Photo by Abby Banks

Cory Hanson wanted to approach Wand’s fourth LP Plum with a renewed sense of collaboration and spontaneity. Ever since the band’s inception in 2013, Cory had been composing music from “the top down.” He would put together the lyrics and arrangements, record the demo, and present his fellow band members with their respective parts. As the band grew more harmonious on stage and in the studio, Hanson discovered that the process would have to be more collaborative if the band were to evolve in a positive and dynamic way.

And so Wand, often pigeonholed into the pysch-rock camp alongside fellow collaborators like Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, became a five piece band in 2016 and made a conscious effort to “shed the skin of the last incarnation.” According to Hanson, “Creating music that sounds psychedelic is a really self-defeating prophecy. You’re just adhering to a construct, like an artifice of what psychedelic music is…the more confident I get with the lyrics, especially when there are four other people that are looking over what I’m doing and giving me feedback and letting me know how they feel, [the more] I don’t want to write about bullshit fantasy stuff anymore. Not that that stuff isn’t great, but it just didn’t feel appropriate for where the band was going.”

Photo by Wand

Wand’s forthcoming album Plum is definitely a departure from the fuzzy distortion and meandering psychedelia of their previous albums Golem and 1000 Days, both released in 2015. And partly thanks to the addition of band members Robert Cody on guitar, and
Sofia Arreguin on backing vocals and synth, it’s nearly impossible to confine the band to a certain genre. Songs likes “Blue Cloud” exude a poppier, more melodic vibe, and tracks like “High Rise” and the titular “Plum” evoke bands such as “Stone Temple Pilots” and “Spoon” respectively.

Hanson was extremely candid when discussing the band’s revitalized sound, explaining how the process of making the album itself was both rigorous and rewarding. Through sweat, tears, and three months sequestered in their studio, Wand has produced their most lyrically engaging, dynamic album to date.

You have a write up about what Plum is on your website, but I was wondering if I could hear from your perspective, how you came up with the name of the album and the concept of the album?

Yeah, I think that in the write up, maybe the language is a little abstract, but it’s definitely true. Basically, we got together in the summer of 2016 and started working as a five-piece. We wanted to make a record that was just us writing together and learning how to play together without really worrying about the studio. [Thinking] ‘well don’t worry, we’ll just tons of overdubs and lots of delays and fuzz or whatever.’ I feel like at that time we were getting really good at playing live, so we kind of sat in a room for three months and made this record together. We really didn’t do anything else in that time. We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to have any concept or theme. The distillation process for songs goes through five people so in the end it sounds like five people. It’s almost entirely collaborative. Save for a couple songs of mine that somehow made it, it’s a democratic record.

I think that contributes to why it feels so dynamic, but obviously also feels like a singular band. I think it definitely contributed in a positive way and feels like a departure from that Ty Segall kind of sound. Do you feel that way as well?

I mean, it’s really hard not to. The influence that [Ty and I] had on each other was more just from sharing records and listening to the same things. Definitely, in a lot of ways, it is a parting with any affiliation to whatever things people have lumped us with in the past, namely psychedelic and garage music.

From reading about the album, it sounds like it was made during a tumultuous time in your lives. Was it difficult?

Yeah, well, there were a lot of things happening concurrent to the record itself. They were happening in a really weird time in all of our lives, which is weird when you’re trying to really get closer as a band. But then there were break ups, not within the group, obviously. That would never happen (joking). Basically, a lot of people died. Family members died… it was just a very challenging time while also trying to make probably the hardest music that any of us have ever made, and making it together, and trying to reorganize the band… It was especially hard on me because I’m a total control freak, so it was like teaching a really old dog how to do something…

Sounds like an intense experience. Did you stop when you experienced a loss or did you revisit the album in terms of that experience?

It all fed into the record directly. The record was pretty much all we had during this whole transition, so it was, for all of us, the only thing we were all doing while we were dealing with grief, pain, and sorrow. In that way, even if the record wasn’t going well at the time, or if we were pulling our hair out trying to figure out a song, at least it was something for us to do together that took away some of that sorrow.

Are you ultimately satisfied?

I mean, at this point I’ve listened to it so many times. We’ve all exhausted whatever currency we have left for enjoying the record. We’re just hoping and taking a leap of faith and giving it to other people to [revisit] our feelings about it. I don’t even know how to feel about it because it’s so much a part of my life. Every single day.

I never think about that, like making an album and that’s your product. You’re talking about it, everything revolves around it, you’re performing it. I’ll say again, it came out great and you should be proud. Switching gears, how is the dynamic of the band as a five-piece?

It’s very quiet. I mean, I’m sort of the loud mouth in the band. Everyone is very patient and reserved, and I’m kind of the freak out guy. It works well because I guess I’m kind of the diva and everyone else is very cool and well balanced. But I feel like most of the time we work and play very quietly so we can hear what we’re doing.

In regards to making music videos nowadays… is it kind of just like, ‘we want to express ourselves in a visual way,’ or does the record label encourage it?

Our label doesn’t encourage us to do anything we don’t want to do. For the most part, they don’t really care. I feel like it was sort of on us for this one. We wanted there to be visuals to accompany the record, and mostly, it can be a real drag putting out records. It can be a real boring process, especially nowadays, when people are trying to pander to Spotify and get playlisted, and have some kind of presence in the streaming world. Since we’re not on Spotify, we have to come up with a fun way to present our music to the world. Music videos have always just been a fun way. It’s a celebration of music, but you get this visual element. There’s a great history of even pre-MTV music videos that offers another dimension of a band when you understand them visually.

Have you perfected the dynamic of your live performance?

It’s always changing. What’s the Greek myth about the guy rolling the rock up the hill? It’s like Sisyphus. When we go on tour, it takes us pretty much right until the final stretch to really get somewhere where we’re like, ‘this is where we wanna be. This is perfect.’ And then, when we get off tour and everyone goes out of town, the rock just goes straight back down the hill and we start over. But we’ve found a way to be very happy with the way that we play and that comes from just learning as many songs as we possibly can from all of our records, and playing whatever we want in a given night. It’s always changing so we never get bored, and it’s always exciting. We spend a stupid amount of time neurotically obsessing about it.

Wand’s album Plum is out this Friday, 9/22, on Drag City. You can pre-order their album here, and catch them in concert this Saturday at the Troubador.

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