Baltimore Girl/boy duo Wye Oak play dreamy folk that isn’t afraid to get noisy. Latest album ‘Civilian’ is excellent, delivering on the promise of their earlier releases. They say it deals with loneliness (which is bad) and aloneness (which is good). I say it’s great: rhythmic melodies, powered by excellent drum work and layered with shoegaze guitars, with a light sprinkling of mesmeric keys. It all moves forward with a lovely majesty too, just don’t mention Beach House.*
While Andy Stack (Drums, keys, loops, being an omni-dextrous whizz) finished soundcheck, I caught up with Jenn Wasner one half of the deceptively noisy duo before a sold-out gig at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. To keep it lively I asked some quick fire questions about the tour, and tried not to mention The Wire.**
So headlining tour of Europe; new, well received, album… you guys must be pretty stoked right now?
Our first headline tour, pretty awesome. In the States the crowds built bit by bit, but you know, you find yourself for the first time in Ghent and it’s astounding to see people so many people there. We’ve been doing this for five years now and it feels kind of like its coming together. Like we’ve been building bit by bit, but the reaction here has been a really positive surprise.
You self-released your debut ‘Merge’ re-released it, and are now releasing ‘Civilian’. Any second record jitters?
No, not really. It kind of feels like the record we’ve been trying to make for years. We’ve been learning across the whole process, the first record was kinda ‘how to play, how to record. We’ve been getting better with every step. Civilian is the first record where we knew what we were doing.
Is it safe to say you guys can get pretty noisy?
Absolutely, I enjoy shocking people ‘acoustic folk’ duo, turn up with all our kit, then BAM! But on another level the record is quite subtle and nuanced, the live show is a different entity, more energetic. Not every second of the live show is loud, a good proportion is, but you lose the subtletly, even with great sound desk.
You’ve been described as shoegaze, dream pop, neo-psychadelia, noise pop and space rock…
That’s my favourite. Speaking of space(rock), did you know George Clinton is in town?
No?! Get him to the show!
You’ve been in bands together since you were in high school. You must be sick of the sight of each other now, no?
It’s who we are. As a duo we have a lot of tools at our disposal: keys, drums, sampler. It forces us to think a certain way about the arrangement process, right off the bat we have to think about the essential components. It teaches discipline in composing too, its good for developing a musical brain and ear. We can have it both ways, the studio production, fleshed out songs, and the raw live performance that works as a duo.
Why is Baltimore suddenly getting all the attention? You guys have been plugging away for years, Beach House are on their third album, now we have this wave of Baltimore bands like Lower Dens…
Baltimore is the shit! I’m incredibly proud of the city I was born in and live in. Beach House are friends of ours and I’m so glad you said Lower Dens, not just the big bands, it is great to see wonderful people doing well. There is a wealth of amazing shit coming out of Baltimore, bands that exist from the sheer joy of music. Not competitive or cliquey, shows will see performance art groups, rappers, DJs, bands. Baltimore is small enough that you have to share venues and overlap.
How about some quickfire questions about the tour? Get you pumped up before the show…
Parisian Pastries or Viennese Whirls?
Ha! Pastries, for sure. I’m a baked goods nut.
Frankfurters from Frankfurt or Hamburgers from Hamburg?
Berlin Wall or London Dungeon?
Amsterdam’s Canals or Ghent’s cobbled streets?
It has to be Ghent’s cobbles.
Finally, Stringer Bell or Omar Little?
Omar Little. Indeed.
Civilian is out now on City Slang records.
*Except to mention how lovely they are, and how nice everyone in Baltimore’s music scene is.
**I know I’m waaaaay behind the times, but my girlfriends only just got in to it, and I’m waiting for her to catch up.
This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 21 June 2011