“What matters most to us is that these songs exist in the world”: Mum-Jean Rock Band Wynona Are Bringing Back the ’90s With Catchy Anthems & Carefree Charm

Wynona © Lachlan Chester
Wynona © Lachlan Chester
One of our 2024 artists to watch, “mum-jean rock” band Wynona speak to Atwood Magazine about their Walk the Moon-related formation story, their ’90s “mainstream alternative” musical influences, and the stories behind their recent, irresistibly catchy singles!
Stream: “Sink or Swim” – Wynona




We try and prioritise melody, and to an extent lyrics, that immediately give you that fuzzy, familiar feeling.

It’s safe to say we’ve fallen headfirst for Wynona and their seductive “mum-jean rock” sound.

The upbeat indie band based out of Reading, England have been on a roll this year, dishing out a monthly stream of irresistibly catchy singles – each of which finds them shining their inner light out onto the world. Through dreamy hooks and pastel melodies, cinematic guitars and dramatic drums, Wynona have us hooked, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wynona © Lachlan Chester
Wynona © Lachlan Chester

Comprised of Natalie Woodward and Richard Willats (together with guitarist/producer Adam Hailstone and drummer Kurt Phillips), Wynona unofficially began in 2018 and eventually debuted their nostalgic and floral ‘90s “mainstream alternative”-inspired music in 2021. The band spent the next two years slowly introducing themselves and honing their artistry, leading up to last September’s Theo Verney-produced debut EP, Split Ends.

“The EP is really special to us because it feels like it perfectly captures the moment we started to find our sound,” the band tell Atwood Magazine. “All of the releases this year were really informed by that lightbulb moment, and we would not have written any of this material without going through the transformative process of making the EP.”

With their band name inspired by Winona Ryder (“she was an icon of a more carefree era”), the English four-piece take their musical influences from such beloved acts as The Cure, R.E.M, The Cranberries, and Crowded House – groups that “absolutely walk that perfect line between critical acclaim, whilst still being able to touch a huge audience through their commercial success.”

“I think we definitely intentionally search for that nostalgic warmth when we write and produce our music,” Natalie Woodward says of Wynona’s warm, ’90s nostalgia-inducing tones. “It kind of goes back to that idea of longing for a more carefree, innocent time.”

Wynona © Lachlan Chester
Wynona © Lachlan Chester

There’s no denying the smile-inducing strength of Wynona’s music, especially when it comes to their more recent tunes.

2024 has thus far seen the band dazzle the ears and energize the soul with the cathartic alt-rock anthem “Feeling for Edges,” the love-soaked Valentine’s Day reverie “Kiss Me, Kiss Me” (which premiered on Atwood Magazine), the tender romantic daydream “Tell Me What Comes After,” and the spirited “Sink or Swim” – each of which enchants listeners through its own curated array of radiant, emotionally-charged choruses and memorable, meaningful lyrics.

“We are fascinated about the mechanisms behind a truly great pop song,” Woodward smiles. “I think we try and prioritise melody, and to an extent lyrics, that immediately give you that fuzzy, familiar feeling.”

With their May single set to drop any day now and no end in sight to the monthly release series, there’s never been a better time to meet – and become an overnight fan of – Reading’s Wynona. Get to know the band in our candid interview with Natalie Woodward and Richard Willats as they dive into their formation story, their musical influences, song inspirations, and what the future has in store.

“We do not want to slow down, or waste anytime, after being sat on so many songs that we love for years,” the pair share. “We have a treasure trove of hundreds of demos on our private SoundCloud, and we want to start rolling out more of these songs and sharing them with the world. It seems that it’s easier than ever to release music, but to actually get it heard is another story… What matters most to us is that these songs exist in the world.”

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:: connect with Wynona here ::
Stream: ‘Feeling for Edges’ – Wynona



A CONVERSATION WITH WYNONA

Wynona © Lachlan Chester

Atwood Magazine: Natalie and Rich, firstly thanks so much for your time! Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? How did Wynona come about; what brought you two together?

Wynona: We met at college and have been making music together since then! Wynona came about whilst we were living together in Osaka, Japan. The band Walk The Moon were in the city for the SummerSonic festival and they wondered in to a bar we were performing at. Their tour manager, Blake O’Brien, a truly wonderful human being, imparted on us some kind words of encouragement and suggested we get back in to songwriting and Wynona was born!

What inspired your band name? Is Wynona someone’s middle name or favorite actress, or is there a deeper meaning? And to that end, what do you hope listeners think of when they hear the name “Wynona”?

Wynona: Winona Ryder! She embodied so much of the spirit that we wanted to encapsulate with the music. She was an icon of a more carefree era, which happened to be home to some of our favourite books, films and music.

I know we really connected at the top of 2024, but you’ve been releasing music for three whole years - leading up to last September’s debut EP, Split Ends! What can you tell me about that record? What continues to resonate and stand out for you?

Wynona: Split Ends is the only collective piece of work we have released. We connected with Theo Verney, who had mixed some really great UK bands. The EP is really special to us because it feels like it perfectly captures the moment we started to find our sound. All of the releases this year were really informed by that lightbulb moment, and we would not have written any of this material without going through the transformative process of making the EP.

To that end, how do you feel Wynona as a band have already grown in the past three years since your debut? What do you love most about who you are - and the music you’re making - today?

Wynona: We think the songwriting has continued to develop in a way that we always hoped it would when we set out. In other ways, priorities and expectations have continued to change, as we try and find a healthy way to manage releasing music alongside our own relationship. In many ways, the incredible people that seemingly keep getting drawn into the Wynona circle has been key to keeping us on the right path.

One thing that instantly drew me to you is your sound - it’s got this kind of nostalgic ‘90s alternative warmth that I find utterly irresistible. Your music reminds me of Dizzy-era Goo Goo Dolls, The Cranberries, Travis, Matchbox 20… the list goes on. From where do you pull your inspirations?

Wynona: Wow thank you! I think we definitely intentionally search for that nostalgic warmth when we write and produce our music. It kind of goes back to that idea of longing for a more carefree, innocent time. I guess we are fairly traditionalist in the arrangement and structure of our songs and we are fascinated about the mechanisms behind a truly great pop song – looking at bands like The Cure, R.E.M, The Cranberries and Crowded House, who absolutely walk that perfect line between critical acclaim, whilst still being able to touch a huge audience through their commercial success.

You’ve described your sound as “mum-jean rock,” and what a world that conjures up! I’m curious to learn more about it: What does that name means to you?

Wynona: Ha! It kind of started from playing with the idea of dad rock, kind of poking fun at our romanticising of music you’d probably be more likely to find in your dad’s CD collection! From there it morphed into mum-rock and then on to mum-jean rock. It’s fairly unserious, but we thought that it encapsulated our sound in a fun way.

You’ve talked about nostalgia before and in press releases when describing your own music… Do you think nostalgia plays a part in your own creative processes, or is it more an after-effect of how we relate to and box together certain sounds?

Wynona: That’s a great question, I think it is absolutely there from the beginning of the creation process. Nostalgia is often baked into the production, using analog and vintage gear and emulation, but there is something about a simple melody and chord progression on a guitar or piano that can equally feel nostalgic.

I think we try and prioritise melody, and to an extent lyrics, that immediately give you that fuzzy, familiar feeling.

Do we think the ‘90s are making a comeback, some 30 years on?

Wynona: It feels like it is to an extent, which is logical given that the ’80s enjoyed a comeback throughout the last decade. But the way that we consume media now has changed so much, that it feels like there is ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s revivals all happening at once, across so many little pockets on the internet.

Nostalgia aside, what are the three words you would use to describe Wynona’s music?

Wynona: Honest, Floral, Anthemic

Wynona © Lachlan Chester
Wynona © Lachlan Chester

Natalie, your vocals are absolutely enchanting; your ability to mix and mingle conversational with emotional tones truly helps make each song feel special. Who are some of your vocal “icons,” and what is your approach to singing?

Wynona: Awww, thank you so much! Growing up Debbie Harry, Hayley Williams, Karen O and Imogen Heap were really formative artists for me and personal icons. We’d usually consume so much of our music through music channels back then, so there iconic image was just as impactful. More recently Chrissy Hyde and Harriett Wheeler have become some of my go to singers for inspiration.

I have been singing for a really long time, but looking back I realise that it has taken me a while to mould my voice into a sweet spot where I have come to enjoy the way that I express my vocals, in Wynona.

Another defining facet is the guitars and effects you’re employing. Can we nerd out for a second and talk about what pedals and guitars you play with, that are giving you tones like the ones heard on “Tell Me What Comes After” and “Feeling for Edges”?

Wynona: “Tell Me What Comes After” was mainly achieved by running layers of acoustic and 12 string guitars through a Juno chorus pedal, giving some modulation to the clean acoustic tones, making it feel more synthetic, which suits the 80s leaning vibe of the song. There is also a Danelectro, in Nashville tuning, layered in there for some extra jangle!

“Feeling For Edges” tones all came from Adam on guitar. For this, he ran his Fender JazzMaster through The Big Trees by Audio Kitchen pedal that was in the studio. That gave us exactly the tone we were reaching for in the demo of the song and we loved how it ended up.

I’ve alluded to this earlier, but I’m absolutely enthralled by the music you’ve put out this year. If you’ll indulge me, can you briefly walk me through the four songs you’ve released so far, and what each one means to you - starting with “Feeling for Edges,” then “Kiss Me, Kiss Me,” “Tell Me What Comes After,” and “Sink or Swim”?

Wynona: “Feeling For Edges” was actually a deep cut for us, written around the same time as our debut single in 2020. We were sharing some old demos back and forth with Adam, and he immediately heard something in the song, and breathed new life into an old idea. Lyrically it had the same element of uncertainty and transit that our debut release had, as we were constantly on the move back then, living in five different places in the span of just under three years.

“Kiss Me, Kiss Me” was written towards the end of that period of time where we were constantly on the move. Before we finally settled in our home, our gear was in boxes and we didn’t have anything resembling a studio, so we put together the bones of the demo using the most basic gear we had like our laptop microphones and iPhone memo app. The song was built from the verse acoustic guitar riff, which used to be the focal point of the arrangement, but eventually took a back seat to other elements that were introduced later. It immediately grabbed us from a melodic point of view, and felt like it belonged on the soundtrack of a 00’s rom-com!

“Tell Me What Comes After” was a song that was getting a great response every time we played it live. It seemed that people were really drawn to the energy of this one and so I think we realised that we had something special. It felt like a slight stray from our normal sound into a more ’80s territory, which was exciting and a direction we’d be keen to revisit in future songs.

“Sink Or Swim” came around as we were recording the Split Ends EP, actually just before we went into the studio. It was a product of that ‘landing on a sound’ that came about around this time. In a way, it kind of formed the blueprint for the rest of the music we would go on to write, and will be releasing this year.

Beyond when they were released, do these tracks all feel connected, for you? Is there any overarching story that brings them all together?

Wynona: Yes, I think they felt like they sonically shared the same universe and were more cohesive than anything we had done before. It’s probably a lot to do with our song making process maturing, as we kept writing.

Something I love most about Wynona songs are that they all feel like the soundtrack to life’s special moments. When do you think is the best time to pop on a Wynona song?

Wynona: Thank you! That’s so kind. I think we really suit those personal, and private special moments. The quiet ones that maybe don’t get as much fanfare, but are super important. I think we’re a headphones on kind of band, where you can rest your head against the bus, or train, window and take a moment of reflection for yourself.

Wynona © Lachlan Chester
Wynona © Lachlan Chester

With four tracks released, you’ve technically already got enough material for an EP. What’s on Wynona’s horizons, and what can fans look forward to in the months to come?

Wynona: Our plan is to keep releasing! We aim to release around one song a month this year. We do not want to slow down, or waste anytime, after being sat on so many songs that we love for years. We have a treasure trove of hundreds of demos on our private Soundcloud and we want to start rolling out more of these songs and sharing them with the world. It seems that it’s easier than ever to release music, but to actually get it heard is another story…. What matters most to us is that these songs exist in the world.

Since nostalgia is such a strong part of your music, I’m curious: What are some of the songs on your go-to “nostalgia” playlist? Who are you throwing it back to when you’re in the mood for a time warp down memory lane?

Wynona: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, R.E.M, Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac, Tears For Fears, The Pretenders, The Beautiful South – so many of these bands were present in are early years through our parents playing their records.

Lastly, in the spirit of paying it forward, who are you listening to these days that you would recommend to our readers?

Wynona: Wunderhorse, Lizzie Esau, Platoon, The Beths, Wishy, Ada Lea, Wednesday, Rat Boys, Flyte… There are honestly too many to name. We have a playlist of all the stuff we have been listening to lately, if people are interested!

 

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:: connect with Wynona here ::

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Connect to Wynona on
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Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Lachlan Chester

“Finding stillness in the chaos”: Wynona’s Spirited Alt-Rock Anthem “Feeling for Edges” Is a Cathartic Release of Angst & Upheaval

:: REVIEW ::

:: Stream Wynona ::


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