PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
Invite Me In
Invite Me In is available via:
The album, Mirror Touch, is available from:
6th October, 2017
AS I delve into a great U.S. band…
it raises some questions in my mind. For a starter; the group have a number of intriguing aspects I wanted to talk about but it is where they are from, and how long they have been together, that interests me. I will discuss longevity and how few bands actually survive a number of years. It is hard, in this business, to guarantee any longevity and stability. I have seen some incredible bands call time for various different reasons. It can be tough predicting the future and, regardless of how stable things appear; there is that chance things can go wrong. That sounds rather gloomy and negative but this is the truth of the music industry. Two big-profile acts, Wild Beats and The Maccabees, have called time in the past year-or-so. It is distressing seeing established bands end things – we do not really know the reason behind either’s split. It sent shockwaves through music and questioned why established bands, under no critical pressure, ends things. We all get safe and secure with our musical tastes and never really think things are going to go wrong – where the band/artist gets out of music and things change. It is rewarding and encouraging discovering bands who manage to endure and prosper. I wanted to bring Wild Ones in because they seem as solid as they ever were. Together for over seven years; that can seem like cat years in terms of musical lifespan – maybe there is something in the water over in Portland. I think the band have managed to stay together is because they’re friends. There is a solid and unbreakable connection between the players that translate to the music. As competitive and tough as the industry is; it is great seeing certain acts continue, unaffected. Wild Ones have a solidity and understanding that means music and friendship come before any politics and stress. I am sure there have been misunderstandings and harder times in the ranks but I expect the Portland band to survive for a very long time.
I am always cheered when a band goes from strength-to-strength and evolves their music. I am listening back to earlier work from Wild Ones and seeing their sounds build and change. They keep their solid and core sound but add in new elements and dynamics. Confidence and assuredness define everything they do. Another reason I bring this discussion up is because many are questioning whether solo artists are stealing focus. I am among the group who feel solo acts are taking ground and producing better-quality recordings. There was a time, years back, when bands ruled the roost and there was no chance the best solo artists could match their appeal and quality. That has changed and, since the beginning of this decade, the rulership and reign of the solo artist has solidified. This is not to say bands are obsolete but there are fewer interesting alternatives than before – few that manage to say anything relevant and exciting. Anyone who thinks that is hyperbole needs to compare the music of past decades – the themes being sung about and the type of albums being produced – and what we have now. There are fantastic groups around but there are not as many greats as once was. Wild Ones seem like a different breed and a group that manage to establish quality and nuance whilst projecting important and deep messages. One of the big things that troubles me about the band market is the lack of artists who are talking about politics and what is happening in the world today – getting people together and penning songs that endure through the years. It has been a while since I have heard a mainstream band I am compelled to track and follow through their careers. The best results come from the underground: one cannot get the same mixture of explosions and curiosities from the mainstream. I am excited taking my mind further across the water and discovering U.S. bands like Wild Ones.
Before I come to look at Portland/Oregon; I wanted to look at messages in songs and what groups are talking about right now. Wild Ones do not have the political messages and anthems of the greatest bands but, in an industry where there is homogenisation, they create songs that stray from the pack. I guess that is one of the things I have noticed: politics and socially aware anthems, when we talk of original and populist themes, have been replaced by psychological investigations and reflections of the self. Love is a huge commodity but there are very few who write songs about what is happening in society and how the world is changing. I am not sure why this is but, perhaps, bands/artists do not know how to write an effective and meaningful song – when thinking about politics and channelling the splits and divisions that run through the world. Whilst it is sad seeing a lack of substantial commentary; I am pleased artists like Wild Ones do not feel the need to conform too readily and do what everyone else is. Mirror-touch synaesthesia and the psychological experience of empathy is something they have looked at in their new album. In basic terms; it is when someone feels the same as someone else. For example; when someone touches their cheek, the other person would feel that sensation. It is an odd condition but one many people experience. For Wild Ones; they use that effect to talk about empathy and how people can turn into those around them. How could we know ourselves when we become everyone else in public? It is an interesting question that people are not raising. It is fascinating seeing how certain artists are trying to change music through lyrics. I will talk about Wild Ones’ music and compositions but the subjects they are raising is unlike anything around.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
Are we trying to homogenise our musicians and make the scene more ‘accessible’ and disposable?! It is easy talking about love because everyone can relate and it is not too taxing on the brain. If a band starts looking at unusual sensations and meaningful areas – is that a risky venture that could put off casual and young listeners? There is a danger there but, if music is to push forward, artists need to be braver and more original with their material. Wild Ones show what can be achieved when throwing away the rules and doing something they believe in. I wonder whether this method is how the music industry will grow and rebel. I have been hankering for artists that talk about what is happening around us but, if there is going to be an overhaul of the mainstream and the relative banality; the underground needs to be provided more exposure and attention. I think acts like Wild Ones – given what they are writing about – will influence others and have the scope to get other acts thinking about their music. Maybe the side-route is the way we can cut away at the proliferation of love and commercial sounds; bring about something real and thoughtful – provide music with a greater degree of meaning and direction. What we have now is fine but it is not going to be inspire generations to get into the industry. Thinking about something like mirror-touch synaesthesia and I wonder how many other acts are trying something as daring? Listening to songs from Mirror Touch – the band’s latest album – and it is filled with a variety of themes and avenues. Nothing is slight and predictable. We get a range of songs that look at psychology and personal emotions; aspects that make you think and songs that remain long in the memory.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
I keep putting off Portland but I shall leave it to the end of the introduction. D.I.Y. artists are becoming more visible for a number of reasons. Wild Ones have a bit of Pop polish and sheen but that is intentional. It is a fine line walking between professional and digestible and rawness. Fans and music—lovers want something that has personality and is unlike anything else but if a song is undercooked and too sketchy then that risks castigating the masses and seeing only a few people remain. I am full of respect for bands who produce and record their own music because it does not rely on the labels and means there is greater freedom. I have spoken to many unsigned artists and wonder whether they are chasing a deal. Many want the money and backing of a label but those who are opposed say they have the chance to do write music how they want – the label not breathing down their necks at every chance they get. One is always aware, when signing that deal, the bosses are going to manipulate the artist so they are ready for the mainstream. It is dangerous allowing a group the chance to think for themselves and do something that might see them as the outsiders. Wild Ones have a solid sound and direction but I feel, if they let others have their say, that will take away their ethics and unique strands. Few artists want that so they have to take control and find their own way. Self-producing can be a great way of learning more about the music industry and acquiring new skills. Acts that produce can, in time, do so for other artists and have a lot more options in the future. The members of Wild Ones know how to put a song together and have a passionate bond to the anatomy of the music they create.
I love a great D.I.Y. sound but, as I explained, it can be tough creating a sound when you have that balance of professionalism and underfed. I am not suggesting everything D.I.Y. is a little underwhelming but it allows an act the chance to produce music the way they want to – and takes away the nauseating shine and glee of modern studios. When you find someone who gives you a little window into the modern studio but takes away all the layers and polish – THAT is when you have something good in the midst. Wild Ones want to retain their integrity and not sell-out to the big-bucks contracts so many of their peers are chasing. Danielle Sullivan (keyboardist) Thomas Himes; drummer Seve Sheldon, guitarist Nick Vicario and bassist Max Stein have been around long enough to know what they are doing. They are not in a position to crumble and go running for a label. That is good because, listening to their music, and it sounds unlike anyone else. Whilst the band split up and write different parts in isolation: everything comes together in the studio and is a magnificent force. Many artists are getting hung up on following the ‘popular’ option and writing about themes that have been done to death. It may sound a bit weighty listening to songs about isolation, psychological sensations and empathy – some would be wary of stepping into music that has that intelligence and peculiar D.N.A. Props must be given the Oregon band that has eschewed the easy and are writing music that makes the listener think and challenge conventions. The established order is not really saying anything that is really interesting and unexpected. I am excited by Wild Ones and what they are putting out. Long may their reign continue and let’s hope they do not feel the need to change their course and compromise. Invite Me In, their latest track, is a stunning song that challenges the mind, but gets the voice ringing and the body motivated.
Before I go onto the song itself; I want to talk about U.S. music and artists from Portland. I am torn as to whether the U.K. or U.S. is producing the best music right now. If one looks at the best albums of last year and we cannot help but notice a U.S. dominance. Whether you were affected by Beyoncé’s Lemonade or Bon Iver’s 22, A Million – there were few British albums that could rival those heights. We produced a few great albums but nothing that challenged the best of America. This year, with Benjamin Clementine and Wolf Alice releasing career-best records; I feel the balance will be redressed come the end of 2017. I admire work by Queens of the Stone Age (Villains) but there are few other competitors that can hassle the best of British. It is odd seeing how music changes from year-to-year but it is clear, regardless of the mainstream best, the U.S. is providing some of the best music in the world. I do not often get to explore various states but it has been a long time since I have been to Oregon. Portland is a virile and fertile city that has given us The Dandy Warhols, The Decemberists and She & Him – Ages and Ages and Radiation City. Newer acts like Adventure Galley are worth a shout. They are multi-instrumentalists that can bring the party and are making their names heard. Their music is getting stronger and they seem like a band that can get nationwide acclaim. And And And are a rowdy Portland band that is among the hardest and most exhilarating groups in the business. AgesandAges – another A-heavy group – is a harmonic experience that compels you to sing along and has energy to spare. It shows what diversity there is in Oregon and cities like Portland. Lost Lander and Pure Bathing Culture are great bands breaking through. Radiation City are another promising force and, between them, they are putting the state on the map and showing what quality there is.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
Other areas of Oregon are providing great music, Albany among them, and it is a state that should not be ignored. I am not sure what the current trends are there – in terms of sounds favoured – but it appears Oregon is experimental and loves artists that do not chase dollars and commercialism. Portland is the biggest musical city in the state but there are other locales that have tremendous music buzzing from them. Wild Ones are among the very best of Oregon and have the potential to get big attention. I wonder whether the band is keen to explore other parts of the U.S. Oregon is situated north of Nevada and south of Washington. California and Canada is either end of them – not too far to travel if they hop on a plane – and they have states like Montana and Wyoming to their right. I am not sure whether they are states where there’s a big music scene – I always associate them with hunting and the rural back-roads – but Washington and Nevada are big draws. Las Vegas, in the news for the wrong reasons lately, has a huge music scene and there are plenty of opportunities for them. L.A. would require the guys to get on a plane, perhaps (it would take longer than half a day to drive there) but Seattle is a lot closer. They have a perfect base to reach the biggest parts of America. Situated where they are; there is a healthy local scene but other states that could attract them. As their album is out there; I wonder whether Mirror Touch is going to get itself out there and to the population. I have never been to Portland but know there is a lot of respect for the city. The artists that live there know there are chances to perform – I will talk about the venues when closing – and ample opportunity to get into the national consciousness. I have listed artists who are making waves so it cannot be too long before some of them ascend to the major leagues of music.
Invite Me In starts with shimmering electronics and a sense of the unexpected. It is like wandering through the city at night and experiencing the flicks and flecks of neon lights; the rush of distant traffic and the far-off hum from a late-night bar. There is a sense of solitude and self-reflection in those early notes. Given the fact Wild Ones wrote the song in parts – various members writing different parts – that separate does not show on the song. It is a solid and honed song that gets into the head from the very off. It seems, when the heroine comes to the microphone, there is a man that is not opening their heart and door. It appears he is closed-off and a little cold to the touch. Maybe it is not a man – the first few words bring me to that conclusion – but the heroine is affected and in need for some compassion and sanctuary. The early thoughts of Invite Me In appear to be that lack of connection and different personalities. Her affecting and tremulous voice has sweetness and honey but seems to carry a certain burden. It seems, actually, this is not the first time our girl has been in the house (or where her man is). Maybe there are tensions and a sense of mistrust but they have been together for a while. There seems to be a routine in terms of the domestic situation but a definite sense of affair and adultery. The heroine wants the boy to place her above everyone else – not letting anyone else take her place. That is a fair assumption and understandable but one is knocked off their feet by the sweetness and purity of the vocal. Words that talk of doubts and tensions are not usually afforded such an ethereal and soft edge. The vocal is trembling and delicate but has a huge amount of soul and complexity. Backed by lifting electronics and a sense of shiver – the composition bursts with colours and a strange energy.
From the opening notes – a little chilly but very interesting – the music becomes more layered and detailed. The band do not stuff too much onto the plate but provide so much addictive sway and breeze. It is hard to describe the chorus but one smile and thinks at the same time. I get shades of En Vogue when listening to the chorus. The vocals coo and buzz. There is a sense of harmony and weaving that reminds me of the U.S. group. One gets a sense of R&B and Soul and, paired with the hot and exciting electronics, is hard to resist. The heroine wants her man to forsake all others and deliver love to her. It is a pure mantra and one that is not filled with any malice and accusations. I mentioned how Wild Ones dig deeper than most artists but many might assume a song about love is not that original. On their L.P., they are keen to explore psychology and more original areas but, here, they bring something fresh to relationships. Every band/artist will talk about love at some point so it is only natural Wild Ones would. What they do is subvert expectations and what we are hoping to find. Most acts would put too much energy and elements into the music. Their lyrics might come across lumpen but here, rather than succumb to clichés, the group provide something personal and interesting. The vocals stand out above everything else and capture the heart. Invite Me In does what it says but is not a case of the heroine pining for the man. One knows there is more to the song and a back-story that is worthy of further exploration. I got a sense of 1960s Pop when the chorus swung in. It is a huge sound that brings so much to the mind.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brandon Herrell
The voice lifts and strikes; there is a balance of sweetness and attack; the percussion rumbles and the lyrics make you wonder. Our girl is looking for answers – “Don’t you feel like a fraud sometimes?” – and is reluctant to open her door. Maybe the trust has gone and the ‘door’ refers to her heart. If hers is broken then, maybe, reluctance is going to creep in. As the song comes to its end; the vocal waves continue and infuse every sense. It is hard to refute their draw and attractiveness. One gets a real hit from the sound but, rather than leave it there, looks deeper into the song and what is happening. I am not sure whether compromise was found in the relationship struggle but it appears the heroine is in a new phase of her life. Maybe men have let her down and, rather than be shut out and pushed away, she wants to be let in. Every new relationship brings problems but she is not willing to be alone for no reason. It takes a lot of discussion but, from what I hear, there is little fairness and compassion coming from the hero. The doubts that niggle her mind are clear but one feels she has not given up hope. Those words sound rather downbeat but the composition is a burning and fireworks-display thing that lifts any stresses and gloom. I listened back to the song to get that giddy and infectious rush into the head. Invite Me In is one of many treasures from Mirror Touch and proof the Portland band are among the finest out there. If you have not experienced the brilliant music of Wild Ones then ensure you wrap your ears around the fantastic sounds of Invite Me In. It is a song, ironically, that draws you in and keeps you are.
PHOTO CREDIT: Martha Tesema
Let’s end things now but, as Wild Ones are an American band, I wonder whether they are coming over here anytime soon. The U.K. is an attractive market for musicians but it takes a lot of money and planning to make it a reality. There are many who want to tour over here but the sheer effort and money required to fund it is staggering. I wonder whether Wild Ones would be interested in doing a string of London gigs to get their feet wet. They would only need to be here a few weeks but maybe they have the funds to subsidise that. I would like to see them perform at a few gigs here and make their music known to the British public. If they go down well – which they should – then they could get gigs in Bristol, Manchester and Leeds. There are so many different places Wild Ones could gain new fans. I guess the U.S. is large enough so they’ll want to explore as much as they can. I am staggered by the size of America and how many options are open for artists. If Wild Ones afford themselves the chance to get to the East Coast then they could stamp out some authority in New York. It might appear like the state is a little rough and Rock-orientated – that would be a generalisation and over-simplification. I love the music of New York and feel Wild Ones could do well there. What they are producing is more common to areas like Portland and L.A. – a tonne of Los Angeles acts favour darker lyrics and the sort of compositions being thrown out by Wild Ones. New York has plenty of acts who perform similar sounds. It is tough managing your music and the importance is with the local crowds. Portland is great because it has so many platforms and great venues – it does have a lot of competition, at the same time.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
There is always room for great acts so it is not the case few will be able to succeed in Oregon. The state is as supportive as any and, when it comes for places to gig; Wild Ones have a few options they could explore. Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar is a great space that puts up many great artists. Maybe few there has the same sound as Wild Ones but the venue is very open-minded and keen to support hungry musicians. McMenamins Crystal Ballroom is a stunning space that is gorgeous and memorable. It is a fantastic venue that many local bands have cut their teeth in. Aladdin Theater is another wonderful venue Wild Ones could venture to. They might have already explored these spaces but I wanted to highlight venues that are ready and waiting for Portland acts. The Know and Rontom’s are smaller and more intimate venues that could appeal to Wild Ones. The Know, down NE Alberta Street, is a little grungy and edge but it houses some fantastic bars Portland bands could gain experience in. Doug Fir Longue and Valentines are fantastic spots; Crystal Ballroom another option. Between them; we have a range of sizes and styles for any act to investigate – there is no set theme and look when it comes to Portland’s venues. I urge Wild Ones to tick as many off the list as they can but, as I have mooted, they may have already covered all of them. If they can conquer the local scene – which seems likely and imminent – then they can take their music between the states and further afield. I have been amazed by the band and, whilst I am not reviewing their album, I compel people to check it out. The themes and sounds revealed throughout stick in the head and will get you revisiting – to see what you missed and capitalising on the best moments. It is an accomplished L.P. from a young band who has been around a long time now. They have survived all the hurdles and issues that trip many artists and seem stronger and more defiant than ever. I cannot wait to see where they go from here and whether they change their sound and incorporate new aspects in the coming months. What they have now is pretty solid and has gained them a lot of love. I admire their D.I.Y. personality and how they want to make music that is true to them. Few artists are doing this but, if you want to avoid the demands of a record label, that is what needs to be done. It has worked wonders on the track, Invite Me In. I will end this now but want everyone to check out the stunning sounds of Wild Ones. They have many more years in front of them and are shaping up to be…
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Hernandez
ONE of America’s finest new groups.
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