Formed almost by chance, everything A Winged Victory For The Sullen put their name to has a great sense of deliberation.
The band’s brooding, slowly evolving music sits somewhere between avant garde classical and drone. Part of the Erased Tapes family, Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’ Halloran draft songs which to gently push back boundaries in an unstoppable wellspring of emotional weight.
Releasing their debut album last year, A Winged Victory For The Sullen organised their first full tour in January. Handing Adam Wiltzie a pen and a piece of paper, the musician jotted down some notes from those recent shows.
Here’s what he handed in.
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January 8 – Evening before rehearsals: Brussels, Belgium
The January tour of A Winged Victory for the Sullen/Sleepingdog starts here.
I am Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie also know in these circles as “DAD”.
I am the tour manager, 1/2 manager, driver, tour organizer, whip cracker, and play in both bands on this tour. There is a strange misconception that because we receive good press, then it means a lot of people will buy our record, and attend our concerts. This is not the case.
We operate on such a minimal budget that each tour is a tightrope walk into the depths of total credit card maximization. But we love what we do? ummmmm?
Anyway, tonight I am going to the translation to pick up our cellist Gyda Valtysdottir. She was kind enough to lend us her cello services and improvisational abilities that I am so afraid of. I hope she will teach me something.
We head out for some dinner, and a drink at my local watering hole the Daringman. She seems to be a straight red wine drinker, a quality which blends well with me.
January 9 – Rehearsal Day: Brussels, BE
The gangs all here. Our string trio, Elissa Lee who played violin on our record, and new recruit Daniella Strasfogel on alto, or otherwise known as the big violin.
Dustin arrives late in the evening and we have a strong beer and a veggie burger before we start.
We rehearse in my studio in the center of Brussels. Brussels is dangerous and smells like pee. Please don’t ever move here. Fear for your lives Western Europe.
January 10 – Amsterdam, NL: Paradiso
As I open the door to the dressing room I realise this is day 1 of 9 days of hummus. I am still amazed that after all these years I still look forward to my pre-soundcheck snack with it. It is like family and family is not always blood. It’s the things in your life that want you in theirs and the things who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what. Thank you hummus.
First shows are always super depressing to me. I am totally down. Happens every tour. I see my life and wonder why the fuck I make music, my motto = “It can always be worse”.
I should have been a lawyer like my dad wanted. The Sleepingdog show brings a slight smile to my face. Chantal Acda (Sleepingdog) has this effect on me. We convince Tom Lezaire (AWVFTS sound man) to play drums. First time I played with a drummer since the last Windsor for the Derby show I played back in 1997. Turn on the tears.
January 11 – Rotterdam, NL: Worm
We decided to save on the hotel rooms for the first two days and drive back to Brussels to save a bit of cash, and also so Dustin can get his mussels fix.
At Mer du Nord on Place Saint Catherine in Brussels. A standing bar, fresh fishy bits and white wine. Very relaxing brain food. We arrive at the venue and it is a typical Dutch art center that looks like it was the former set of “Mad Max beyond Thunderdome.”
Sometimes sound checks seem to go on forever. I still have not gotten in gear for this tour. I think I would rather be in bed. Chantal gets a mysterious case of 24hr. pneumonia, so the Sleepingdog show is cancelled. AWVFTS starts off to an incredibly quiet audience, which is always a bit surprising in Holland. They can be the worst audience for quiet music. Maybe I am starting to garner a reputation after 20 years of playing quiet lullabies?
January 12 – Antwerp, BE : De Roma
SOLD OUT! And a truly beautiful venue. It was built in 1934 as a gigantic cinema and variety theatre. Fell into decay in the 80’s, and now it is a beautiful venue again. For the Sleepingdog concert tonight we convinced Gyda to play percussion with us as well. Chantal is smiling, so all is good. AWVFTS had a very crappy soundcheck. Huge room and strange sound, but miraculously we have one of the best concerts we ever had and then to top it all off we sell almost €2000 in merch. Thank you kind people of Antwerp. It was a pleasure.
January 13- Day Off
On our way to the UK. Some confusion at the border, as we thought Daniella had a European passport, but she only has a visa, and so of course with the UK law on musicians needing a work permit they throw her in a holding cell and interrogate her for 3 hours, then call the French police to escort her back to France. We follow her, and get her on a train back to Brussels, and get her a flight the next day for Manchester. Spend the next 6 hours sorting her work visa out. The rest of us come back in through the border and drive to our hotel in the quaint little town of Milton Keynes. There is nothing you could ever want to do here except for eat amazing Punjabi food, and so we did, and had I one of the best post food coma sleeps I have had in 10 years. Thank you Travelodge!
January 14 – Manchester, UK: Academy 3
Elissa arrives early, as she was able to squeeze a Johann Johannsson gig in Poland during her day off. She is already drunk by the time we arrive. Polish vodka is her good friend.
A pretty light crowd, only about 120 people. I have major effects issues, buttons I push lead to strange sounds I have never heard before and looks of WTF? from Dustin. Gyda tells me it is her favorite show so far? I am confused.
January 15 – Glasgow, UK: Oran Mor
The ladies head out to attack the charity shops as soon as we arrive. They all return with super psychedelic 70’s puffy sweaters. I order them to be worn for the concert. They obey me, only for the reason that it is so fucking cold in the venue. Heat does not seem to work and the back door keeps flying open.
Elissa’s hands are turning blue, and the acoustic instruments can hardly stay in tune. Gyda tells me that now this is her favorite show. I am still confused.
January 16 – London, UK: Cecil Sharp House
SOLD OUT! London has always been the city you wish you could love to play, although, turnouts have always been good for me, maybe it is the SOTL connection? But there have been so many disasters on stage. It was not long ago that London staged one of my most embarrassing pie in the face moments. In 2001 SOTL played a show in Camden and the moment we stepped on stage there was a huge electrical surge, and destroyed all our samplers and FX. As we stood there on stage I remember specifically wondering why I decided to not play the acoustic guitar? 12 years later, I am so thankful for the warmth we feel from everyone tonight. We have a packed house in this stately red-brick building that was purpose built as the home of the English folk dance and song Society back in the 1930’s. Amazingly downstairs in the bar they are continuing the tradition. I need to learn how to dance like this.
January 17 – Reading, UK: South Street
Getting lot’s of flack for not playing a midlands show. Not sure why it is so hard to get a show in Birmingham. People think we don’t want to play there, but in truth promoters just don’t seem to care about us. They see slow moving instrumental chamber group with no vocal, and they figure no one will come….
Anyway, we arrive in reading very early because it is only 30 minutes from our Travelodge in slough. We have a lovely afternoon of shopping eating, and just being lazy. I always wish there could be more of this non-van related activity. Shows are fine for both of us. We have become a well oiled touring machine, and now we reach the last legs. We end up in a strange bed and breakfast. We all have a last one in the lobby. Elissa breaks out the vodka. Chantal and I have a surreal conversation about the last 12 years of our lives together, being emotionally blocked, looking at old pictures of us, and her kids, Loa & Bjarmi . she has some sort of epiphany that this music we make together has somehow created some kind of inseparable bond. Wait until she get’s home….
January 18 – Cork, IE: Cork Opera House
SOLD OUT! We get up at 4.30 to drive 6 hours to make the Dublin ferry near Liverpool. There is no ferry’s to Ireland from Wales for the moment. It ends up being a 12 hour travel day.
Funny that after all these years 12 hours does not feel that long to me anymore. Chantal is asleep on my lap, and Gyda is asleep on Chantal. It is a strange sort of human van sandwich, but at least a peaceful one. We arrive at the opera house that has a giant 30-foot mesh billboard of Dustin’s face and me. It leaves me feeling a bit dirty. Dustin loves it and asks if we can take it home. It is still sitting, rolled up in my studio. We were thinking about hanging out my apartment window when Dustin is in town, so that all will know that “the winged victory is in session”. Show was lovely, and they put us in a 4 star luxury hotel. Gyda, Chantal and I share a bottle of Prosecco, and sit by the fire. I do not miss the Travelodge tonight.
January 19 – Dublin, IE: Sugar Club
So this is it. Last show, then everyone will fly home except for me and tomorrow who have to drive the van back to Brussels. Show is quite packed, and Sleepingdog has the best show of the tour for me. We sold a lot of merch on this jaunt, really a lot. Much more than us opening on the LOW tour, which had a much larger audience. Are we a better band now, or is it a more sympathetic audience? Mysteries of the world that I may never understand. I still cannot figure out why hardly anyone has heard our record? So many stunned faces after we play? “why have I never heard of you before?” Another reason I loved this tour so much.
Both bands are similar but also different enough that everyone who attended can enjoy both sets equally. As for the last Winged Victory show, it was another great one. The 5 of us are playing so well together and now we have to say goodbye. You want it to continue forever, but I just want this tour diary to finally end….