BLURT’S BEST KEPT SECRET #5: Wiretree

Austin indie rockers
bring the British Invasion to the Lone Star State.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

The BLURT staff put our heads – and ears – together and we
have the May-June pick for our Blurt/Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret”: it’s Austin combo Wiretree.
(Apologies for keeping everyone on the edge of their seats until now, early
July; time of year for vacations, etcetera, you understand…)

 

One of the best parts about having this partnership with
Sonicbids is, unquestionably, the shiver of delight that can strike at random
points as we peruse the submissions. Admittedly, there’s a certain “battle of
the bands” element to the process, and a lot of chaff has to be picked through
to reach the wheat. But when that shiver strikes, it’s profound – like walking
into some High Fidelity-style indie
record store and, as you flip through the bins, some song comes on over the
speakers and you’re instantly compelled to rush to the counter and ask the
clerk, who is this?!?

 

My initial encounter with Wiretree was like that. I’m pretty
sure it was the song “Information” that cued up when I began perusing the
band’s EPK at the Sonicbids site. It’s strummy, edgy, summery, sexy and cool,
with gorgeous vocal harmonies and a twinned guitar-keyboard melody that sinks
its hooks deep; think New Order, if New Order had come up during the ‘60s
British Invasion. That was followed by “Big Coat,” simultaneously jaunty, like
a classic McCartney or Posies tune, yet endearingly tender, like the songs of
one of frontman Kevin Peroni’s fave bands, the La’s. I was hooked. Full
disclosure: when Wiretree first submitted, back in March, they weren’t our
first pick for that month; it was Britain’s Polly Mackey & the
Pleasure Principle (profiled HERE). But it was such a close race and such a
tough decision that we kept the band’s materials handy until the next “Best
Kept Secret” deadline rolled around, and our instincts proved astute, as the
band sounded just as cool second time around. Possibly even a bit cooler, come
to think of it.

 

Fronted
by multiinstrumentalist Peroni, the quartet includes Joshua Kaplan, Rachel
Peroni and Daniel Blanchard. Their debut, a self-titled EP, was released in
2005 under their own independent label, Cobaltworks Music. In January of 2007,
Wiretree released their first LP entitled Bouldin.
A 2009 LP is due out later this year and is currently in the mastering stages.
They describe their music as being “largely influenced by Britpop and musicians
along the likes of George Harrison, Elliott Smith and the La’s.”

 

But
there’s a lot more than those namechecks might suggest – echoes can be heard of
everything from vintage ‘60s pop-sike and Velvet Underground-esque choogle to
paisley underground-tinted ‘80s stylings and latterday indie rock with a
distinctive anthemic edge. There’s an urgency afoot in the Wiretree music, and
a naked honesty as well.

 

If you’re needing sonic proof, tune in to BLURT radio to
hear an MP3 (“Big Coat,” from Bouldin)
by the band; just click on the music player image on the right hand side of our
homepage and scroll down for the song. Also check out the band’s MySpace page for more song samples – some of the new songs have already knocked our socks
off – as well as tour dates and more.

 

Peroni answered a handful of our questions recently from his
home in Austin.

 

***

 

BLURT: Let’s start out with a softball
or two. Fave early albums? Random heroes and/or villains who’ve shaped your
life to date?

 

PERONI: First singles, stolen from my sister around 7 or 8 years old – Mamas
and Papas, “Monday Monday,” and Queen, “We Will Rock You”.  Listened to them on my Winnie the Pooh record
player. In my teens I was in a crazy Baroque music phase – Bach, Albinoni,
Vivaldi – and I holed myself up in a room trying to learn to play “Toccata
and Fugue in D minor” on a Casio keyboard I acquired from a trade of my
weight bench. I then discovered the Beatles and went through a long phase
listening to Rubber Soul and Revolver over and over.  This led me to the early ‘90s Britpop movement
– Blur, Oasis, the La’s. Throw in some ELO and Dylan somewhere in the middle…
oh, and I can’t leave out The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Paul Simon.

 

You’ve handled all the
instrumentation on your recordings, to date, right? Could you briefly outline
your musical background and how Wiretree has evolved thus far, both as your
project and more recently as a full-fledged band with input and contributions
from all the musicians? 

 

Yeah, I’ve always been a do it yourself kind of guy. I’ve been in plenty of
bands/projects and I never really had the patience to learn or teach people
parts of the songs and collaborate.  I
like it instant, with today’s technology; I can load up Pro Tools, start
drumming away, add the bass, add the guitar, piano, etc. and there’s a
song. Now, that being said, I’ve been enjoying my live band. There’s something
to be said for playing the songs together, especially with some good friends.  I’m never one to have spotlight on me and it’s
nice to share the stage.  On the upcoming
album, I have my band members playing tracks here and there.  I plan on recording more in the future with
them.

 

So where did the band name come from?

 

As cheesy as [this may sound], the name reflects the more rocking/electric
side with “wire” and the natural, organic side with
“tree”. In fact, the recorded albums have more acoustic sounds –
pianos, acoustic guitar, etc. – while the live sound has turned to the heavy
side. Definitely, with the live band influence, we’re wanting to play as a rock
and roll band. It seems much more interesting to hear songs in an anthemic and
alive versus folky and mellow [form]. At least it’s more enjoyable to perform
that way.

 

What brought you to Austin? I’m also curious to know how your
music been received locally to date. The city is certainly more roots-oriented
than the poppier style you specialize in.

 

Daniel Blanchard is from California, moved
from L.A. last
year or so. I grew up in Corpus
Christi and moved here around ‘95. My wife plays the
bass and has been here about the same amount of time as me. And Joshua Kaplan
is a Houston
transplant. You’re right, Austin
is predominantly a root-rocker kind of town. However, there are pockets of
indie/rock/pop – see Spoon, or What Made Milwaukee Famous.  Most of the clubs separate into their own
genre.  We’re pretty lucky as we can slightly
fit into the indie world and we can almost mix into traditional rock world.  It’s an interesting thing; we’re not quite the
youngster, hip, indie band or the older, traditional, roots band.  I think there’s a niche that needs to be
filled a bit. Us and a few bands are filling that void.

 

Greatest successes to date?

 

We played a Homeslice Pizza SXSW day party this year with the Von Bondies,
the Morning Benders, etc. I hung out with Jason Lytle [ex of Grandaddy] and
gave his drummer a ride on my scooter to some show.  Other than that, our song “Big Coat”
is going to be played on Delta airlines radio – 11,000 times they say!

 

In looking over some of your press I
see glowing references such as Posies, Squeeze, Tom Petty, Smithereens and even
the Beatles – power pop territory. But what if you were writing the review?

 

Yeah, I’m pretty much a Beatles/Dylan junkie, as are a gazillion other
artists, like World Party, Oasis, the La’s, etc. I kind of like to think of the
music as an American version of English skiffle music, or possibly a folkier
version of the Dandy Warhols.  All of
these bands have the same goal: to write the perfect 3-minute song. 

 

You’ve indicated that your second
album is currently in the mastering stages – what can you tell us about it or
the making of it?

 

The album is called Luck.  I
wasn’t sure if I would be able to come up with any new tunes after the last
album, but somehow they started flowing and began to pile up.  Some of the influence came from playing out
live.  After a few shows, I wanted to
make songs that were energetic and had more of a rock show feel.  The physical album will be out around October,
digitally out a little before that.  One
little on-going event that keeps on happening during the recording process is
my dog’s collar rattling in a recording. Sydney
sometimes moves around at those key spots in a song.  I make sure I credit him for his part.

 

Lastly, what’s the 5-year plan for
world domination?

 

Well, we started with little goals like trying to play a
cool venue like “The Mohawk” or “Antone’s” here in Austin,
and we did that… then moved on to maybe playing some cool SXSW shows, we did
that… now I guess we’re shooting for playing a festival: Bonnaroo, ACL,
Monolith.  That’d be cool.  Past that, we just want to have a good time
playing songs – if people like it… all the better!

 

[Photo Credit: Pandora Van Natter]

 

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