downtime. I don’t know many musicians that would be willing to do what we did on that run, but that’s the type of thing that makes friends for life, going through something like that, pulling it off, and knowing very few people ever have.
As for favorite groups to perform with? Sevendust, by far. Those guys have become good friends and they are without a doubt the most underrated band in rock. We could be on the road with those guys for an entire year and still learn something new every night. They are that dialed. Plus they are just great people, no ego bullshit, just genuinely good people.
Last question, what can fans expect from Digital Summer in the future?
The future for Digital Summer is tough to chart an exact course for. We love music and we love performing, but the landscape of this industry has just changed so much. When the product you create is something everyone can get for free, you have a failing business model. The entire industry is scrambling for a life raft and that’s not a future we’ve ever really put our faith in. From day one we’ve had other professional careers along side our music career and now that we have families to support, it’s even more apparent we made the right decision. We’ll still release music and perform live, but we have no intentions of spending ten months out of the year on the road. Touring is fun, but our priorities have shifted. From the business perspective, we’re focusing more on licensing, streaming and other content mediums. The days of slinging CDs to new listeners after the show are essentially over. Not to say we won’t tour or play festivals, etc., but we certainly won’t be living on the road that some bands choose to. Also, we’re still adapting to our new environments, so it’s quite possible that we could even start releasing music more frequently. DS has never operated under typical conditions or guidelines…and we’re not about to start now.
Well there you have it! Make sure to be on the lookout for Digital Summer’s new album Aquarius in the foreseeable future. Until next time!