Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Sweeney E. Schragg and bassist/vocalist Kristin Olson, Santa Cruz-based Jazz/Folk duo Winterlark unveils their new EP When I Saw You Stranded There on October 8th. Their union as a duo comes from a perfect storm of synergies, with Sweeney’s prior work as a creative writing instructor and Kristin’s experience working at a small business. Both members complement each other with the ingenuity and tenacity needed for chemistry as musicians. To shape Winterlark’s mishmash of folk, bossa nova, and soul, Kristin took note from her experiences listening to bluegrass, R&B, and pop with family and performing classical music from college, while Sweeney borrowed from his beginnings as a rock n roll guitarist and jazz composition student. The duo shares: 

“The music on this album is two people bantering, laughing, ruminating, sparring, and liking each other,” Kristin says. Sweeney notes: “It has been a long time since I’ve written songs with anyone. It’s a dream to work with someone I respect both musically and poetically.” Kristin adds: “I laid down my bass years ago, but the timing in my life enabled me to get back into it. Winterlark has also encouraged me to become a songwriter which I’d never thought I would do.”

The EP provides a perfect soundtrack to easygoing settings, such as a scenic drive along a coastal road or a morning hike through a forest trail. The acoustic soundscape reinforces its cinematic nature as the duo performs with a playful and reassuring chemistry, drawing inspiration from their progression from friends into a couple. This is especially evident in the “Make a Mess With Me”, a flirtatious yet humorous track with the lyrics, “The 14th of June, “Sorry ’bout the screen door,”/Was the first thing she had to say./Off came the gloves, kind of like a prom dress./Guess it had been that kind of day”. Another highlight is “If I Could Put my Finger on Your Pulse”, showing yearning through Sweeney’s pondering on whether his heartbeat comes from his partner’s touch or his wooing. A particular standout is the politically charged closer “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart)”, a commentary on racial injustice with vocals delivered in an angrier tone and the lyrics “Never wanna watch another black or brown reduced to just a name”.

Sweeney:  “Our EP, When I Saw You Stranded There, features songs about zany beginnings—in a La La Land style traffic jam, on a veranda where smokers laugh, through a broken screen door.  Having come together in our own zany beginning, that’s where our fictional storytelling first took Kristin and me.”

Kristin:  “This EP gives a glimpse into the dynamic of two really good friends, who kid each other, bounce ideas around, and skeptically consider the world.  Sweeney and I spend time everyday throwing words and music back and forth.  Whether the story that emerges is our reaction to persistent injustice, as in the song “Rage (Privilege Comes Apart),” or a complete, sassy fiction, as in the title track, it is this back and forth that gives each song its unique energy.”

Sweeney:  “Producer Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Music recorded our uncluttered duo—upright bass, Lowden acoustic guitar, and vocals—in the Extended Sound Environment that she has developed, capturing the live in-studio performance of each song, unvarnished, tonally rich, quirks intact.”

When I Saw You Stranded There drops on all streaming platforms October 8th.

Kristian Gonzales