We love local music here at BendBroadband, and one of our favorite local bands is Wilderness, an adventurous pop-rock four-piece that will celebrate the release of its second album Friday night at Volcanic Theatre Pub (70 SW Century Drive, Bend).
The show starts at 9 p.m., cover is $5 and the Boise, Idaho band Thick Business will open. According to the Facebook event page, Wilderness will play the whole new album and will have copies for sale, too.
Escape Was Narrow is the follow-up to the Bend-based band’s excellent 2013 debut Homeward From the Battle — one of its tunes was featured in our Rock On campaign — and it delivers more of Wilderness’ sweeping, shambling sound. What this group does is not easy: Frontman Jared Smith takes fairly straightforward, strummy folk-rock and shapes it around his own idiosyncratic idea of song structure. Then, his band mates — wife Nora Smith on keys, bassist Nick Graham and drummer Bradley Parsons — bring the music to life, adding distinctive elements like horns and clanks and hiss and oddly enchanting organ parts. It all adds up to something that feels ambitious and accessible and cool.
Earlier this week, the band released a video for the album’s first single, and today, we’re proud to premiere a second song from Escape Was Narrow, a charming Jared-and-Nora duet called The Right Time Is Right. Give it a listen, and read our interview with Jared Smith below.
BendBroadband: When, where and how did you all record Escape Was Narrow?
Jared Smith: Escape Was Narrow was recorded starting in June at my home studio. (Still tryin’ to come up with a name for it.) I recorded the album using a Mac mini that I force to communicate with an obsolete Pro Tools rig via some kind of digital voodoo I barely understand, if at all. Basically I cross my fingers and press the power button. Somehow it all seems to work. I still have one good mic (which actually was broken during recording) and seven questionable ones. I’ve picked up a couple more since Homeward was recorded. And somehow my home studio room has an interesting sound to it, so I was all set on that front.
BBB: Broadly speaking, the recording sounds fuller, more developed, more confident, but at the same time looser and shaggier than Homeward. Do any of those descriptors ring true with you?
JS: Interesting … and fun! Another listener described it as more wooly. I like that. I suppose Homeward was a collection of songs I brought to the table before the band was solidified. Homeward was the sound of us working out how these songs need to be delivered. Since then we’ve played a lot of shows and we not only have a clearer vision (right now, at least) of what it is that we’re about, but also the feedback we get when we play certain songs.
All the songs on this album (except two that are older) were hashed out in the past 10 months and the lyrics were written in that time-frame as well. This affects not only the confidence these songs give off, but there is also waaaay less going on instrument-wise. I focused on getting each of the parts to sound like they do — or at least feel like they do — when we play them live. Also, we had a pretty tight self-imposed deadline for this one. I’m a bit of a snail when it comes to writing lyrics. Having the deadline allowed me to go places and do things I wouldn’t normally do to write lyrics. I had to face those demons … a little bit, anyway.
BBB: Comparing Homeward and the new one, to what would you attribute their differences in sound and aesthetic?
JS: Being able to work these out as an established band would be the largest element to this, I would think. Bouncing ideas off of each other and being able to just play alongside people with whom you share a musical connection is huge. And we’ve all grown up a shade since Homeward was released. Escape Was Narrow is a pretty clear reflection of that, I think.
BBB: Is there an overarching theme in your lyrics on this album? Or is it just a collection of stories you’ve written and set to song?
JS: Lyrically, this album was at times painfully difficult to write. Mostly because I was rarely able to get out of the working-man headspace and into the artistic headspace long enough to feel as … poetic, I guess, as I would like to. This is… my Bruce Springsteen-esque album.
BBB: You and Nora had your first kid since the release of Homeward. Tell me how his presence has affected your all’s music-making and being in a band. Have you noticed any effect on your songwriting?
JS: He’s such a gift. There are so many things he does, and that he is, that inspire every day. If I’m playing something on the guitar and he starts dancing around I know I’m on the right track. And I guess we all make choices as to what we do with our time. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice, and I notice infinitely more now than ever that what I feel the “need” to be doing is keeping me away from my family. Whether it’s “work” or the pursuit of whatever your passion is, there’s always something else tugging on the heartstrings. How can the presence of a rad little man not influence me? I’d have to be a fool! The song “Baby Blues” is about this very thing.
BBB: We’re always interested in how the Internet, connectivity, technology, etc., plays into folks’ day-to-day pursuits. Can you talk a little bit about how any/all of the above have played a crucial role in recording your music, distributing it, booking gigs and promoting the band?
JS: It’s amazing to think how much Internet-related technology has not only advanced, but become such an integral part of how we do anything. I can remember many, many moons ago when I was a kid, I had a Tascam 4-track. I had to do some troubleshooting, and I didn’t have a manual, so I called the 1-800 number on the back and spoke to a human who took my address. Three weeks later I received a manual, and was back in business. Today everything is available in minutes. I constantly am troubleshooting my strange studio setup online and there’s barely a time when I can’t solve a problem in under 15 minutes.
Not to mention, I don’t need to carry a pile of reel-to-reel tapes on a plane to Chicago where the gentleman who mixed out record lives. I uploaded the sessions in under an hour and we were able to listen to each track as he mixed them, provide feedback, and basically work 2,000 miles away from each other. Granted, it would be nice to be in the same room, but it’s an amazing thing to be able to work this way. We can also make a video and instantly get it in front of countless people.
For me, the romance of the full-length album will never die, and nothing will compare with listening through a well-conceived 50 minutes of music. (I also am terrible at keeping it short, which is why I am not a tweeter.) But for the ambitious and willing there is endless opportunity to engage your audience with constant content and a plethora of platforms, all of which we have access to in the palm of our hand. Amazing. What would my grandfather have to say about this?
Wilderness’ album-release show is at 9 p.m. Friday at Volcanic Theatre Pub, located at 70 SW Century Drive in Bend. Cover is $5 and Thick Business opens.