Q&A: Wires In The Walls

8 Oct

By Ashley Eliot

As hard as it is for OC bands to make the jump to LA, luckily, OC welcomes bands from all over with open arms. LA folk rock group Wires In The Walls is doing a mini-tour of OC starting next week. I saw the band perform with The Steelwells at Spaceland a couple months ago. Besides their awesome merch that I probably won’t ever get over, Wires In The Walls write compelling lyrics that tell stories you can really lose yourself in, of course in the best possible way. The power-driven raw vocals of Warren Sroka, the epic guitar riffs plus a variety of sounds from the accordion to banjo to euphonium produce a dynamic live show. Listen to “Take Care” and “Seen It Coming” off their most recent EP Calling Signs to hear what I mean.

I caught up with lead singer/guitarist Warren Sroka and drummer/horns and keys player Bryan King who collaborated on the responses below. Get ready for talk about their new lineup, a potential Wires In The Walls speedo and how the heck they create this type of sound.

Ash: The band has undergone a lineup and instrument change, so I’ve heard. How has that affected the group and the overall sound?

Warren and Bryan: Well, we started as a standard four-piece – bass, drums and two guitars – but we’d always envisioned adding a fifth member to really fill out the sound and give us more creative options. Around six months ago our former lead guitarist left the band, so since we knew the band’s sound was inevitably going to undergo some construction we felt that the time was right to add the multi-instrumentalist we’d been longing for. We were fortunate enough to be able to add two great musicians – ironically both named Dave, which made remembering the new guy’s name really easy – and it’s been terrific. Creatively, we feel like now we have more options at our disposal as far as different sounds we can achieve and more unique choices we can make. This feels like the band we always wanted, and that’s very exciting.

Ash: How will the new music compare to your most recent EP Call Signs (April 2010)?

Warren and Bryan: You’ll hear the band stretching and taking more creative risks with our new material. Call Signs was recorded very quickly – we did the entire EP in a weekend so we didn’t have time to really experiment in the studio and try different things. Now, we’re working on our first full-length album, and we’re taking much more time to explore new sonic possibilities and arrangements to give the record a more interesting, complex and varied sound. It’s also really important to us that our album feels like a journey rather than just a collection of songs. Not that this is a concept album by any means, but hopefully as a listener you’ll identify themes and a distinct point of view in both the music and lyrics. The ultimate goal is to make the kind of record you’ll want to play start to finish, and in which you’ll hear something new each time you listen. Hopefully there will be more unexpected moments in the songs too, since we were able to branch out more and incorporate a bigger variety of instruments like horns, banjo, accordion, theremin, weird old organs and funky percussive-type things. The underlying formula is still largely unchanged – lush rock songs, lots of electric guitars, big drum sound, the occasional Americana twang – we’ve just taken it to the exxxtreme. OK it’s really not that exxxtreme, but typing lots of xxx’s makes this answer seem sexxxier.

Ash: The band is playing a few shows in OC. Have you guys played the area before? What are your thoughts about the area’s music scene?

Warren and Bryan: We’ve played at The Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest a few times and had a blast, so we’re excited to come back down and get to some venues that we’ve heard great things about, like Detroit Bar and Continental Room. We’ve been very impressed by OC bands we’ve seen around the area, and we’re lucky enough to be doing shows down here with some awesome groups like Pacific Hurt, The New Limb, Moostache and We are the Pilots. LA can get a little insular sometimes, so we love getting out of town, playing to new audiences, and meeting other bands. And with so many great musicians coming out of OC these days, it’s definitely an area you want to be part of as an artist since you know the music fans must have pretty good taste. Now, if we could just do something about the traffic getting TO the OC, we’d be in business.

Ash: You guys are originally from the East Coast, correct? How was it entering the LA music scene for the first time? How was the music scene you grew up with compare to LA?

Warren and Bryan: The original members of the band were all from the east coast, but with our new additions we almost have the whole country represented now. Dave Sicher, our multi-instrumentalist, gives us our Midwestern charm (Illinois), and our guitarist Dave Irelan has us covered on the west coast (Portland). Our drummer Bryan brings our Southern fried side (Virginia) and Warren and Nick are from New York (the city and the upstate small town, respectively). We just need to add a sixth member from the Southwest and we’ll be covered (you hear that kazoo player’s from Arizona?).  Everyone would agree though that the music scene in LA is much bigger and filled with more raw talent than our respective hometowns. We all grew up exposed to great local artists, but there are just so many more serious musicians out here – it really inspires and motivates us to be better ourselves because the bar is set so much higher. And because LA is a big melting pot of people from all over the country (kinda like our band) the diversity of music is huge. Chances are good that no matter what type of music you’re into, there’s probably some kick-ass bands you’d like around the city. The tricky part is tracking those bands down, since the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming sometimes – but that’s what makes it fun, right?

Ash: What inspired the band’s sound? Incorporating the accordion, banjo and trumpet doesn’t seem like it came from SoCal.

Warren and Bryan: Being from all over the country, we’re really a blend of many different inspirations. Everyone in the band has a fairly divergent set of influences, so we all bring a lot of different ideas that get added to the mix when we’re working arrangements. We’re open to anything as long as we feel like the instrument is organic to the song. So many musicians we love have broadened their sound with unexpected choices, like the mariachi horns on “Ring of Fire,” the singing saw on “In the aeroplane over the sea,”  or the violin in “Heroin.”  We’re trying to follow that path and see where it takes us.

Ash: What venue has been your favorite to play in LA so far?

Warren and Bryan: Oh, that’s unfair! While certain venues have great sound, a green room that makes you feel like a rockstar, or really cheap cold beer, the truth is our view of venues is more shaped by the type of crowd that’s there. On any given night a great, enthusiastic audience who are genuinely into the music will make any venue feel like CBGB’s in 1977. That being said, we did our last EP release at the Bootleg Theater in Echo Park and had a blast – that place has a really cool no-frills type of vibe and great sound. Spaceland and Silverlake Lounge allow you to play for locals who just love going to hear new music, and that’s always a thrill.

Ash: When I caught your show with The Steelwells at Spaceland a few months ago, I noticed at the band’s merch table that you guys had Wires In The Walls branded two-in-one lighter/bottle openers. First off, brilliant. Second, who came up with this idea and are they selling?

Warren and Bryan: We’re so glad you like them! We wanted to give people something they could use beyond just a t-shirt. While we do technically sell them, we’re definitely in the habit of giving them away if someone seems into the music (basically if you talk to us after a show chances are pretty good you’ll end up with a lighter.) We just want people to use them, and then we hope someone else will ask about them and maybe learn a little about the band. And you generally use a bottle-opening lighter as a tool to help use things you enjoy, like beers, cigarettes, or lavender-scented candles, so we figured being a part of all that could only help the band become associated with positive imagery like downing a frosty beverage, scratching your nicotine itch, or setting the mood for sexy time.

Ash: I find it so interesting when a band gets creative with merch and it’s not just typical buttons and stickers. Any other Wires In The Walls items we should look out for?

Warren and Bryan: Well, we have a few different t-shirts available, and we now offer tote bags so you can stop getting plastic bags at the market. Our shirts and bags are all hand-silkscreened by us, not mass produced in China, and the artwork is all done by friends. We’re a pretty DIY-type group, so when we decided to offer shirts we learned how to silkscreen and bought all the equipment, and now we can boast that every item is handmade by the same guys that make the music.  It’s a big time commitment but we actually take pride in our merch, which is nice, and we have the option of silk-screening pretty much anything we can get our hands on. We’ve experimented with towels, a jean jacket, Bryan’s bass drum head, and almost every type of garment…although we’re not sure the Wires in the Walls Speedo is gonna be a big seller. Plus doing it ourselves keeps the costs down, so we don’t have to charge our fans as much to essentially provide us with free advertising.

Warren and Bryan: We’ll be back in the studio finishing up our full length album and getting ready to tour in support of it, as well as playing more shows here in LA , SD, OC, SF and many other places with initials as well!

Ash: And last but not least, your band name. I gotta know how the name came about.
Warren and Bryan: Check out the Demo version of Elvis Costello’s song Green Shirt…

Catch Wires In The Walls invading OC with their first show at Continental Room in Fullerton with Pacific Hurt this Tuesday, Oct. 12. Free, 21+, 9 p.m. http://www.myspace.com/wiresinthewallsmusic


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