Exploring The Melodic Personality Of Wylder
Returning to Richmond tonight at Garden Grove Brewing is Wylder, the dulcet and spirited indie-folk quartet hailing just a few hours north from the DC area. Poised with a flexible sound and graceful lyrics, they’re a band that’s instantly engaging, writing smart songs full of complicated melodic layering and performing them with poise and gusto that’s uniquely personal, traits that were fully displayed on their fantastic 2016 album Rain And Laura.
In fact, it’s the authentic and vulnerable personality of the band that makes them so captivating to listen to. Lyrically, they can explore complicated feelings like sudden anxiety and shaky confidence with penetrating clarity, but they can also flesh out themes of loss and heartbreak through unexpected allegorical symbols, like something as silly as a favorite sweater. It’s a difficult balancing act, but one that’s come easy to a band that’s been able to examine the human condition with serene and cathartic music, as well as a lighthearted tone necessary to make it through the struggles of everyday life. See them in concert, and you’ll see their personality shine through, something that strengthens, not lessens, the weight of their songwriting by shying away from the trap of distended artistry their peers often fall into. Instead, these are resonant songs grounded in authentic storytelling and tempered by the band’s endless stockpile of infectious harmonies.
This past November, the band unveiled their latest single, “Ready To Break,” which also serves as the first taste of what’s to come on their next record due out in 2019. The song shows off the compositional prowess the four members embody, with melodies that sync up and drift away at the precise moments, and though, according to the band, it may be an outlier in terms of sound from their new record, it shows that the band’s songwriting has only gotten more adept at softening the confines of chamber folk or expanding the traditional pop rock format.
Before their show tonight, we talked with singer/guitarist Will McCarry to find out more about the new record, as well as the different approaches and goals the band has strived for since their last record was released.
How far along in the new album process are you right now?
We hit the studio in June to begin tracking the album. By that time, we’d been working on home demos of all the songs for the better part of a year. So we were very prepared when we began officially tracking. Since then, we have spent the Fall methodically mixing the record, and I am pleased to say that it will done in the next few weeks.
Rain And Laura came out in April of 2016. How soon after that did you start thinking towards the new record?
Since I first began playing guitar, I’ve spent most of my life looking toward the next record. This was especially the case with Rain And Laura because the process of making it took so long — after all, we tracked the whole thing twice in its entirety. By the time it was out, I’d already been brainstorming new concepts for the better part of a year. Though I’m definitely still writing new material now that I hope will continue to raise the bar for us, this forthcoming record feels like the culmination of what I’ve been trying to do for years.
How was the recording process different this time around than in previous sessions?
This time around things came together more quickly. For example, we took almost four days recording drums the last time around — this time we were done in under one. I’d say in general we were more methodical in our preparation, but mostly last time I was consistently challenged by our producer and had to fight for my vision. This time we did not have to deal with that.
Other than just picking someone different, did you change anything about your recording approach so you didn’t have another challenging experience with a producer?
Yes, we definitely worked to be as prepared as possible. Though we worked with a producer on the initial tracking of this new album — and had an amazing time doing it — when we started digging in to begin mixing, we made a lot of changes and retracked a lot of stuff that really became what informed the production. [Drummer] Mike [Pingley] deserves a lot of credit where “Ready To Break” is concerned, as his mix brought the very particular vibe we were looking for.
Did you find yourselves being overly particular about any one or two facets of the new songs?
It’s hard to pick out one or two facets, as we’re pretty particular across the board. I’d say that’s why we work well as a unit. [Bassist/Pianist] Jackson [Wright] is our resident musicologist — though he is in general very quiet, he’ll always speak up if something doesn’t work or sounds dissonant. Mike is all about perfecting the sonic elements and picks up on the smallest production details. [Guitarist] Lonnie [Southall] is very particular about vibe and style, and where we fit in the indie landscape. And I am particular about arrangements, the way all the parts fit together and making the performances match the overall vision.
Any definite facts you can share right now — number of songs, album title, release date, maybe even artwork?
The album has eleven songs and the title and artwork are finalized. We are currently pushing for a Spring release date. Check back early next year and we’ll have more to share.
Will the 2017 single “Save A Way,” or tracks like “The Lake” and “River Of Sun” from Live At White Star Sound appear on the record?
That’s a question that we agonized over. Ultimately, we decided not to include “Save A Way” or “River Of Sun”, but “The Lake” was always a song I wanted for the album and it appears again. “River” may be due for a full band version in the future.
How many more songs would you say were considered for this record, but ultimately discarded or perhaps earmarked for a future releases?
Oh man, so many. There were about 15 songs that were cut. I’d say many of them just didn’t end up fitting for this particular collection, but have a lot of potential and will show up on a future release.
How soon in the album’s genesis did “Ready To Break” come about?
A few of the songs on the new album — like “Ready To Break” — have been around since before we released Rain And Laura. I initially didn’t have any intention of including it on the record, but after I showed Mike my initial demo, he resurrected the idea for me and insisted we flesh it out — which ended up being a very good idea.
How did this one become a clear pick for your first “single” from the record?
Though “Ready To Break” fits into the overall fabric of the album, there’s nothing else on the record that sounds quite like it, and we wanted to be sure we gave it a proper spotlight.
Your songs have such intrinsic melodies playing off of each other. Do you specifically write these melodies to go together, or do they just naturally come out in the songwriting process?
Arranging is my favorite part of songwriting. Usually, I’ll start with a lead vocal melody and chord pattern. Many of the additional melodies and harmonies only come to me when I sit down to demo the song. So, I’d say with some exceptions they naturally come out of the songwriting process.
“Ready To Break” seems to double-down on what made “Bitter” such a great song — ebullient melodies and a carefree rhythm. Did you approach the new album in this way, doubling-down on Rain And Laura‘s positives, or was there more exploration?
I see these songs in the same wheelhouse, for sure. We were very conscious of expanding on things that we liked about Rain And Laura, while also pushing ourselves. It is at once a major departure from Rain And Laura and an expansion on all the things fans enjoy about that record. In general I’d say the new songs gravitate more towards the territory we explored with songs like “Lantern,” “Snake In The Grass,” and “Strange Weather.”
Besides just better songs and stronger melodies, was there anything specific you tried to top Rain And Laura with this new batch of songs?
I have always been interested in concept albums, and I think most of my work for Wylder has shades of that. For this album, I was very deliberate about the story I wanted to tell and the ways in which I wanted the songs to fit together. Many of the songs on this album flow into one another—something we first tried on “At the End Pt 1” and “Pt 2” on Rain And Laura.
What theme did you want to tackle in the story for the new record?
This time around I decided to explore loss and memory. The album for me is all about the erroneous idea that there was once — or may soon be — a time that is perfect.
How would you describe the sound of Wylder in 2016 versus the sound of Wylder today?
While I might still consider us in the indie-folk genre, that’s more for convenience’s sake than anything else. When we started out we highly identified with the folk-pop label. What we’re doing now still has some of the sunnier elements of those older songs, but cast through the lens of a darker, more grounded and organic indie-rock sound.
The 2010s have seen genre lines become more blurry and passive. As musicians, would you say you actively think about where your band fits in “sound-wise,” whether it’s in making songs or after a record is finished and ready to go?
I love that genre tends to matter less and less, and there’s less need or desire to classify music into tidy groups. That said, if you’re making pop music of any kind, I think it’s impossible not to draw comparisons or try to find the right niche for yourself while you’re writing and recording.
Besides the obvious — accepting a Grammy from Paul McCartney live on TV — what goals or milestones are you hoping to strive for in 2019 and onward?
Ah — if that scenario is out of the running… I think over the next year and beyond we hope to reach even more new fans out on the road. We’re also looking to release a steady stream of new music from here on out, so get ready!
Wylder plays Garden Grove Brewing & Urban Winey tonight, Friday, December 7th, alongside local artists Tyler Meacham and MARGO. For more information on the show, click here.