Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been on a bit of a Wild Adriatic kick lately. After “analyzing” their “Bound to Let You Go” video release earlier this month and reviewing their newest EP Lock & Key last week, I decided it was time to speak directly to the band about their work and influences.
Since their start just two years ago, the four man group from New York has barely paused for a full measure. In fact, as I write this they are preparing a Lock & Key release party in their hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY. Fortunately, vocalist and guitarist Travis Gray and drummer Mateo Vosganian made time to talk to LA Music Blog about their unique blend of genres, newest album, East Coast tour, and upcoming projects (I was able to sneak in a general musing of a LP). And now without further ado, let’s dive a little deeper into Wild Adriatic.
When you are in the creative process, is there any one style or genre that you feel initiates a vibe or tune? In other words, what is your basic approach to the creative process given that your style can be so variant?
Travis: Everyone in the band loves the vibe of soulful rock music. When I or someone else in the band comes up with a riff, I know right away if I’m going to be able to lay a melody I dig over it. I may not know what the melody is yet, but I know it will come. I think that with Lock & Key we’ve discovered a sound that is ours, yet you can differentiate the songs. When you hear any one of the songs, you’ll still definitely say “Oh, that’s Wild Adriatic!”
Mateo: When we’re writing and jamming, typically we don’t set forth to stay within the confines of any one genre or style. Usually a riff will be there, and we’ll work on all the different possibilities of parts/riffs/vocal melodies/transitional phrases until we find the stuff that works the best in our minds. Most of our songs are built from the ground up with a simple guitar or bass riff.
Lately we’ve taken a much more conscious approach to our sound. We established as a group that we wanted to strive for more of a vintage sound, recalling some of the great rock blues bands, but at the same time putting our own spin on things. Perhaps I’m too close to the project, but to me it feels like we’ve managed to take a lot of what we love about music and put it all together without making it sound too derivative. Our influences are obvious in the music, but people typically have a hard time comparing our sound specifically to other groups.
On that topic, who are your biggest influences? Are there any collective influences that all the members choose to draw from in order to unify a track?
Travis: I love old soul music such as James Brown and Al Green, but also draw a lot from Queen and Led Zeppelin. The band collectively loves just good rock and blues. A lot of our guitar work is influenced by The Allman Brothers. There is definitely a vibe we are going for when writing a song as a band. We all just know when the song is going to work out. If it’s not working out, we usually just toss it and move on.
Mateo: Collectively our influences are all over the place. Led Zeppelin, Queen, Bill Withers, James Brown, and the Allman Brothers are a few of the influences that we would all definitely list. I spent a lot of time listening to some of my favorite drummers (Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket, Tim Austin who plays with Buddy Guy, Bonham, etc.) in order to prepare for the writing and recording of our latest EP. As far as conscious choices in order to get a song together, I don’t think we ever really make those connections. Oftentimes we’ll mention a vibe we may have heard before that fits the part we’re going for and study that, but rarely do we have specifics in mind.
In my opinion, both of your EPs contain the same blend of rock, blues, soul, and even some pop. What sort of goals did you have with the debut album, and did those aims differ with the production of the second?
Travis: The aim of our debut EP was to create a solid rock and roll record, and start finding who we were and who we wanted to become as a band. With the new record, we knew more of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to sound. I think we really just let our soul and blues influences shine on this record. This is the record we wanted to make, and we love and believe in every song. The overall aim of our music is to make something that people can connect with, dance to, cry to, laugh to… and when they come see us live, we hope people can let go, dance, and have a good time.
Mateo: Rock, blues, soul, and pop is exactly what we shoot for. I feel like the word “pop” has definitely been assigned a negative connotation in recent years. We don’t have any Christina Aguilera vibes in our tunes, but Travis always make an effort to write catchy and interesting melodies. Each of us in the band has enough experience playing a million styles of music, but we’ve all converged here to make the kind of music we actually want to play (and listen to). We love to rock and roll, but with Lock & Key we focused on the songs and tried to strip away some of the unnecessary stuff, tighten up the drum tracks a bit, keep the bass moving, and so on.
This band is awesome to be in because it’s an easy job. We all get along so well, and in the writing process things just make themselves happen. We just keep playing and working, and sooner or later it’s suddenly apparent when the song is either finished or we’re going to move on to something else. Once we discovered the more focused direction we wanted to head in, it became much easier for us to write. Now that we’ve found something we love doing, we’re actually having a hard time keeping ourselves from writing an entire new record right now. For now the focus has to stay on performing live, touring, and getting the Lock & Key EP in the ears of new friends and fans.
The lyrics are usually somewhat somber and jaded. Do they come from any particular personal experience, other works, or merely imagination?
Travis: The lyrics come from a combination of personal experience, and sometimes just a reflection of how I am feeling. Something that is really important to me is that they fit with the song. There is no denying that the songs are blues- and soul-driven, and writing songs about butterflies and rainbows would seem a bit out of touch and that’s also not where I am personally right now. I’m not a very angry person when you meet me, but the lyrics can be very bitter and very jaded. I like to think that’s how I express those feelings.
Mateo: Lyrically Travis’ process is pretty unique. From all of the groups I’ve been in, typically singers are set in stone on their lyrics and uninterested in changing and adapting to make the song better or to make the words make a little more sense. Travis doesn’t operate that way. Even in the studio, while recording vocal takes, we’d catch something not everyone understood or agreed with, then talk about it a bit, wrote down a few things to try, and gave it a shot. I definitely think that somewhere in there the lyrics are representative not only of Travis’ own experiences, but each member of the bands’ experiences.
The past year has been a tumultuous one for Rich, Shane, and my own love lives. Just the job of being in a serious working band has presented many challenges to us when it comes to the women in our lives. It’s often hard for the ones we love to let go of the idea of the band as a threatening time-suck, which challenges most people’s idea of what a “normal” relationship should be.
One song in particular comes to mind. “The Spark” was a tune we had been working on for a while, and once we had most of the instrumental stuff done, Travis began working on lyrics. I remember a brief conversation we had where I mentioned that most of our songs are about loss of love in a sad way, and perhaps we could try making “The Spark” a song about loss of love but in a bad-ass way. The song ended up being more of a “I’m not gonna let you get away with this shit and blame it all on me” kind of vibe.
The relationship I was in was going through a lot of craziness, and the resounding feeling I was left with at the end of the day was that my life choices and goals were being blamed for the collapse of an otherwise fantastic relationship. The line in the chorus “I admire your strong persuasions, but I’ve got mine” is pretty representative of that. Playing these songs now, I can’t help but associate them with a specific person that I can’t seem to let go of, and for me, it makes the music all the more meaningful.
What can we expect from Wild Adriatic in the near future? Have you guys planned to put out an LP?
Travis: The future of Wild Adriatic is wide open, and with the release of Lock & Key we plan to work our asses off and do everything that we can possibly do to get this record out there. We will definitely put out an LP, but are not sure when. We had a great year, and we will see where this next year takes us, and then take it from there.
Mateo: I think our next plans are leaning towards a full length record, but right now our focus is on touring and playing shows. We’ve been hard at work trying to build a larger regional following in some of the major cities nearby, and the summer holds plans for a several week East Coast tour. I’d like to push towards working closer with a producer on the next batch of songs, someone who can take our vibe to the next level and think outside the box a bit on how to approach the tunes. We’ve had a lot of luck self-producing our records, but I think we’re at the point where we could definitely benefit from some stronger outside opinions on how to get the sounds we want on the record.
Aside from all that, part of the exciting thing about playing live is making friends. We’ve all been in so many bands at this point, but when we joined together as this group we decided to let go of the notion of making “fans.” A fan is a weird concept. A person that likes our music and understands us on that base level is a friend of ours.
Finally, a lot of successful bands and artists these days seem to receive their status from their crossover ability or constant experimentation with sound and style. Wild Adriatic seems to already utilize an ongoing blend of sounds. In the distant future, what can you predict as far as your sound? Will it remain blues and rock? Do you have other interests in drastic contrasts such as metal or hip-hop that could influence your evolving sound one day?
Travis: Mateo loves old school hip-hop, and our bass player, Rich, actually loves metal. But I can honestly tell you that Wild Adriatic will probably not be implementing either of those genres in the near future. We will continue to put out what we feel is authentic good rock music, sprinkled with blues and soul on top. We still feel like we are finding ourselves as musicians and constantly growing, so it is hard to say for sure. As long as we feel like we can keep growing and learning, we will be happy. The moment you feel like you can’t grow as a musician is the moment that you need to kick yourself back into reality.
Mateo: In terms of crossover ability and stuff like that, I suppose we haven’t really thought about it like that. We’re aware of the different radio markets out there and definitely have developed a strategy for where to market our music, but the good thing about this group is that, yeah, we can span different genres and markets. We’ve played with bands ranging from Third Eye Blind to Asteroids Galaxy Tour to All-American Rejects to MuteMath to even a nu-metal band like Saving Abel. Each show we do our thing, and people recognize us as a fun-loving group of good musicians. I think it’s less about crossover ability and more about the fact that we seem to possess a wider appeal than we previously thought possible.
I think we’re pretty solid right now, with no plans to intersperse any hip-hop or metal into the sound. We’re just going to keep being us and making honest, heartfelt music. It’s funny that you mention those genres though because our bassist Rich actually was playing lead guitar in a metal band before we picked him up, and I’m a huge hip-hop guy. We might love those styles of music, but what happens when all four of us get in a room together to make music is something special. I keep pushing Travis to get out there and be a Dubstep DJ but the dude just refuses, so I guess for better or worse…we’re stuck with rocking and rolling.
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