Last year at this time, I took my then-4-year-old son down to the local Seattle non-commercial radio station, KEXP, to watch a live in-studio performance by the Los Angeles-based group, Wand. I had been aware of them for a couple of years, already, but never managed to catch them live before. Rather than just play cuts from their most recent effort, 1000 Days [Drag City, 2015], the band used their brief 1/2 hour radio set to showcase material spanning all 3 of their albums — all of which had been released in only a 2-year span, each on a different label. Beginning with the twisting epic, “Fire On The Mountain (I-II-III),” from their 2014 debut, Gangolian Reef, they drifted into its shimmering outro before abruptly yanking the bottom out and dropping into the hurricane-like onslaught of “Floating Head,” from their 2015 followup, Golem. From a band calling themselves a name like Wand and releasing albums with titles such as these, it’s not surprising that they would summon up imagery of cracked molten earth and billowing steam from erupting volcanoes, but as I witnessed during that session, there is a lot more to this group than one might realize if they relied solely on you tube comments for reference.
Many of the early fans expressed their love of the band’s “heavier” sound in response to some of the new directions that they ventured into with1000 Days, but the decision to begin their time on air by pushing those two songs out back-to-back like they did was beneficial for someone like myself that’s less familiar with their work, because it presented a terrific example of the scope of their range within a compact 11-minute time period. While tracks like these each bring with them the thunderous swarm of psychedelic fuzz that one might assume, they also manage to divert the music down some brilliant pathways and unexpected corridors, never remaining stagnant for too long, before plummeting through mine shafts, ascending through the stratosphere, and/or accelerating toward the outer reaches of space. 1000 Days, seemed to find the Southern California outfit expanding their horizons further by dipping their toes into elements of the more wistful Canterbury Sound popularized by artists like Caravan and Kevin Ayers, even experimenting with more tribal drumming in portions.
Joining frontman, Cory Hanson (vocals, guitar) Lee Landey (bass) and Evan Burrows (drums) for the in-studio were the two latest additions to the group: guitarist, Robbie Cody and Sofia Arreguin on keyboards and backing vocals. But beyond bringing in a couple of new members, it was clear that there were some other changes underway. Up until that point, Wand‘s schedule remained as much of a whirlwind as their music, with them maintaining a fairly consistent regiment of write, record, tour, repeat; but while keeping them both active and productive, that cycle didn’t allow for too much room to breathe. Factor in that both Hanson and Burrows were concurrently members of the super group, Ty Segall And The Muggers, with whom they would also tour, and Wand was primed for a momentary rest — for perspective’s sake, if nothing else. As many prolific songwriters have historically done, Hanson used that space to release and tour a solo album full of gems that, for one reason or another, never quite fit into the catalog of his primary group, leaning in a more acoustic direction and bringing in string arrangements. Of course, what one might consider a “break’ or “hiatus” is subjective and, by the time Cory was promoting his solo effort, there was already talk floating around about a brand new Wand LP in the works. Now the official confirmation is in, with the new album, Plum being slated for a September 22nd release via Drag City records.
Aside from his work with Wand and The Muggers, Cory Hanson has also been involved with projects like Meatbodies and Mikal Cronin‘s band, in the past, connections which further adhere the frontman and his group to a larger garage rock/psych revival scene associated to the Bay and greater Los Angeles areas. Both a blessing and a curse, I’d speculate that Wand may be currently suffering the fate of acts like Mudhoney or Quasi have in the Northwest, one in which a uniquely talented project may be getting buried under the sheer mass of production in their scene and among their more high profile cohorts and associations, despite managing to maintain a consistent evolution and carving out their own unique lane and trademark sound for themselves, which not only exist beyond it, but often proves more compelling than a lot of the stuff out there that continues to receive the spotlight in markets with less competition. And on Plum — an album which will hopefully bring them the attention that they’ve long deserved — the evolution continues.
The press release states that, “their newest document focuses teeming, dense, at times wildly multichromatic sounds into Wand’s most deliberate statement to date, with a long evening’s shadow of loss and longing hovering above the proceedings” and points to their recent lineup additions as a partial catalyst for their new songwriting and production style. While, in the past, Hanson maintained the principal songwriter role, bringing compositions to the group after they’d already been mostly formed, it was much more of a group effort, this time around, as “the songwriting process was relocated to the practice space, where for several months on and off the band improvised, while recording and archiving as much as they could manage.”
On Monday (July 26th), Wand did a “takeover” of the Drag City Records official instagram page. Throughout the day the band mostly posted behind the scene photos from both the studio and the road, along with a healthy dose of cat and dog images, but one particular upload stood out particularly. The image in question is an oft memed comic strip panel of Charlie Brown pulling a record off of his shelf, except this time the word bubble read “I collect Radiohead Records because no one will have sex with me.” As to be expected, many commenters thought it was hilarious, while others were inevitably offended. Some, unaware that Wand was running the page and not Drag City, most likely even took it as the label being elitist and operating in poor taste. Which not enough people seemed to realize though, was that it was posted with a tag of @corythanson, clearly meaning that someone else in the band was taking a light-hearted jab at their own vocalist. Now, with the release of the song “Plum” the very next day, the reference makes even more sense, as the new title track definitely contains somewhat of a Radiohead vibe mixed it with Wand‘s own uniquely adventurous, yet brief, guitar flourishes; moments of left-field experimentation; and the hypnotic delivery of overlapping vocal harmonies between Hanson and Arreguin.
Regarding the track, Cory provides the following insight…
“The song transpires between our collective harmony and individual dissent. It felt like we were each trying to obstruct a clear path in order to discover new space. As a total accident, ‘Plum’ wound up being a miniature blueprint to the musical language we developed together over months of dedicated writing.”
Pre-orders for Plum are currently available in various formats at DragCity.com.
Check out the video below followed by a full list of upcoming tour dates
Wand Tour Dates:
Sat. Sep. 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour #
Sun. Sep. 24 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah #
Mon. Sep. 25 – Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse #
Wed. Sep. 27 – Denver, CO @ Lost Lake #
Thu. Sep. 28 – Lincoln, ME @ Lincoln Calling
Fri. Sep. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club #
Sat. Sep. 30 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall #
Mon. Oct. 2 – Toronto, ON @ Baby G #
Tue. Oct. 3 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz #
Wed. Oct. 4 – Cambridge, MA @ Cambridge Elks Lodge #
Fri. Oct. 6 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom #
Sat. Oct. 7 – Philadelphia, PA @ Everybody Hits #
Sun. Oct. 8 – Washington, DC @ DC9 #
Tue. Oct. 10 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings #
Wed. Oct. 11 – Atlanta, GA @ 529 #
Thu. Oct. 12 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa #
Fri. Oct. 13 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda #
Sat. Oct. 14 – Dallas, TX @ Dada #
Sun. Oct. 15 – Norman, OK @ The Opolis #
Wed. Oct. 18 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Bar #
Thu. Oct. 19 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux #
Sat. Oct. 21 – Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt #
Sun. Oct. 22 – Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project #
Tue. Oct. 24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel #
Tue. Jan. 23 – Brighton, UK @ Patterns
Wed. Jan. 24 – London, UK @ Dome
Thu. Jan. 25 – Bristol, UK @ Louisiana
Fri. Jan. 26 – Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen
Sat. Jan. 27 – Glasgow, UK @ Garage 2
Sun. Jan. 28 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell (main room)
Mon. Jan. 29 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds (room 2)
# = with Darto