Experimentation and pop music are hardly the peanut butter and jelly of music. When the tuneful turn curious, sometimes you get the Beatles' "Revolver" (and the crowd goes crazy), sometimes you get the Monkees' "Head" (the crowd thinks band has gone crazy).
The Wandas "New Interface (A Design with Friends for the Future)," which comes out Tuesday, June 25, and is streaming here now, is experimentation done right, as the band's more artistic forays add depth and intrigue to the sound without sacrificing the band's core of solid song craft.
"Some of these songs were played for the first time as a band while we were working in the studio. I think the results are pretty cool and a little more arty," says singer, guitarist, and keyboard player Keith McEachern. And when the follow-up, "Well, how do you not get too arty in the process?" comes up, McEachern replies, "Our roots are in regular rock."
"Regular," though, sounds too tepid; even the Wandas' previous self-titled album that came out two years ago was notable for the freewheeling spirit of the songs. The Wandas all along have created interesting bridges, linking roots music to anthem rock to chamber pop, and so on.
The biggest shift from "Wandas" to "New Interface" is probably the band's willingness to leave more to the listener's imagination. The dreamscape element is strongest on the album's opening and closing numbers, "New Interface" and "My Mourning," respectively. The journey between those two points is likewise full of interesting contours.
"Killer Heart" and "Good Feeling," for instance, conjure Crazy Horse, for completely different and not-so-obvious reasons. The band's generally chill mood turns explosive_ but only for a moment_ with the eruptions of a guitar solo on "Mad Man." One of the first pieces of music the band put out from the project was "Hood River Blues," an effervescent instrumental. Check out the tunes for yourself now (though don't stop reading):
McEachern, guitarist Brent Battey, and bassist Ross Lucivero hopped onto a conference call to discuss the making and release of "New Interface" as well as the band's show Thursday at TT the Bear's.
It was last year after a three-month tour (one of many over the last couple of years) that McEachern and Battey started writing a few tunes, eying the release of a four-song EP.
But more ideas than expected started to surface, and the band ran with it. Instead of thinking about the finished product and planning out each song's sound and arrangement_ which is what the Wandas did for the self-titled album_ the band took its time and tinkered, letting producer Joel Ford help guide the process.
"The last record was done in six days because of all the pre-production we did. This time, we took the opportunity to work on the songs right in the studio. It was very liberating," McEachern says.
Without necessarily following a hard-and-fast plan, "New Interface" ended up with nice flourishes, such as Lucivero's bass work on "Davy Jones' Locher."
"I knew I wanted a bass solo in the song, but just told Ross, 'Do what you do,' rather than writing it out" Battey says.
The Wandas said a lot of ideas just fly around while the whole band is traveling together; a poem may turn into lyrics, or the sights they see may inspire a tune, as was the case with the Hood River in Oregon. And while the herding of those ideas sounds like it was pretty chaotic, the finished product does have a sleek design. That short acoustic number "Velvet Dream," for instance, is the record's de facto "end of side 1."
The Wandas also beefed up their live shows with impressionistic videos played during the band's performance.
"We just started putting videos behind us as we played, and then added lights and a smoke machine," Battey says. "It really worked."
The sound is also fuller as William Bierce moved from drummer to additional guitarist, making room for drummer Greg Settino to join the band.
The Wandas will have this full-on show June 27 at TT the Bear's, 10 Brookline St., Cambridge. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and Slowdim and Boom Said Thunder are also playing.
The allure of visuals has also prompted the Wandas to release two music videos thus far, one for "Mad Man" and one for "Davy Jones' Locher." Take a look:
I think we're seeing a trend here. Let's hope the Wandas keep 'em coming.
The Wandas new album will be available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/the-wandas/id125445016.
And to the band's doings are online at www.thewandas.com.
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