By Leann Bescript
The Lonely Wild is traditional in many senses, especially in their old-school western influenced style. But their newest album, Chasing White Light, was recorded entirely to tape, which was odd even for the multi-instrumentalist alt-folk quintet.
Working with John Vanderslice at the noted Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco, CA, the band had to readjust to old school recording styles, leaving their old ways of exactitudes behind.
Their first single from the new album, “Running,” was released earlier this year. It is a fast-paced ballad coupled with male and female vocals, big drums and contrasting tiny bells. It maintains an inspiring and hopeful tone, despite its exploration of death. According to front-man Andrew Carroll, the afterlife is a theme that carries throughout the new album.
During their most recent string of a shows in Texas, which included their second official year at SXSW, the band brought their revamped ideas of how to execute their new songs in live performances. The Lonely Wild is skillfully bringing their listeners an authentic and deliberate sound and message, that has evolved with their willingness to experiment as a multi-faceted band.
I spoke to Andrew Carroll right before the band set out on their 24-hour drive from CA to TX for SXSW, earlier this March.
Play Too Much: How was recording your newest album different than your past experiences?
Andrew Carroll: This time around we worked with John Vanderslice at The Tiny Telephone, and he’s very adamant about the purity of sound and analog, super hi-fi. That’s kinda like the old-school approach to recording, but it was exciting!
We were very much (John especially) adamant about early takes, just getting a fresh live performance and not nit-picking every little detail. In a lot of ways, this is a more raw recording than anything we’ve ever done before. When you’re recording your own music, especially, you hear all the things that are wrong with it. A lot of the times we would do a take and he’d say “ok good take, let’s move on,” and we’d say “can we hear it,” and he’d be like “no, it’s good!”
PTM: What do you think it is about SXSW that keeps bringing you back?
AC: It is exhausting because you’re just running the gauntlet, playing show after show, but it’s this weird kind of electric energy pulsing through the city. It’s irresistible!
There’s just so many bands and so many musicians, and you could look at that as an intimidating thing, because there are so many bands that are trying to do what you’re doing, and trying to get air time so people can hear their tunes. But it’s also really inspiring, because there are just so many cool and talented people out there. It seems like the whole country, maybe even the world, has assembled in this little town in Texas for a week.
PTM: Is it a democracy when you’re deciding who’s going to play the music on your roadtrips?
AC: It’s usually just who ever is driving gets to pick, so I know that if certain people are driving I’ll have to put headphones on because it’s going to be Phish, or something like that, the whole time. We take turns driving and usually go the whole way straight through.
PTM: Haha so what have you been listening to lately?
AC: I just picked up Father John Misty’s new record which is pretty fantastic. There’s this other band, Timber Tamber, I also picked up a few of their records. I think they’re Canadian. We’ve been listening to them a lot. Jesse, my bandmate just got me into Songs: Ohia which has been pretty great. Then, of course, we always have lots of Neil Young.
PTM: Would you say that “Running” is a good representation of the album, or are other songs more on the darker side?
AC: Well I hope it’s never morbid or dark, the songs have a lot to do with death but it’s not supposed to be a scary thing or a horrific thing. For whatever reason it was occupying my mind when writing the songs.
The first song I started writing for the record is a song called “Scar,” and it was about a childhood friend of mine who died young. I didn’t even intend to write about her, at first, but I just started humming nonsense, and then words came out and it just turned into a song about her. Then, that kinda theme wove its way through a lot of other tracks on the album.
With any album usually we’ll go into the studio and we’ll have like 20, or in this case 30 songs, and we cut it down to twelve. So, we kinda chose the ones that thematically went together.
I think “Running” isn’t explicitly about death, it’s maybe more about life, or the nature of existence, in a way. It’s not a morbid record, but death definitely is a theme that weaves throughout it.
PTM: How does the song-writing process usually work?
AC: Usually our song-writing process is that I write songs, and I’ll make these little demos, and then I post them online for the band to listen to. If they like them, we feel it out and start to pick which ones to pursue based on how we would play them live. We figure out how to make it work as a group. Then, we would re-demo those songs.
It’s definitely a specific process, and that plays into the differences that I was referring to during the Tiny Telephone experience with John. We are very methodical as a band and we have a very meticulous arrangement with stuff like that.
So, when we came to the studio we had an idea and we said “Oh we want to do this here…and that there…” But he was kinda like “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Don’t change your demos because you made those when you were inspired, and you don’t want to recreate that, because it’s not going to sound as good.”
He told us to try something new, and said “let’s take some songs, listen to them as we are making them, and see what the songs call for.”
It was a cool experience working with him because we had all these demos and we recorded them with him and then said, “let’s wipe the slate clean and try again!” It was refreshing in a lot of ways.
Chasing White Light is due to be released Summer 2015, but you can download “Running” on itunes now.
You can also watch the lyric video for Running, which is a timelapse filmed by members of The Lonely Wild during a walk through a California Park below!