A band called Wandas
Members take what they learned on the road and put it into their second album
Here’s to hanging in there. It took only eight or nine years, but finally, it seems, the Wandas appear poised to break through in a big way to audiences in Boston and beyond. You could call them an overnight sensation - that is, if by “overnight’’ you mean nearly a decade of writing songs and logging shows, persevering through myriad lineup shifts and leaky roofed tour vans. And then, undaunted, doing it some more.
Released earlier this week, the band’s second official album (following earlier recordings that are no longer available) is simply titled “The Wandas.’’ The directness of the name - which might lead listeners to believe that it’s the group’s astonishingly assured debut - is entirely intentional. Call it the ambitious reboot of a start-up franchise that, until recently, remained mostly unknown outside the city limits.
“It just feels right, finally,’’ says singer-guitarist Keith McEachern, who cofounded the band with guitarist Brent Battey while both were students at the Berklee College of Music in the early aughts. “We were at South by Southwest [the annual music festival in Austin, Texas] two years ago when we started thinking about [this] album. We felt like a real band and we wanted to emphasize that.’’
Mission accomplished. With its lusciously melancholic and lushly layered (but, crucially, not overproduced) collection of pop songs that feel and sound like a balmy late summer breeze, “The Wandas’’ does a terrific job of staking the band’s claim of having arrived at long last.
“New Wave Blues,’’ which preceded the new album, merely hinted at what “The Wandas’’ delivers right out of the gate with the harmony and hook-hung opener, “Do or Die’’: classically fashioned pop that feels freshly in the moment but timeless, too.
As a whole, it’s a gorgeously warm and wistful work, full of yearning and wonder - not to mention vintage flushes of Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 organs, Wurlitzer electric piano, and even glockenspiel.
“We came off basically touring for a year and a half,’’ McEachern says over afternoon drinks at Deep Ellum in Allston, where he’s nestled among his bandmates, which include McEachern’s cousin, bassist Ross Lucivero; drummer Bill Bierce; and Battey, McEachern’s frequent writing partner. “And we felt it was time to make an album that reflected our live show.’’
“Touring and playing out live is huge [for a band],’’ says Battey. “You get tighter, you learn how to react to crowds, you get to play different kinds of venues in different kinds of environments. It’s a great learning experience.’’
The Wandas always seem to be playing somewhere. They’ll be at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester tomorrow night before kicking off a two-month tour with a CD-release show at Berklee’s Cafe 939 next Thursday.
For all its polish, there’s a refreshingly un-fussed over, organic quality to “The Wandas.’’ Band members say the songs, tracked in Canada with producer (and Dears guitarist) Patrick Krief and mixed by engineer Dave Schiffman (who has worked with everyone from Tom Petty to Johnny Cash to Jane’s Addiction), were mostly completed in three takes or fewer. The whole album was recorded in six days. The Wandas are justifiably proud of the result, which has already garnered enthusiastic raves from blogs and publications ranging from USA Today to Guitar World magazine (which named the record one of the top 50 of the year so far).
“It’s pretty sweet,’’ Lucivero says of the early reaction. “Anytime you do something that you think is really great, and someone else thinks that, too . . . you’re pleasantly surprised.’’
Drummer Bierce believes his band has made a record rooted in the past but also built for the future. “I like that nostalgic feeling I get when I put it on,’’ Bierce says. “And it sounds like something that, in 10 years, will make you happy.’’
As for what McEachern envisioned the band being when he and Battey first launched the Wandas nearly a decade ago? The singer smiles and gestures boldly toward his cohorts around the table: “This!’’
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.