Thursday, 9 August 2012

Wanderlust in Record Time

Wanderlust (Scot Sax, Rob Bonfiglio, Mark Getten and Jim Cavanaugh) were always one really special band. Even back in the mid 90’s when glorious new music seemed to arrive every week Wanderlust still effortlessly shone as a combo of truly great quality and substance. Their killer debut album “Prize”, so passionate, profound and wild, bursting with heart souring depths of emotion in every creative aspect was instantly clutched to the heart and never let go. It sounds every bit as glorious and vital all this time later as it always did; the years have not lessened the magic one jot. The band’s second album “Smear” was inexplicably rejected by RCA who then foolishly drop them and soon after they called it a day and moved onto various other musical projects. The excellent Not Lame label released a couple of fantastic archive Wanderlust albums gathering together the second album and various leftovers that served to make us mourn even more the band’s untimely demise. While this year has seen welcome reunions from both The Mutton Birds and Cotton Mather, neither promises forthcoming new material sadly. Wanderlust on the other hand are back in every way you could hope as their stunning new album Record Time effortlessly picks up the reigns once more and blazes away like the band had never gone away. It’s a confident classy release that is a fine addition to the band’s legendary cannon Without question this is a Wanderlust album, with all the grace and glory that implies. After many posts highlighting the band’s return and the often breathtaking archive releases over at Bandcamp, it is now time to sit down with all four members of Wanderlust and find out what is going on. How excellent is this going to be methinks.

Art: So how did the reunion come about, what was the catalyst that set the whole thing in motion. Was the intention to get the band going straight away or was it something that occurred to you gradually?

 Rob Bonfiglio: The beginning of the idea to get together again started with a few back & forth phone calls between Scot and myself. That led to Scot sending me an idea for a song, which I took and completed in my home studio. It seemed the next logical step was to record a few songs as Wanderlust again, which in turn led to a full album & subsequent reunion shows.
 Scot Sax: I think the hard feelings we had when the band broke up, around ’98, simply vanished over time. We grew up and a little wiser. Personally, I missed the magic that we always seemed to have whenever we played together, or even hung together. I took a chance and out of the blue sent Rob a mp3 of something I was messing with on the piano. Maybe unconsciously the piano made it less like “this is gonna lead to a Wanderlust thing” and more just simply: music. Anyway, I thought maybe Rob didn’t receive it or listen to it cause I hadn’t heard back. Then I get an email with a mp3 attached and he added vocals, lyrics, drums…everything. And I loved it. Just loved it. I also loved that we buried the old hatchet with music instead of talking. We didn’t need to say anything.  
Mark Getten: This definitely arose organically. In fact, the original intention when the idea came up was to do a home recording and release it on our own. As the ball got rolling, we realised that it made more sense to go into a proper studio, where we could definitely all get into the same room and track together playing live (how we always used to record.) And we ending up signing with a label that seems like a great fit for us. We were able to maintain complete creative control over the music, and it would have been very difficult to not have that freedom at this point.
Art: Wanderlust always had that special type of musical chemistry about them, one of those rare bands that could only exist when those particular individuals played together. Did you feel that unique magic once more when you finally got around to standing on a stage together after all this time?  

Rob Bonfiglio: There was definitely the feeling of no time having passed. The same basic interconnections still seemed to apply. Aside from brushing up on material we haven’t played in 12 years everything fell together pretty naturally.  
Scot Sax: It was almost comical how literally every impulse, every note, everything was exactly how we left it. Like freezing a body a la Walt Disney or Austin Powers and unfreezing it 12 or so years later. It was like Wanderlust took a very long nap and then woke up to the sound of rock and roll.  
Mark Getten: Yes, that magic came right back, and who knew if it would? Maybe this is a cliché thing to say, but it really felt like no time had gone by once we actually got in a room and starting playing. It was a bit bizarre in a way. I mean, well over a decade had passed since we worked together, and suddenly we just picked up where we had left off. The few gigs we’ve done since have been an unbelievable amount of fun. Jim Cavanaugh: I believe that everyone would agree with that. There doesn't seem to be any passage of time when we play together. Or even hangin' together. Every sentence spoken is still an inside joke. Actually, playing together is better, because we are all more seasoned players now.

Art: Putting together the wonderful archive releases for Bandcamp must have stirred up quite a few memories of the old days, what comes to mind when you think back to all those years ago. What do you think of the older material now you have had so many years away from it?  

Rob Bonfiglio: I think if we went back in time our musical approaches would basically be the same. There wasn’t a lot of gimmicks or era-relevant devices self-consciously added to the music. Really, just basic rock & roll. The music, especially the ‘Prize’ era stuff was inspired and I can still hear that. I can also hear the turmoil in the later stuff, which directly relates to what was happening within the band at the time.  
Mark Getten: To me, the core of what made us strong was great songs, with players that could bring a unique chemistry and sound to them. There is a timelessness to Scot’s writing, and in the case of our album Prize, it was the stars aligning, with the right batch of songs, the right studio, the right producer, and the right four guys in the band. I think that album holds up as well today as it did in 1995 when it was released. I love the work we did subsequently, but that record will always hold a particularly special place in my heart.  
Scot Sax: Nothing makes me cringe as far as the older stuff and nothing is coming from a fake or pretentious place as far as the new stuff. My biggest fear is writing and releasing something I don’t 100% love and believe in myself. So there’s a lot no one’s heard!  
Jim Cavanaugh: I think that our back catalog holds up quite well. It doesn't sound like a music that's stuck in a particular era. It doesn't make me think "oh that sounds '90's", it just sounds like good songs and inspired playing.

Art: Ironically it can be youth that eventually pulls a band apart as less mature personalities and ambitions cause clashes within a band. Now that you are older and wiser can you look back and wonder to yourself at how it was and realise how easy it is now to resolve what at the time seemed so important. Does being older make it more fun and more focused and yet relaxed. And it seems to me that you are even better players that you were back then but without any lessening of the fire and passion that made the band so special.

 Rob Bonfiglio: Well said, yes.
 Scot Sax: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing that changes is the ego. You simply have less of one as you get older. Your life becomes more about other people, other values, family. For me, my dad’s passing in 2011 I think subconsciously led to me wanting to reconnect with the band. The “life is pretty short and can end out of the blue” thing hit me hard. The value of old friends and good music became more important to me than ever before .My dad, in fact all of our parents, were quite supportive of Wanderlust. Mark’s mom used to wear a baseball cap that said “Wandermom”!  
Mark Getten: It’s much more relaxed now. I’m sure we all put plenty of pressure on ourselves, but you have a different perspective at this point in your life, compared to when you’re in your 20’s. And honestly, with all the benefits we had with having RCA Records behind us back in the day, it’s nice to have the pressure only coming from ourselves, not from an external source.
Jim Cavanaugh: You live, you learn. I've continued to play music through the years, it's been my livelihood in fact. But I have intentionally avoided being in a band situation similar to Wanderlust because I personally find it too intense, too personally consuming. The commitment required to be in a real band makes other commitments, like marriage and family, difficult to balance (for me anyway). When Wanderlust ceased to be back in '98, I made a deliberate decision to be a hired gun type of player. That has worked out well for me so far. Playing with Wanderlust lately though, seems pretty natural, since I still think of them as "my band".  

Art: So how did the recording of the new album go and when it came to the songwriting how easy was it to get in that wanderlust mindset. Can you talk about the song writing process. Any thoughts on the songs that ended up on the album. How are the creative juices flowing now, do you feel any sort of momentum growing as the band hit their stride. What are the practicalities of running a band these days compared to back in the day.  

Scot Sax: A kid, a musician, was in my studio and asked me “how do you write a song if you don’t have anything to write about?” I thought for a second and couldn’t think of an answer right away so I picked up my guitar and said “You write about just that; not having a song to write”. So I started singing “How do you write a song, when you ain’t got a song to write” and then I thought about the fact that I was still nursing a broken heart and sang “how do you love someone when you ain’t got no one at night” and from there the song “Lou Reed” just came blurting out. I looked up at him after two minutes of writing/singing this thing in front of him and he was like “whoa”. And I was like “whoa” cause I never ever wrote a song in front of anybody before. Now usually I would record a song right away but I really dig it a lot and I just couldn’t think of how to do it or who to get or maybe I could just play all the instruments myself as I tend to do when no one is available. After Rob and I reconnected and agreed on making a new Wanderlust album, I had just the song. When he flew in, the day before we started recording, he and I wrote “Friend Tonight”, “You Make Me” and a couple other things. Then I remembered the one and only song Mark and I ever wrote years ago called “Photographic Mind” that was never properly recorded. I had also written a song between reconnecting with Rob and the band flying in called “Pornographic Version Of You”. I had two influences on that one: musically I wanted to write a fast song like The Knack (who I always loved, rest in peace Doug) with a racy lyric like Gaga or Katy Perry or Pink would do. I wanted to offend and turn people on at the same time. I always try to step outside the safe frame in some way.  
Rob Bonfiglio: For this band it’s always been about how to make ‘the song’ the best it can be and still retain the Wanderlust identity within it. A great song is a great song and Scot has always delivered. At this stage of my musical identity however, I tend to give and get more out of a collaborative effort. Scot and I have always been able to conjure a bit of musical magic when we’ve put our heads together. We’re not four twenty-somethings with zero attachments anymore; we each have our own individual ambitions both musically and otherwise so obviously the vision of hopping in a van and endlessly touring the country has changed. Plus the music business at large is a very different beast these days.

Art: What has it been like playing together on stage again after all these years and how much have you enjoyed playing the older songs. What older songs would you want to play that you haven’t got round to yet. With such a strong and vital new album it must be difficult to balance between new and old material in the time allotted, are there any of the new songs haven’t you played live yet that you are itching to get to?

Rob Bonfiglio: There have been a couple of backyard parties recently thrown by these incredible super Wanderlust fans / friends of ours. They practically know our back catalogue even better than we do. We’ve played a couple of marathon gigs there and covered just about everything imaginable…makes you realise just how important a little pre-preparation can be!
Mark Getten: Personally, I love playing the older songs, as well as the new, and fortunately they seem to blend seamlessly together. We did some songs at a recent gig that we hadn’t done in ages, and it was a blast. A couple that stand out are Train Lovers, one of my all time favourite Wanderlust songs/recordings, and Years and Seconds - until this recent gig, we probably only performed it one time, around the time it was written and recorded, and now I hope to make it a regular addition to Wanderlust set lists.  
Jim Cavanaugh: I miss "Heart Poundin' Hard" from our J.C. Dobbs days.  
Scot Sax: Not having to make eye contact or big gestures with a band is a great and rare thing. A true band, especially with a history, just hits the “go” button. I can’t put into words just how powerful that feeling is. It’s the difference between a car and a rocket I suppose.  

Art: Future plans?  
Rob Bonfiglio: We’ve joked about getting together for a few weeks on a yearly basis & kicking out a new record each time. Kinda like a musical version of “Same Time Next Year”.
 Jim Cavanaugh: Cleaning the garage.
Scot Sax: Hotel Café show in LA September 11th, our first LA show since the very last Wanderlust show in ’98 at the Viper Room.

 With thanks to the band and Kay John

and here they are performing live on world cafefor your streaming pleasure

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice piece! i designed the new cd, and I haven't even heard it yet, but having worked with Scot on many projects over the years, I'm psyched it's getting good press! jim horan