Wand discuss the exhaustive creative operation that guided their distensible new record, Plum, out today on Drag City.
Plum is the follow up to the 2015 record Golem and comes a year after releasing the solo record, The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo. How does Plum fit into the creative puzzle of the songwriting from the last couple of years?
We’ve come a long way as a band since Golem. I mean, when we recorded that LP we had never toured before. We hadn’t cut our teeth yet. We were just excited about making records, and being in a band. We used a lot of FX: fuzz, echo, reverb, lots of reverb to take up the space we weren’t filling with our performance. With the solo record, I made a deliberate attempt to dismantle that space. I wanted to hear what I sounded like without all the fuzz and reverbs and stuff… I wanted to know if my songs could actually stand up. We applied a similar idea to writing and recording Plum, though much more intense. We played for 3 months straight, 6-7 days a week, 4-10 hours a day-learning how to play and listen to each other. We recorded everything we did in demos, voice memos, field recordings, we bootlegged our own live shows and combed through it all, refining the songs in the process. They’re kind of like diamonds. The process which created them was an exhaustive exercise in possibility. With the end result being the approximation of all our choices.
In terms of how Plum fits the puzzle of our catalog, it more feels like the puzzle itself. Or a different incarnation of it. It kind of is its own catalog. Its own reality.
The video for the first single from Plum, "Bee Karma" features a introspective clown shedding self-reluctance. What was the process for making the video? Was there some level of creative independence you gave a filmmaker or is it a vision you or the band had?
I made that video with the help of my brother as the clown, and Abby Banks on the film camera. The idea was simple. The clown and the driver represent two sides of the same spirit: The responsible and sometimes worried driver, and the careless, self-obsessed clown. Both of their personalities run amok on screen in different ways.
The album art is a big blue cloud. What does the graphic represent and how does it illustrate the tone or theme of the record?
While writing the lyrics to the record, I became attracted to word combinations that, when invoked, would produce feelings of inexplicable nostalgia. Blue Cloud is such a simple combination of words, yet when you think of what a Blue Cloud could be… well for me I go to a place of calm reflection, where language can really function as an analog to the spirit. The album cover, for us, was the most honest way to give the record some corporeality. A hunk of meat to appear within and without.
Wand has always incorporated a fair amount of experimental effects and instrumentation. Are you influenced by experimental music and composition?
Yes, we are equally as influenced by experimental and unstructured music as we are by pop. And we are interested in the ways that they are defined by their relationship to each other. I feel like what we do sits somewhere in between, though is probably more pop than experimental. It’s getting harder to tell.
The album has varying degrees of recording clarity. Were there different production tools used to achieve the fog and fuzz of tracks like "Ginger" and "High Rise?”
We used a lot of different recording techniques. "Ginger" was a live improv I didn’t even know was being recorded at our space while Evan took a pee break. And “High Rise” combines a live recording and a studio “attempt” of the song. Neither bit of "High Rise" was very structured, and we mixed it out of curiosity to see if anything good would come of it. Dan (James Goodwin who mixed the record) just slammed the shit out of the board. He even took a picture of it with all the faders in the red.
The more times I listen to Plum, I feel a strengthened hinge revolving around the track "Blue Cloud" that seems to encompass all the different components of the other individual tracks' experimentation and expression. Is the album flow a conscious part of your songwriting or is it put together after the tracks are recorded?
I remember when we were mixing, we had no idea what the record would be called or what sequence the songs would go in. We went through so many different tracklists, and had a lot of back and forth about what would finally make it onto the record. It wasn’t until we stepped into Golden Mastering that the record really settled into something we all felt comfortable with. Now I can’t imagine it being any other way!