Monday, August 1, 2011

I Knew Them When- Wye Oak

I can’t tell you how many times I have had people come up to me at the merch table and ask “How does so much sound come out of just two people?” It is part of the amazement of what makes the band Wye Oak.

I must profess to you a lot of bias on my part for this band. They are a Baltimore based band that I have worked the merch table for too many times to even count. I have even traveled with them outside of Baltimore. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are two of the most talented people that I know. Beyond their talent also lies two of the nicest people I have ever met in the music business. I consider them to be friends, so I must let you know this as I write this piece. However I will also tell you that most people I have told about this band, have also fallen in love with the music. This would include my co-blogger Larry. This band has blown up the past year with two fine albums. This is a band that I can truly say that I knew them before they blew up and it has been a pleasure to watch the rest of the country fall in love with them.

Jenn and Andy started the band as Monarch. They put out an album titled If Children. It created a lot of instant buzz with their unique sound. I call it controlled chaos. The songs build to a point that feels uncontrolled with sounds and guitar rising over each other. Jenn’s voice wails through the distortion and the next instant it all falls out to a quiet and gentle sound. I am always mesmerized by this perfect songwriting duo. So were many others. Merge Records signed them immediately to their label. Because there were some other bands named Monarch they asked them to change their name and Jenn and Andy settled on Maryland’s famous tree The Wye Oak. Merge is the perfect label for them because it is a company that gives control to their artists and nurtures them. They released If Children in 2008 under the Merge label. Wye Oak went back into the studio and then released The Knot in 2009. This album showed a lot of maturity both in musicianship and songwriting. Many others also found this to be true. They were now performing in bigger clubs across the country. They could see their own rise as they criss-crossed the country playing in venues where they had played a few months earlier but were now playing to many more people. All of a sudden they were opening for some of the most well known indie bands in the world. From December of 2010 through February of this year they opened for Spoon, The Decemberists, and Cold War Kids , which are bands we have written about in this blog. They have recently released their new album in 2011 titled Civilian. It once again shows a lot of growth.

Through all of this they remained committed to their music and sound. As I said in the opening they are the only two people on stage. Jenn plays guitar and sings with her hauntingly beautiful and passionate voice. Andy plays the drums with one hand and the bassline on keyboards on the other hand. It is something to watch. Please enjoy this video of “Holy Holy” from their network television debut on the Jimmy Fallon show.

This new album Civilian has continued to bring in many new fans not only here in the States but they have also toured through Europe. It has been great to watch this meteoric rise from this band with modest roots in Baltimore. We are happy to claim Wye Oak as our hometown heros as is Wye Oak proud of their Baltimore roots. Through this ride Jenn and Andy have remained humble as ever and I couldn’t be happier for their success.