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NewTracks New Artist: Young Winona

NewTracks New Artist: Young Winona

Strictly speaking, Young Winona aren’t actually a new act as such, and certainly not new to each other. The band is essentially husband and wife Cass and Nick Gaffaney (Cairo Knife Fight), with help from fellow LA-based Kiwi Geoff Maddock (Goldenhorse). In the six years since formation, they have shifted their sound from surf-doo wop tones closer to a more alternative rock sound, as evident in the latest Young Winona single Killer Daisies. NZ On Air Music featured it on their NewTracks compilation this August.

Hi. Who are we talking to and what instruments do you play?

Cassie Gaffaney. I was born in Singapore and moved to New Zealand when I was five. I grew up between Queenstown and Christchurch. I play guitar.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Yes, all through school I took music lessons and learned to play the piano, guitar, drums. I had several opportunities to sing in choirs, musicals and enjoyed any chance I had to practice singing in harmony. My high school, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, was particularly supportive of all my musical endeavours. I participated in Rockquest for five years and that was an invaluable experience.

What’s the background story of how Young Winona came to be a thing?

Young Winona is me (guitar/vocals), Nick Gaffaney (drums) and Geoff Maddock (bass). We began writing songs together in 2015 and very quickly started playing shows in and around Los Angeles. What started as a surf-doo wop outfit began to organically shift into a more alternative rock sound. We were definitely influenced by the bands in our scene and it just started becoming really fun to play everything loud, raw and heavy at shows.

Any other previous projects might we know you from?

Nick’s main project is Cairo Knife Fight and Geoff is well known from Goldenhorse.

How did you come up with the name for the project?

I think we settled on our name because someone said, “Who doesn’t love Young Winona Ryder?!” once.

How does the songwriting happen?

I’ve always been a folky songwriter, so I don’t think much has changed there. What usually happens is I’ll bring a little ditty to the band and they’ll just propel it into a whole other direction, and that’s pretty exciting. You never know where it’s going to end up so it’s really important to be open to the ideas and creativity the people you work with have to offer. 

What’s been the big highlight to date? 

Our newest single Killer Daisies has been getting spun on world-renowned LA-based radio station KCRW and actually charted on their Top 30 albums last month. We’ve been added on rotation at KEXP (Seattle), played on The Rodney Bingenheimer Show on SIRIUS.XM as well as several independent radio stations all over the US. Being playlisted on Apple Music’s New In Rock editorial was definitely a highlight as well.

What makes Killer Daisies stand out as a single?

It stands out to me because we made a pretty bold choice to distort the lead vocal into a pretty off-kilter harmony. It works, but it’s definitely a bit odd. Also, I think it’s annoyingly catchy. 

What is the story behind Killer Daisies?

I wrote this song when I was working the night shift at my job. It was really lonely and I was dealing with feelings of insecurity and irrelevance. I definitely wanted to write a song inspired by Courtney Barnett and Ween.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

My favourite part is the bridge. It was challenging to sing and I’m really happy with how the recording came out. Also, I’m super proud of the lyrics and melody.

Who did you record/produce the single with? 

A fun fact about Killer Daisies is that this song sat unfinished for about 3-4 years. It was a song I’d resigned myself to thinking we’d never actually finish, but one rehearsal we unearthed it and it just… HAPPENED! We recorded the song at a great studio in Highland Park called 64 Sound. We self-produced the track and we got into the studio because of a successful GoFundMe campaign. We were fortunate that so many people came out to support us and helped make it happen.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Hopefully, they’ll be wondering why they have this stupid “woooo” melody in their heads all day!

How do you work out what song would make a good single?

I have a pretty short attention span. If something grabs me and I can’t stop listening to it on repeat then that’s a good sign. 

Who else is in your team?

Last year we teamed up with our manager Gary Poole and we signed to LA-based indie label, Poor Man Records. They’ve been an incredible support network for us.

Any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

We are heading back into the studio at the end of August to record another 5 song EP. We will have brand new music by the end of the year!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song?

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there? 

We had applied for funding a few years back but we didn’t have much going on so we really weren’t expecting anything to come of it. This was the first time we applied for NewTracks and we are delighted that we got selected. It’s been my dream to get my music on the radar of the NZ music scene. Sometimes it can feel a little helpless being based across the other side of the Pacific. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m a big fan of Song Exploder and The Exxpired Music Podcast. Go to music blogs are Girl Underground Music, Lady Gunn, Grimy Goods, Buzzbands.la, Be In A Band Or Die, and Reckless Magazine.

Who did you make the video with?

We made this video in lockdown with our flatmate Ben! We just got a cheap green screen and shot the whole thing on an iPhone. Super easy and we just had fun with it. 

Any last words?

If you’ve read this far…. thank you!!! Hope we can come home and play some NZ shows soon xx

NewTracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, NewTracks is one of the ways that NZ On Air promotes Kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for NewTracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.