Photo by Pat McQuade, courtesy of Wildhoney
Wildhoney don’t want to make noise. Well, they do, but noise isn’t the end game. It’s just a tool of expression. The Baltimore-based five-piece guitar band consciously eschews the genre label of shoegaze in favor of indie pop. They view shoegaze as more an approach to their music as opposed to a specific defining feature.
Listening to the group’s ambiguous guitars immediately draws to mind beloved experimental bands of the 90s like My Bloody Valentine, but Wildhoney’s deliberate pop sensibilities are there too, shining through in sparkling melodies amid layers of harmonies, vaguely recalling Kinski or Stereolab. This is band that doesn’t like limitations.
Wildhoney got together in 2011 and proceeded to release a couple 7-inch records, using a lo-fi combination of GarageBand and other assorted Apple devices. They never recorded any proper demos, but, through word of mouth, their EPs reached punk label Deranged and Forward!, who signed Wildhoney for a full-length release. You won’t hear any punk influences, though: Wildhoney’s music is swirling saccharine guitars with vocalist Lauren Shusterich’s high-pitched warbles complementing the reverb. And unlike with a lot of the band’s peers, her soaring vocal melodies aren’t buried deep within the music; it takes a stand and demands your attention. Shusterich states that she writes her lyrics with the expressed purpose of being something that people can relate to. Through excellent technical songwriting, you can hum along to it; if you were sufficiently drunk, you could even dance to it at a bar.
The year ahead is set to be an enormous one for Wildhoney. They are embarking on a 17-date tour (dates below) to coincide with the release of their debut album, Sleep Through It, which comes out January 20. Today, Noisey is excited to premiere the album’s single and title track, “Sleep Through It.” Though it clocks in at only two and half minutes, it manages to fit its own hazy optimism within a compact pop architecture. I also called up the band and talked to Shusterich, guitarist Joe Trainor, and bassist Alan Everhart about melding shoegaze and pop sensibilities.
Noisey: There’s a lo-fi aspect to your music that I quite like, and isn’t really present with shoegaze music these days. Nowadays it’s all meant to sound very polished and nerdy.
Alan Everhart: We’re into shoegaze, but we’re more into the raw side of things. Compared to our contemporaries, we don’t have as much gear as other bands. For us, it’s about good songwriting and pop melodies, and it’s less about playing with effects.
The shoegaze community is a group of gearheards—to the point where they show off their pedal boards.
Joe Trainor: We all work service jobs for the most part, so we don’t have money to buy that kind of equipment. We’ve worked within the various limitations that we have. For example, almost all the songs I’ve written for Wildhoney start off with an acoustic guitar, so I don’t have to rely on effects to make things sound interesting.
Do you feel like your lyrics tell narrative stories, or are they based in real things in your life?
Lauren Shusterich: Up until now, the lyrics have been on my personal life, but I make certain details vague or exaggerate things to make them relatable. I get all of my writing materials during more depressive points in my life, then wait a couple months till I’m feeling better to actually write about it.
You have to give yourself time to survive, to live through things before you can make art out of it.
When I’m depressed, I don’t have it in me to be proactive about creating things. Experiences need time to crystallize so they aren’t written about in an indulgent way. And I do try to write pop songs, which is a departure from our shoegaze contemporaries.
What are your biggest influences specifically with regards to pop music?
Shusterich: I listen to a healthy amount of like, mainstream pop. I want people to be able to sing along to our music, which is definitely not typical of shoegaze.
Trainor: The Shangri-Las, The Crystals, Pasty Cline—all of that stuff is a huge influence too. When it comes to pop, we’re focused on 60s and 80s pop. Like, early Madonna is awesome. And the usual shoegaze reference points like Cocteau Twins, Field Mice, The Verve, and the Beach Boys.
Everhart: We’ve established framework of shoegaze and noise pop, but there’s no rules to how we put the pieces together.
Trainor: We are also very interested in the psychedelic aspect of music. Shoegaze is a form of psychedelia… even though it means so many different things. Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine—all those bands have an otherworldly quality.
Shusterich: Even though hearing myself sing has been sort of an ongoing struggle. I just got a pair of in-ear monitors, and I had to be sold on the idea because it seemed very Britney Spears. But playing with the in-ears made me feel like I was wearing a bra that fit me right for the first time in my life. (Laughs) It was a really spiritual experience.
Let’s talk about the music scene in Baltimore. Is it welcoming to your style of music?
Everhart: We consider ourselves to be an indie pop band. Shoegaze is just our method of crafting pop. We’re not necessarily in love with the idea of shoegaze as separate from indie pop. Beach House is on the dreamier side of things, and they’re wonderful. They’re a huge inspiration for us.
Trainor: There’s a really wonderful guitar music scene: bands like Romantic States, Crimson Wave, and Expert Alterations, Alan’s other band who we’ll be touring with. All of us hang out together and have dinner. Future Islands just made a Baltimore a big deal now. And Beach House played a secret show here over the summer. They played all new songs, and there was one that like, my mouth was on the ground the whole time. Bands here are humble. Baltimore doesn’t breed massive egos.
Shusterich: Baltimore is a really inspiring place. It’s cheap to live here and is filled with really talented, creative people making really great art and music.
Wildhoney Tour Dates:
Fri. Jan. 9 - Columbus, OH: 6 p.m. in- store @ Used Kids and 9 p.m. show @ The Summit w /Katherine, Sega Genocide*
Sat. Jan. 10 - Cleveland, OH @ Now That's Class w/ Sun Mouth, Sails*
Sun. Jan. 11 - Cincinnati @ Tacocracy*
Mon. Jan. 12 - Louisville, KY @ The New Vintage w/ Six Bells*
Tues. Jan. 13 - Hattiesburg/Little Rock @ TBD*
Wed. Jan. 14 - Tulsa, OK @ Soundpony w/ Power Pyramid, Sun Vow*
Thurs. Jan. 15 - Austin, TX @ Cheer Up Charlies w/ Rose Selavy, Basketball Shorts, Those Howling*
Fri. Jan. 16 - Dallas, TX @ Crown & Harp w/ Narrow Head, Bummer Vacation*
Sat. Jan. 17 - New Orleans, LA @ Saturn Bar*
Mon. Jan. 19 - Savannah, GA @ Hang Fire*
Tues. Jan. 20 - Atlanta, GA @ Wonder Root w/ Twin Studies, Yokozuna*
Wed. Jan. 21 - Raleigh, NC @ Nice Price Books w/ Wool*
Thurs. Jan. 22 - Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter w/ Mensroom, Big No*
Fri. Jan. 23 - Baltimore, MD @ The Crown: LP Release Party w/ Wing Dam, Outer Spaces, Big Hush*
Sat. Jan. 24 - Washington, D.C. @ Above the Bayou w/ Big Hush, Myrrh Myrrh*
Sun. Jan. 25 - Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn w/ Gingerlys, Weedhounds*
Wed. Feb. 4 - New York, NY @ Cake Shop w/ Leave the Planet
Thurs. Feb. 5 - NJ @ TBA
Fri. Feb. 6 - Philadelphia,PA @ Bourbon and Branch w/ Leave The Planet
Sat. Feb. 7 - Baltimore, MD @ The Crown w/ Leave The Planet
* with Expert Alterations
Meagan Fredette is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter.