Carina Round’s New Warmth in Early Winters

Photo: Kristin Burns

Rather than let technology rob them of a proper record release, the Early Winters showed up for their March 9th show at L.A.’s Hotel Café with armfuls of physical product. Their self-titled, digital-only debut EP had dropped the day before, but these alt-country upstarts wanted to give fans something extra: limited-edition vinyl singles, complete with cardboard sleeves they’d hand-decorated using vintage postcards and one-cent stamps.

“It was pretty intense work,” singer Carina Round tells Hive, days after finishing the DIY craft project.

Intense, maybe, but she was happy to do it. A few years ago, such an undertaking might have required approval from the marketing department at Interscope, Round’s home throughout the ‘00s. The British singer-songwriter signed as a solo artist in 2003, and the following year, the label reissued her sophomore album, The Disconnection, with brand new cover art.

Although Interscope had undoubtedly heard the PJ Harvey comparisons and signed Round with hopes of breaking her as the next Edgy Rock Chick, it’s easy to see why company execs may have balked at the U.K. cover photo. Taken by Anoushka Fisz, wife of Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart, it shows a washed-out Round with black smudges around her eyes and mouth, looking like the bassist in a Misfits cover band. The label moved the offending portrait to the back of the CD, stuck an innocuous headshot on the front, and sent the new Round, well, around the world.

Whether that decision — and others like it — contributed to Round’s lackluster sales is debatable. What’s certain is that after five years, two albums and tours with such major artists as Annie Lennox, Round left Interscope still very much an unknown.

“I’m sure the label could have done a better job, but I still think it was a really positive experience,” Round says. “The things I learned and friends I made are just amazing, and I wouldn’t be here today in this band if it wasn’t for that situation.”

Still, Round’s foray into more twang-oriented songs isn’t something we would’ve seen coming.

The Early Winters were born in 2008, when Round collaborated with Canadian troubadour Justin Rutledge on “Turn Around,” a plaintive piano ballad for the TV series The Ghost Whisperer. Producer Dan Burns joined up in 2010, as did fellow L.A. musician Zac Rae, from the band Pedestrian. Musically rootsy yet geographically rootless, the quartet began writing over email and Skype, all four members contributing ideas while working on other projects. The songs came quickly, and in addition to the five on the EP, they recorded enough for a full-length they hope to release later this year.

With the exception of “Turn Around,” which comes on like a drizzly Monday morning, the EP tracks have the AM-gold, jangly feel of ‘70s country-rock. Round hasn’t lost her edge — she’s gearing up to sing on Tool mastermind Maynard James Keenan’s next Puscifer record — but here, she pairs lovelorn lyrics with breezy pop melodies, often singing sweet harmonies with Rutledge. Instead of being mean like Polly Jean, she gets her kicks like Stevie Nicks.

“Someone compared it to Fleetwood Mac the other day, and I was kind of blown away,” Round says. “It’s really fun to tap into writing that kind of melody, with that kind of chorus, and being pretty and not feeling self-conscious about it.”

“It’s a side of me that exists, but that people haven’t seen yet,” she adds, sounding nothing like that zombie on the original Disconnection sleeve. “I’m excited to force it on them. The boys bring it out of me.”

Early Winters self-titled EP is available now for at digital retailers.

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