Photo by Shervin Lainez via Merge Records
A few weeks ago, Baltimore’s beloved indie rock duo Wye Oak dropped their fourth album Shriek with an unexpected twist for devoted fans and pledges alike. For those who don’t know, Wye Oak‘s Jenn Wasner is a boss on guitar and you can catch drummer Andy Stack bringing their sound full circle as he multitasks on drums and keyboard, creating internal dialogue from the uninitiated concert-goer: Where’s the rest of the band?
Often known for delivering heavy-handed distortion, a feature on tracks from 2011’s pivotal release Civilian, Wye Oak turn a new leaf with their latest album that boasts an electronic landscape of experimental peaks and valleys, including organic beats, asymmetrical bass lines, and some serious synth love. Their summer tour kicks off in Pittsburgh on May 2nd, and we recently caught up with Jenn to talk about their new sound, life on the road, and of course, love for Baltimore:
ModCloth: So, this year marks your first time rocking Coachella! How was it?
We had a blast! I’m a pretty low-key person, and it can be really overwhelming at times. But we saw some great music. Personally, the newer the song the happier I am to play it. So I’m delighted to be performing the songs from Shriek. They’re more of a challenge than anything we’ve attempted to do in the past, and the set-up is far more ambitious.
Speaking of which, you’ll be heading out on tour soon, so, what are some of your must-haves for the road?
A good book, a squishy pillow, and everything I need to work on music–my small portable studio! OH, and dry shampoo! Can’t live without dry shampoo.
Switching gears to your latest album, Shriek definitely showcases a brighter sound. What influenced this new direction?
This album was the product of an intense bout of self-reflection, coupled with an attempt at unhindered sonic experimentation and exploration. While I wouldn’t say the songs are ‘happy,’ I would definitely call them more mature, subtle, and peaceful. They’re coming from a place of self-love and self-acceptance in the face of great anxiety and uncertainty.
How did your previous work on Flock of Dimes and Dungeonesse — both heavily devoted to pop — influence your current effort with Wye Oak?
Flock of Dimes started as an attempt to learn how to record and produce my own songs, a skill set that I’m fully devoted to expanding and practicing daily. Dungeonesse was my first experience writing songs around others’ musical ideas and embracing the full capabilities of my own voice. Without these experiences, I can’t imagine being able to write the record I did with Shriek.
The look of some of your Dungeonesse videos are full-on glam which had me wondering, who are some of your style icons?
I’m inspired by friends who dress comfortably and confidently. I can definitely respect and admire people with a really unusual and personalized sense of style, but when I’m on stage, I don’t like to draw a lot of attention to myself. I want you to see what I’m doing, not what I’m wearing.
With your DIY background and approach to your craft, what advice would you give to girls who are interested in music as a profession?
Oh gosh, I could go on for hours. Cultivate an awareness of the systemic oppression you’re operating within. Don’t be angry at yourself for not finding opportunities — be angry at the world for not providing opportunities equally. Don’t ever change yourself to try to fit someone else’s expectations of what you’re supposed to look like, or how you’re supposed to dress. Be yourself, and work hard to be the best at what you do, and don’t take sh*t from anyone.
Lastly, it’s been a great year for Baltimore bands — both Wye Oak and Future Islands hit the festivals, released new albums, and even toured together. Can you tell us more about the scene?
People are drawn to the city’s genuineness and originality. It’s a place where people are supportive and encouraging, and they care about their art and their community rather than just getting popular or making money. You don’t choose to live in a place like Baltimore unless those are your top priorities. I can’t tell you how important it is to me to be surrounded by people who see the world this way.
+ Check out the video for their second single Glory and tell us what you think in the comments below!