Wilding are a band on the cusp, the cusp of much bigger things. It’s something you can sense as soon as you talk to them, whether that’s the ease at which the conversation flows, proving the natural bond between the members or the passion and enthusiasm with which they talk of their songs and their live performances.
Wilding’s EP, Soul Sucker, feels at once fresh and yet a-wash with nostalgia, like finding a packet of sepia toned photographs in the back of a drawer. Memories spill fourth and secrets are revealed. Opener, Mouth Wide Open could easily be part of a sun-drenched festival set, with its shimmering guitar and clever commentary on the everyday, ‘standing at the bus stop smoking, with people who can’t tell you’re joking’. Perry Sangha’s frantic, whirling guitar solo kicks in and accompanies Dan Roe’s pounding drums. Every song on Soul Sucker has its own personality, like a family of feral children, they scatter in different directions but ultimately meld together, creating a timeless dream world. Slip Away continues the indie vibe. It’s brooding melody haunts, this is going deeper. It’s the track where everyone in the band gets their moment to shine, from the vocal of George, who eases from baritone to falsetto, to Dan’s urgent drumming and James’ thudding bassline. The Other Side of the Fence, changes tack completely. The listener is transported to a whimsical, lopsided world of hazy daze and lackadaisical paranoia ‘your runaway train reproach disconnected my coach’. The entire song brings to mind the dog days of summer in a beautiful snippet of storytelling, reminiscent of The Kinks or Donovan during their hey-day but with a modern dandy flourish. It’s here that George Wilding can really showcase his fine song writing. Dirty Dream Balloon, for which GIGsoup is lucky enough to have the video exclusive, feels like sailing on an ocean, it’s a laid-back melancholy massage of a song, at once both relaxing and unnerving and that’s the beauty and genius of Wilding. ‘There’s this mole who keeps little tabs on me, I just can’t believe it’s only my reflection’. It’s the guitar strumming, it’s the hazy vocals that give you that up all night feel. ‘You don’t care much for books, I guess that’s why you look so difficult to read’. Soul Sucker is many things and these songs, so artful, full of whimsical witticisms offer a stunning showcase for a band on the rise. In their own words, Wilding said of the exclusive video: ‘Roll up, roll up – we’ve shambience in spades, balloon trips and peep shows and candy floss clouds. Won’t you join us on this flight?’
GIGsoup’s Jessica Otterwell met Drummer, Dan Roe, Bassist James Barlow and lead singer and guitarist George Wilding as they prepared to release the video for Dirty Dream Balloon.
Who or what inspires you?
James – ‘I’m gonna say myself’ (laughter)
Dan – ‘Everything is linked. When you’re trying to be a creative person, I feel like you take inspiration from everything, so whether that’s personal things that have happened or other music you listen to where you think, oh, that’s a great idea. For me, it’s encompassing everything around you. Then you create some music, that was given to you in some way’.
George – ‘I suppose it’s the idea isn’t it? It’s like the germ of the idea and then you express it through the music. [Agreement from the rest of the band].
I mean I was gonna say Martin Luther King….’
The band name is Wilding, do you ever get jealous that George has used his own surname?
James – ‘Yes’. There’s been much bickering over this.
George. – ‘Everyone’s so passive-aggressive [laughs] I always have to be watching my back’.
How did it come about? How did you think of the name?
George – ‘I was actually just born with it.’ [laughter from the band]. I think actually Andy Partridge’s idea. Andy Partridge of XTC, I mean he said for years I should just call myself Wilding. I didn’t like that when I was just by myself but then when it came to a band name, we wanted to keep the momentum up because we play some of the songs I had before the band.
James – ‘It’s a cool word that means an awful lot of things’
George – ‘A definition of it, like in slang, to go out wilding is to go out with complete reckless abandon, drinking, taking drugs. It’s a bit like Clockwork Orange, if you describe what they do in that book, that is wilding’.
James – ‘I always highlight the wild part of the name, so to me it takes on an almost animalistic connotation’.
George – ‘I like that. I really like that and it’s also good because when we play live, we can just go for it and not worry too much about the technicalities [laughing]. Well, we’re called Wilding, what do you expect?’
James – ‘Nice fall back’
You’ve just released your EP, Soul Sucker. If someone has never heard you before. What song do you think says, ‘this is us?
George – ‘This is where tomorrow, it’ll be announced, Wilding split over musical differences’.
James – ‘I’d like to choose, The Other Side of the Fence. Because we’ve spoken about a fair few times, it’s a nice point between being a fairly upbeat song, I mean not lyrically but
George – ‘Or emotionally…’
James – ‘In a tempo way and then I feel like it’s not just a standard rock song, there’s a lot more to it. The vibe I’ve always got from that song is a really vivid image of silent movies’.
George – ‘See I agree with that, but I know that’s not your choice’ [George points at Dan].
Dan – ‘I’d pick Slip Away and it is on my playlist as well. For me, as a drummer it’s about the groove inspiring the song because that’s something that we’ve got pretty tight and something that between me, James and Perry, it’s been a big influence on us. To be honest the EP represents the different sides of us quite well and so picking one song is difficult because the whole EP encompasses all the parts of Wilding.
George – ‘That’s really true actually. You’ve got four songs, especially as it’s the first one, to showcase us. It’s about the transition into Wilding and growing as a band as we made it. So, all of them’ [Laughs].
Did you all have solo careers before you came together and how did you come together?
James – ‘Me, Dan and Perry played together for years, going back to college days and so we’ve always had that musical chemistry. Actually coming together? I mean you’ve got your other band, Dan?’
George – ‘Nora. Check out Nora’.
James – ‘Perry’s always got seventeen things on the go’
Dan – ‘I joined fairly recently but for me it was a bit of a reunion because of playing together at college. Even though I haven’t known George very long, it feels like I’ve known him for ages now. It’s felt nice coming into it. It’s felt quite fresh and natural.’
James – ‘That first time it felt so natural. It never felt forced or anything, picking up the songs’.
Dan – ‘Perry, James and I would jam in the studio for hours and hours. We’d play a Chili Peppers song and then it would go off into solos.’
James – ‘Whip out the bongos’
George – ‘I think that’s really helped with how organically it’s come together because I knew Perry first. Between me and him we worked out a couple of the songs and what would happen, kind of, off the record and when the others joined it was so organic because they could fit in with that so well. I also don’t know any musical jargon and so I couldn’t explain what drum pattern I wanted. It was like having a translator.’
James – ‘It’s like being telepathic’
How do you write a song, what’s the process?
James. – ‘The. Last time we tried to answer. This we ended. Up talking about dancing skeletons!’
George – ‘It has to be better than our last interview’.
James – ‘George usually brings the bones, which is where the skeleton came from. He brings a song which is ready, and we add our own flourishes to make it into a Wilding track!’
George – ‘It’s fairly formed acoustically but it does change by the time we’ve finished with it. What’s nice is the more times that happens, the more it’s becoming a band. That’s the future, that’s where it’s going which is so nice for me as I’m so bored of playing an acoustic.’
James – ‘Because the EP was a transition phase from solo to band it was more, they were George’s songs and we. Kind of tweaked them. Going forward it’s a fun collaboration’.
Are you thinking about recording a full-length album?
George – ‘The trouble is, we’d love to make an album but there’s a lot of time that you put into making an album but not having so many fans to release that album to, whereas we’re thinking small releases but fairly often to build momentum and then build the fanbase and people will want the album. We’d go quiet for a fair few months, maybe half a year if we’re making an album’
Dan – ‘Also people are releasing singles and pieces of music all the time and so people are always interested in what you’re doing.’
George- ‘Also only one song is going to get picked up for a playlist as there’s so much on streaming. We would love to make an album though. It would be amazing to create a world’.
What do the next 6 months hold for Wilding?
George – ‘We’ve got loads of stuff in the pipeline actually. I live in the short term very much, so I don’t really know. [Laughs]. In the short term we’ve got a couple of videos coming out. You release something and that naturally leads to other stuff. Festival season soon.’
James – ‘Yeah, summer! We’ve got a couple [of festivals]. We’ve got Lechlade.’
Dan – ‘The bigger festivals tend to let you know last minute’.
If you had a dream festival, which would you like to play?
Dan – ‘2,000 Trees, just for the atmosphere and the vibe, it’s quite small. Everyone is like a community there, they always put on upcoming underground bands but then I’d love to do something like Glastonbury one day’.
James – ‘That would be insane, it’s the ultimate festival as well.
We went to Bestival, we went two years ago and had the best time there. That would be cool as that’s a proper party atmosphere as well.’
George – ‘We’ll start our own, Where the Wildings Are’.
You seem very different in terms of musical style, so who were your musical icons growing up?
James– ‘For me, it’s completely different to what it is now. I’ve got two older brothers and so everything they were into, I was. Into as well. I used to be such a fanboy for Biffy [Clyro]. They influenced much of how I play music. I met them a couple times and I was like, “can you play this B-side next time?” and they’d say, “well I think we’ll have to learn that one”, and I was like, I’ll show you’.
George – ‘The stuff I listened to growing up I still listen to. The Beatles and The Velvet Underground.’
James – ‘When you start with the classics though, why go away from them?’
Do you think that influenced your sound, either consciously or sub-consciously?
James – ‘Yeah, stuff like The Beatles and The Underground’.
George. – ‘Definitely, when I’m writing a song acoustically, I’m accidently ripping off whatever I’m listening to’. Sometimes it will become something so different because we’re all into such different stuff. I can get away with it a bit more’.
James – ‘Probably not in terms of the way the songs actually sound but I think being really into Biffy (Clyro) will always have a part in how I hear music and want to make music because I used to be really into their early stuff, which is crazy and all over the place and eclectic. A part of me wants to retain being unpredictable in music.’
What’s your favourite track to play live?
James – ‘We’ve just put a new song called Julie into the live set and we all have fun with that one. It’s quite jammable’
George – ‘It’s got a new lease of life hasn’t it? It became sort of stale for me by myself but hearing it with the full band is pretty cool’. One of my favourites will always be Eyes Talk because that’s where you can really go for it.’
Dan – ‘I can vouch for that one, although it’s very hard to play. I’m pushing my way through and by the time I get to the end you’re spent’.
James – ‘That’s the one where if you see people nodding off, you’re like, wake them up!’.
George – ‘Give them an injection of punk. It does hurt, physically though.
James – It takes a little bit of your life!
George – ‘Yeah, yeah every time, about three minutes to be precise’. That’s like a little work out though and you can’t help but sweat when you play it. Any song where you finish and you’re like sweating and animalistic is one for the endorphins.’
What is the live experience like? If somebody hadn’t seen you before, what can they expect?
George – ‘Ahh, I wouldn’t bother’ [laughs].
James – ‘Well we have fun!’
Dan – ‘I think that transfers to the audience quite well when we’re making jokes and the energy we give to the songs. It gets people into it.’
James – ‘That’s the thing, we’ve always said isn’t it? If you ever go and see a band and they look like they’re having fun, then I feel like you’re more inclined to have fun’
George – ‘you want to have a good time at a gig, and I don’t know, it’s like when you watch Nirvana. You can do the grunge thing and go all in but it’s obvious that their hearts are all in it. It’s the worst thing when someone’s obviously not.’
Dan – ‘You’re meant to be there because you love music’.
James – ‘I think that comes across hopefully’.
Dan – ‘I think for me, I think in my head, it’s the very last gig I’ll ever play, and I have to give it my 100 per cent. Whether that’s me beating the crap out of my drums or throwing my drumsticks. That’s how I feel it should be and so if someone came to the gig, act like they’re never gonna see you ever again. They need to be impressed. If you do that then you’ve won’
James – ‘Hopefully though, we give enough of a varied set, like peaks and bows in terms of the feel of what we’re doing. Like the punky moments and then the tamer stuff. Hopefully we do enough to keep in interesting.’
George – ‘The spirit of the set is pretty rock n roll but we’re quite keen not be thrashing about on literally every song. We love the songs as well as having it’.
If you could pick someone to tour with, who would you want to tour with?
James – ‘Get those Beatles out of retirement, what are they doing?’
George – ‘It has to be someone that you want to hang out with, and you want to watch them a fair bit. I love the Fratellis and I think they’re the sort of size where you could get on a support tour with them. I’ve met them after gigs and they seem nice as well’.
Dan – ‘Queens of the Stone Age for me. It seems like everyone who hangs out with Josh Holme, they change as a person. I mean take Alex Turner, he starts hanging out with him and suddenly he’s releasing all these darker and deeper songs. It would only be a positive influence. Well, maybe not for substances and drinking [laughs]’.
James – ‘I really love to go on tour with Father John Misty and I feel we could compliment him hopefully. I think our music would sit really well next to that.
Lastly, who is the best artist you’ve heard this year?
James – ‘ A big one for me is Sharon Van Etten. I was a massive fan of her already but with the album she released in January, it’s like she’s completely re-written what Sharon Van Etten is and I think she’s done it in the coolest way. They are still heart-breaking songs as they always are with her but just really interesting instrumentation and production. I think she’s got an incredible voice. I saw her at the Roundhouse last month and those sounds even dirtier and messier live. It’s a thing of beauty.’
Dan – ‘There’s a band called The Amazons. They’ve just released an absolutely incredible first album’.
Soul Sucker is out now on Lighterthief records. You can listen to Wilding’s personalised playlists to accompany the EP on Spotify.