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Wild Child — Dallas «Expectations» Release Show with Wild Moccasins
Presented with KXT
Dallas «Expectations» Release Show
Wild Child won't settle. For seven years now the Austin-based ensemble has carried its infectious blend of indie-pop and infectious melodies across the international music scene, charting viral hits and wrapping their arms around a diverse and dedicated fan base. But earlier this year when the band set out to make their fourth studio album, they found they had their hands full: After half a decade of maturation, the group had grown beyond its traditional writing and recording process.
“We had too many ideas for how we wanted to make this record” says Kelsey Wilson, the group’s lead vocalist and violinist. She shrugs. “So we said, ‘Why not just do all of them?’”
The group realized this offered an exciting opportunity to make a kind of record bands rarely get right: To take a new, multispectral approach to writing and recording that went beyond simply trying to engineer success. The band made a list of their favorite musicians who were also great producers in their own right — choosing ones they thought would shine a new and unique light on specific compositions — and then Wild Child set about chasing their album from studio to studio all over the world, never saying no to an idea.
The result — the band’s fourth album, Expectations — is Wild Child’s most creative, colorful and intellectually engaging album to date.
Now a seven-piece pop mini-orchestra (Wilson on violin and vocals; Alexander Beggins on ukulele and vocals; Sadie Wolfe on cello; Matt Bradshaw on keyboards, trumpet, and harmonica; Tom Myers on drums; Cody Ackors on guitar and trombone; and Tyler Osmond on bass), Wild Child formed in 2010 when the group's core duo of Wilson and Beggins wrote and released their first album, Pillow Talk.
Wild Child shaped their last record, Fools, in the shadows of more than one failed love, and Expectations, as the title suggests, is a continuation of that personal experience into an awakening. Wilson and Beggins, whose voices fit each other as naturally as any family act, pushed their boundaries as writers, drawing freely from the stories they've lived as well as the artists around the world that have inspired their growth. Their rate of output over that last year got them thinking differently about producing, focusing on one track at a time. “We’ve always focused on the record as a whole. We wanted to think about each track as it’s own piece- but somehow it all fits together” Wilson says of the approach.
That route took them around the world — from Chris Walla's (Death Cab For Cutie) studio in Tromsø, Norway, where the Northern Lights are the brightest in the world, to a home-built warehouse studio on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where Dr. Dog's Scott McMicken picked up the bass and “joined the band for a week,” arranging harmonies and sharing living and recording space. Back in Wimberley, Texas, Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit) set up a makeshift studio in Kelsey Wilson’s beloved childhood home — abandoned since the floods of 2015 — where they found the muses were eager to resurface. The group also tapped the talents of frequent tour mate Chris Boosahda (Shakey Graves), Atlantic Records recording artist Max Frost, and Grammy-winning producer Adrian Quesada (Groupo Fantasma, Brown Sabbath, Spanish Gold).
The result is a theater of possibilities, with arrangements that reflect the range of tastes of the producers, from scruffy lo-fi tape hiss, to smoothed out precision-cut electronic pop sounds. Smartly, the album avoids defining itself and kicks off with a child’s voice telling Alexander Beggins, «Don't think that way.» The track that follows (called «Alex») is a hook-spangled opener which in its three breezy minutes builds from a single ukulele to a lush and playful arrangement reminiscent of Beirut.
The record almost immediately settles in to find the band at its most expansive. Songs like «My Town» and the deep-breathing «Eggshells» stretch the spaces between beats like a Chinese finger/time trap. They stop for more than one layover in Detroit, with «Back and Forth» evoking the horn charts of Arthur Conley and Jackie Wilson (or even Jens Lekman), and «Think It Over» throws an unexpected nod to Sly and the Family Stone.
The closing track, “Goodbye, Goodnight,” is also the first the group recorded, and the one they believe best epitomizes the journey of making this album. At first, Scott McMicken’s production caught the band off-guard: He slowed the waltz down to the tempo of a dirge — or a dirge with the levity of a waltz — and built the track up at an almost excruciatingly slow pace that in the end gives you what you want from it, but only gives it to you once. “At first we were all just trying to understand where he was coming from,” Wilson says with a laugh. “And it took us a while to get there, but the arrangement works out so well — with what the song is about and how we felt when we wrote it — that it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record.”
And the more you listen to Expectations, the more the many worlds of this project begin to cohere around you. After all, one of the great joys of traveling the world is discovering surprising connections: A skyscraper in Barcelona reminds you of a spire in the Utah desert; the Northern Lights in the Norwegian sky look like an oil slick on the Philadelphia pavement. Expectations, an album which can by turns be bitter, wistful, angry, and flirtatious, is rich with these surprising rhymes across the record.
“We’re all growing and changing and learning new tricks,” Beggins says. Wilson responds, “Yeah, there’s no right or wrong way to do anything.” Her own record, though, is proof she’s wrong.
“It’s the chemical behind our reactions.”
Behind the infectious rhythms and pulsating beats of Houston peripatetic pop troupe Wild Moccasins, there is undeniable chemistry. It’s a combustion of frenetic sounds that expands like an exploding star, on dance floors as the eclectic quintet sweats it on stage and on their wide-ranging album, 88 92. Wild Moccasins provide escapism of the most visceral kind, those times where you forget everything – that job, those bills, your loved ones – and live in the moment.
“We build a skeleton then give it the blood to make it come alive,” says Cody Swann, the band’s guitarist, singer and songwriter, about creating music that pulsates with finely constructed beats, that interweave and interact with each other to propel the sparkthrowing sound of 88 92. “For earlier albums, Cody and I collaborated on the basic ideas and ran with them,” says Zahira Gutierrez, whose lithe voice soars and floats above the blissed-out sonics, “but for this album, it was truly a collaborative effort, we each brought our own influences and put it together to become something distinct.”
The band, rounded out by Andrew Lee on guitar, Nicholas Cody on bass and John Baldwin on drums, is a unified machine, where each musician provides support, both in the studio and onstage, forging the multifaceted aural landscapes that have made them one of Houston’s biggest indie bands. “We love the camaraderie of our hometown,” says Swann, “we met in clubs and at concerts, and while working at record stores.” Their shows are famous for their theatricality, from Gutierrez’s otherworldly fashion, which she handcrafts for her and her bandmates, to the confetti blasts and balloon drops that make every performance into a party. Word about this incendiary Texas band got out, as the band mercilessly toured the country and accompanied of Montreal on a giant tour. “Our lives are: write, tour, repeat,” Swann laughs.
88 92 is the group’s sophomore full-length album and first with a producer. The band returned to SugarHill Recording Studios – which is lovingly known as the “Abbey Road of the South” – where they tracked their previous efforts. It’s their first record to use a producer, with Kevin Ryan at the helm. The result is lush and layered, weaving sonic tapestries awash in crisp guitars, subtle synths, and tightly wound rhythms. “Our sound for this record came from being together in the van with each other on tour,” Gutierrez says. “We were forced to listen to each other’s iPods on the road, so we got John’s dance, lo-fi and disco music, Nick’s 1980’s Pet Shop Boys, and Andrew was getting into Todd Rundgren, believe it or not.” Not to mention “David Bowie” Gutierrez and Swann say in unison, that mind-meld way that a couple only could. While they’re all from the farthest reaches of “Space City” sprawl, the band, who come from a variety of backgrounds and represent the diversity of the metropolis they call home were strung together by a musical common thread..
While the music is rapturous and energized, the lyrics of 88 92 are more dark and melancholy, like how those great Northern British bands blurred the lines between emotional territories. “We love pop and happy music,” Gutierrez says, but “we write songs for ourselves, so they come out with a darker juxtaposition.” For Swann, the heavier lyrics corresponded with personal turmoil. “The album’s title track, 88 92, is about visiting my mother in a mental institution when she was going through a tough time, the number is the code we would have to punch in to see her, it’s the combination of me and my brother’s birth years.” Gutierrez also delved deeper into her own psyche for the album. “‘Soft Focus’ is about becoming very self conscious about how people were viewing me, and when I started to have panic attack,” she confesses, “and ‘Eye Makeup’ is about toxic friendships that were weighing on me. ‘Real’ has a girl group vibe, with an edge, it’s about the realization that so much of our lives is not as real as we want it to be.”
The mission of Wild Moccasins is movement, both physical and emotional, releasing starward-looking etheria and inward gazing introspection pairing for unpredictable moments of connection. “You don’t plan what happens on stage,” Swann says, “it just happens as we connect with each other, and the audience. Every show leads somewhere different. We don’t even talk about it, we all know that we’re going to go on stage and we will perform our asses off.”