Dive Deep with Local St. Louis Band The Winks

Meet local pop-punk, modern alternative, classic rock inspired St. Louis band, The Winks. StLouisArts.org sat down and talked to two out of three members, Dillon Dunnagan and Alex Ward, about it all, from busking Lady Gaga at the Delmar Loop to an early peek into the new sound of their next album.   

Dunnagan, one of the original founding members and an artist for more than 15 years, is the band’s frontman. With his gripping vocals and electrifying guitar riffs, he uses music to dive deep into the human experience. Ward sits behind the drum kit, bringing in rhythm that helps take the music to new heights. When Ward isn’t rocking out, typically with his shirt off, he is considered “corporate” (at least by Dunnagan) and handles a lot of the business aspects of the band, keeping them organized and moving them forward. Calvin Hintz (cue high school yearbook “not pictured” joke) handles the bass and backing vocals, anchoring the band’s break-neck grooves and harmonious support. 

Ward grew up locally in St. Louis County and reflects fondly on his time spent at Webster Groves High School playing saxophone in the jazz band. There he connected with other local musicians, which led him into recording and audio engineering, writing music and eventually playing the drums. Though Dunnagan grew up among the woods and cornfields in a small farm town outside of Highland Illinois, he has been living in St. Louis for around four years now and performing for even more. Since he was 18, he has been driving into the city to perform and see local bands. When it comes to the local St. Louis music scene, Dunnagan has quite a bit of expertise.   

Though he said it is hard to pick an absolute favorite with all the talent St. Louis has, the pair mentions some of their favorite bands are cover bands Danger Party and Sean Canan’s Voodoo Players as well as other local bands Falling Fences, Dr. Fong and the Long Brothers, Native State and No Antics.  

From country and blues to heavy metal and rock and roll, Dunnagan grew up listening to and being inspired by all genres of music. “I got a CD called Brand New Man by Brooks & Dunn at Walmart around 1998, I was like probably five or six. That’s a core memory. It’s a country album but I just remember thinking I don’t know what this is, but I want all of it. Then I was listening to all the country music I could get my hands on then it went into blues and heavy metal,” said Dunnagan. 

As for their own sound, it is a mix of a little bit of everything. “I would certainly say we’re definitely a mix of pop punk, modern alternative and a little bit of classic rock influence. Personally, my biggest influences are the Foo Fighters, Green Day and Rise Against. We’re both huge Green Day fans and Dillon’s a huge Beatles and The Replacements fan,” said Ward. 

Though the band officially started in 2015, experiencing a few lineup changes and hiatuses (as most of the greats do) they fully formed into what they are today in 2022. After making a deal with a friend and trading the logo artwork for a band t-shirt, The Winks had officially become the band’s name and has stuck for the last ten years. 

“I like to think of the [logo] artwork as a mix of being serious, but not too serious,” said Dunnagan. “It almost encompasses what I feel existence is, if we want to get on a philosophical level but it was mostly, we were around 18 and 19 and we were like ‘Oh let’s do it.’”  

In classic punk and alternative fashion, Dunnagan wants to be able to play anywhere without all the bells and whistles. 

“A lot of music released, progressed in a lot of different ways. A lot of electronic elements and backing tracks. Very process heavy, and there is nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do. But I want to make music that’s organic sounding,” said Dunnagan. “My goal is to do something that we can play anywhere. Give us give us a power generator, we don’t need anything – we don’t need production. And there’s nothing wrong with the other half of it by any means but I want to be able to stand on my own feet as a musician.”  

The band released their EP Green Eyes (recorded at Encapsulated Studios in Maplewood) with an accompanying music video in late 2023. Both members agree the best song off Green Eyes is Can You Feel My Heart Beating, Dunnagan noting it as a “pop rocker that puts you in your place.”  

As for new music, they are currently in the early demo stages of a new project. They are feeling excited about the direction it’s going though at times the new sound even leaves the band members perplexed, but in an amazing way.  

“I wrote a song the other day and I told Calvin, our bass player, I don’t know what this is. It’s got elements of everything, what would you classify it? All I know is it’s a song, and I think I like it. It’s a progression further and harder than what Green Eyes is,” said Dunnagan. 

“Our next release is by far going to be the best musical project I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been part of several, and the trajectory keeps rising for me personally in the projects that I get to be a part of,” added Ward. 

All bring different elements to the band, from modern to classical jazz, making their sound familiar but unique. All of them work closely when working on the music, bringing in those different perspectives to help create a well-rounded, defined tune. 

“All three of us bring our own ideas to a song. Typically, if we are deep into a writing session, we will be working on the same song for a few hours straight, and by the end, we have a very full-fledged song,” said Ward.   

“We are three very different people with different types of checks and balances, but we all overlap at the same time. It’s like a really goofy venn diagram between us,” added Dunnagan. 

Even though Dunnagan just so happened to rock out on stage with his favorite band Green Day in 2017, both he and Ward agree the favorite performance was at the local watering hole and music venue, Platypus. The Winks didn’t just have a sold-out show, the show was oversold, squeezing more people than it typically fits. Referencing their shows as “controlled chaos” they aim to create an inspiring, welcoming, open community for their audience.  

“We want to put on the very best live show possible. When people go to our shows, we want them to leave all the stress from the past week behind and spend a collective 30 to 60 minutes having a good time with everyone else in the room,” said Ward. 

Although Dunnagan jokes that they would prefer to be sent postcards, for now you can keep up with new projects and upcoming shows on their social media or keep an eye out for them at the Delmar Loop, where they can often be found busking all types of music, from their own tunes to, most recently, Lady Gaga.

You can also check out our local Spotify list featuring St. Louis artists like The Winks, updated every month.  


Photo credit: Faith Haggard