If you don’t already know Wildling, now is your chance. Since their first show at the Satellite a few years back, the LA bred quintet have been crafting catchy hooks, touring with Young the Giant and signing a record deal. And that’s just the beginning. As a duo who already had their own bouts with the music business, Ryan and Andrew recorded their first song together, “Hummingbird.” That song was the thrust that inspired Wildling to expand from a duo to a rock band. The momentum they felt from that song brought them to recruiting Ryan’s younger brother Justin to play bass and Erik Janson to handle guitar and vocals. With four of five members in place, Ryan took the suggestion of Young The Giant frontman Sameer Gadhia and met with Casey the day after the drummer exited his previous band Cayucas. Wildling was now solidified and they never looked back.
Like many LA bands, Wildling came off the road and headed to Joshua Tree to bury their heads in music, get back to basics and write some songs. For the first time, all five musicians constructed and crafted songs together from scratch in a room. “We shut out the world, set up shop, deliberately left everything outside, and tried to see where we could take everything together,” recalls Erik. “We wrote nine songs in just five days.” One of the songs they wrote in these sessions was “Lilywhite,” which has been tapped to be the calling card for their Warner Bros. Records debut. “We wrote ‘Lilywhite’ together and I feel like that it’s really symbolic and important to us as a band with that particular song coming out. I feel like it was this moment where we exceeded our own expectations and created something together where we really surprised ourselves.”
Their quick ascent shows no sign of stopping with the release of their new video for the track, “Lilywhite.” The video itself is no doubt a mirror of the struggles of relationships and the modern temptations that go with them. Watching the video, it’s easy to see that the overall concept was inspired by a lyric in the chorus: “pulling at my loose ends”. The song playing with the video is a perfect background to the struggle, providing a driven bass line and a catchy chorus that could be played over and over again. If you really want to get to know Wildling, this is a superb introduction.
We had a little chat with three of the five to dive deeper into the road, the song and a band trying to make great music.
COLLiDE: Talk to me about your experience recording “Lilywhite.”
Erik: The really important thing that happened for all of us when in early 2016, we did a writing session with the five of us in a room, together with the writer/producer, Alex Salibian. It was the first time we got in a room together without any instruments.
Ryan: We went to Alex Salibian’s home studio, which is Jeff Basker’s old studio, it’s in a back house in Mar Vista on the Westside. The room just feels like there’s been a lot of great music played here. It’s small and intimate which I think is better for writing situations. I think with that energy, we committed to creating a space for the band to start functioning as a band. We hadn’t been there before creatively and I think we all remember after that day we wrote it [Lilywhite], we just left there on a buzz because we felt like we broke new ground creatively for us.
It’s like songwriting boot camp.
Erik: It was really seamless. Everything really fell into place. It was so quick, it was really cool. We wrote the lyrics collaboratively. It was a tapestry of feelings and elements we shared. It was a first for the five of us in the same room working on lyrics which was really inspiring to hear everyone weigh in on what the lyrics should be and how they made them feel. In the chorus, those words felt right together and really hooky. We called it “Lilywhite” because Ryan just mumbles stuff when he’s writing and I’ll catch a word and I said “Oh! Lilywhite.” We’ve done that a lot. Mumbling sounds like a pretty cool word.
Ryan: I look at the song as moral purity and placing this idea of perfection on yourself. Taking a step back, you realize we are all flawed and you should not be judging yourself. That’s what I was trying to speak to in the lyrics. Elements of your experience whether good or bad, are often times pulling at you in the same ways or in different ways influencing your life whether you like it or not.
Once the song was finished, did it feel like this is the one?
Ryan: I don’t know if it’s going to be a smash hit, but for me, stylistically and melodically, it has that thing that I want to listen to it again. The mystery of the lyric keeps me interested. It has that 70’s style Southern California sound. It just hit on all the right marks.
Did you guys write while you were on the road with Young the Giant? Do any of the new songs reflect any of those experiences?
Casey: There are five songwriters in the band so on any given day, someone in Wildling is writing music and we definitely wrote songs on tour with Young the Giant. We have no shortage of songs that we all care about. It’s more about deciding and crafting them into specifically what Wildling is. I remember a day in Knoxville, TN, when we wrote songs with just a piano in the living room of this Air BNB. I don’t think any of those made it to the record.
Ryan: As far as being out on the road, it is a pretty tight schedule so Knoxville was a special day. I wouldn’t say we were really writing a lot, just focused on playing our set. That tour was so massively important to the foundation of this band. It was kind of a whirlwind year. We were booked for one of our first gigs at the Satellite, which turned into a residency, which led to the Young the Giant tour. I didn’t think we know what to expect because everything was so new as a group playing together. We ended up playing to crowds of 1500-2000 people and it really worked. It was a combination of their fans, our music really speaking to their fans and their fans were super accepting and so welcoming to us from show number one. They knew some of the songs and we were blown away and a little surprised at how well that tour went. It gave us the sense that this was really going to happen. We came back from that fully fired up and ready to start writing.
Who is the tour bus/van DJ on the road?
Casey: That’s a shared duty. Usually whoever is sitting shotgun. Everyone has their obligations. It’s like navigation/DJ. If you fuck up, you’re axed. Erik and Justin are like encyclopedias of music so they can whip up some jams of some music of the 60s and 70s.
What was your favorite city to play when you guys were on the road with Young the Giant?
Ryan: We played Lawrence, Kansas, which is a college town and has a lot of cool things going on. Towards the end of the tour, we really hit our stride in Oklahoma. We played Oklahoma City and played Tulsa the next night. There were a lot of people from the Friday night show who drove to Tulsa. There was this kind of climax right after our set. The crowd was screaming so loud, Young the Giant’s tour manager came rushing in like “What the fuck is going on?” He thought there was a problem. They were still screaming when we came back on to get our shit off the stage. They knew our names somehow and we are like what the fuck is going on? At the after party, we had people come in and do Acroyoga with us. Not what you would expect in Oklahoma. That’s how Wildling parties!!! It was right around the shootings at the Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris and there was definitely tension. It was one of the most emotional shows I’ve ever played. We really didn’t take for granted what we were doing that night and I don’t think anyone in the crowd did either.
Wildling play the Troubadour Saturday, July 8th with King Washington, Faulkner, and Hamster. Get your tickets for the stacked bill here.