Interview: Wye Oak

Last Friday, while Bailiwick was folking up the stage at Falstaff’s, Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak were preparing for their set in the back, with the latter chugging both water and pharmaceuticals, trying to overcome a cold. However, shows and colds aside, they were more than willing to sit down with SEC for a few minutes as we asked them about Baltimore, their new album, and The Wire.

SEC: How does it feel to have your record streaming on NPR?

Jenn Wasner: NPR’s always been so good to us. They had us for the Tiny Desk Concert, and I think they’re streaming our show we’re playing in DC in a week. And they’re wonderful; they’ve always been really involved and passionate and really kind to us.

Andy Stack: Yeah, it makes my mom really proud. Jenn came late to the NPR party –

JW: I didn’t come from an NPR family.

AS: But I came from a very hardcore NPR family so, on that level, it’s always been really cool that they’ve been supportive of us.

SEC: What can you tell us about your new album?

JW: Well, it’s called Civilian, and it’s got ten songs on it, and…hopefully they’re good.

AS: It’s out this Tuesday.

JW: It’s out on Tuesday. We recorded it in July and we mixed it in…

AS: September.

JW: …September. I hope it’s good.

SEC: It is. [Laughing] We listened to it – it’s good; we liked it.

JW: [Laughing] Thank you, I’m glad.

AS: Yeah.

SEC: And now the real questions. Omar or McNulty?

JW: Omar, obviously.

AS: Omar, yeah.

JW: Oh, indeed.

SEC: Spiderbags or Yellowcaps?

JW: Spiderbags, without a doubt.

AS: I would go with Spiderbags.

JW: Spiderbags sounds way cooler. Get’s you Fucked up, too.

SEC: Where’s your favorite place to get crab cakes?

JW: G and M’s. Have you ever been there?

SEC: Yeah, a lot.

JW: That’s my favorite crab cake in the world.

SEC: Have you ever been to Faidley’s?

JW: Yeah.

SEC: They’re really good.

JW: Yeah, they’re good, too, but G and M’s is by far –

AS: That’s the place where both of our families went.

JW: I’ve been going there since I was a kid. That was my first crab cake and my last.

SEC: [To Jenn] How long did you go to Skidmore?

JW: One Semester.

SEC: What did you like about it…if anything?

JW: I like it very much, but…well there were several things. I was really rooted in Baltimore when I left, and some opportunities presented themselves. I was going to school here for English, I was an English Major; I liked it, I enjoyed it, but when opportunities kind of presented themselves with the band – that’s what I truly wanted to do with my life – and that’s the kind of thing you have to jump on when you can. And pretty much my entire musical world existed [in Baltimore]. I really liked Saratoga, I really liked Skidmore. I had a radio show. It was from 4:30 AM to 6:30 AM on Tuesdays…

SEC: Great time slot.

JW: Really primetime.

AS: The truckers liked it.

JW: [Sarcastically] Yeah, everyone listened to the 4:30 AM to 6:30 AM on Tuesdays. I had class at 8:30 on Tuesdays, so it was really awesome. I really enjoyed [Skidmore], it just wasn’t the right time for me to be in school, and we got the opportunity to band stuff, to work on this, I kind of jumped on it. I really liked Ravenous, the crepe place.

SEC: How often do you have girl’s night out’s with Jana Hunter [of Lower Dens] and Victoria Legrand [of Beach House]?

JW: It’s happened.

SEC: It has? Really?

JW: Yeah, they’re both friends of mine. I saw Jana yesterday.

SEC: You guys are touring with [Lower Dens], right?

JW: Yeah. I worked with Jana, I’ve known her for a while. She’s one of my best friends. I went to her engagement party; she’s getting married to another really good friend of ours.

SEC: What do the girl’s nights entail?

JW: The last night I was specifically with Jana and Victoria was probably New Years.

AS: Where was that?

JW: Dan Deacon’s house.

SEC: [Laughing] We were going to ask you about that – does Dan Deacon play all your partys?

JW: Yeah, Dan has an uncanny ability –

AS: He’s a very good DJ.

JW: He’s not a very good DJ.

AS: Oh come one, man!

JW: He’s not! I’ve been complaining about this – every party I fuckin’ go to in the past 6 months – I’m pretty sure it might be a social experiment by this point – someone’s playing songs, maybe there’s an actual real DJ, and then somehow it turns into the same twenty songs that Dan always plays.

AS: Yeah, capped by “Under the Sea,” from The Little Mermaid.

SEC: He’s coming here soon.

JW: He is? [Jokingly] Tell him I said hi.

SEC: We’ll tell him you said hello.

JW: Tell him to stop playing the same twenty songs at every party! [More seriously] No, Dan’s awesome.

AS: He’s the most enthusiastic DJ for sure.

SEC: Have you ever met the guys from Animal Collective?

JW: I’ve met Josh. We played a show…We played Whartscape with Deakin – with Josh. It was actually Lower Dens – Jana’s band – us, Deakin, Beach House, and HEALTH.

SEC: Who’s your favorite Animal Collective member?

AS: I’ve never really seen them. We saw them one time in Philly, and we got there half way through. [To Jenn] Remember that, at the Electric Factory?

SEC: I was at that show.

AS: Really?

JW: We couldn’t see shit. We had a show of our own.

AS: Yeah, unfortunately for us we were playing at Philly that night.

JW: So we only caught the end. I really like that band a lot.

AS: Yeah, they’re cool.

JW: Josh was really nice, and he’s the only one I’ve actually met, so I’ll say he’s my favorite.

AS: And I like the Panda Bear record a lot. I haven’t heard – there’s a new one right?

SEC: It’s coming out soon.

JW: I like them. They’re talented guys. Baltimore pride. You guys are up on your Baltimore trivia.

SEC: We didn’t think that you’d know every single musician from Baltimore.

AS: It’s that kind of town, definitely.

JW: If people make music in Baltimore, you know them, you just do. Everyone’s at the same places all the time. There’s only so many places to go. It’s also really supportive, and everyone’s highly collaborative. Do you know the band Future Islands?

SEC: I’ve heard of them.

JW: There really great; you should check them out, too. They’re wonderful, they’re wonderful. They’re playing tomorrow night with this band, Celebration, that’s also from Baltimore, and Arbouretum, another really good Baltimore band. Too much, too much to do. No time to be sick; I’ve got shows to go to.

SEC: Which kind of leads into our next question, what’re you listening to now?

JW: I’m listening to a lot of Arthur Russell these days, I’m on a total binge. And I’ve also just downloaded the complete discographies of Ciera and Aaliyah.

SEC: Nice. Is that going to show up all over your music?

JW: Well, I’m working on some other music for other things that hopefully will be a little more in that vein, but I’m trying to make a mix that’s Ciera vs. Aaliyah – who will win? Or, is Ciera an adequate successor to Aaliyah. And what else am I listening to? Baltimore shit. The new Celebration record I think is really great.

AS: [To Jenn] The new Celebration? Have you gotten a hold of that?

JW: Well I have the singles – they’re free on the internet. I don’t have the actual record. Future Islands, also – I listen to them all the time.

AS: Yeah, the Future Islands record that came out last year is continuously on my rotation.

SEC: What’s the name of that album?

AS: In the Evening Air.

SEC: They’re so many “Islands” bands, it’s hard to keep them straight.

JW: They’re the best Island band in my opinion. Kick-ass band. You should have them up here, they’re a great live band, too. I’m actually working on a song with Future Islands right now.

SEC: Really?

JW: Yep, I’m singing a duet with [Future Islands member] Sam.

SEC: The last joke question…You’re named after a tree, so obviously you have a lot to say about The King of Limbs by Radiohead.

JW: Actually, I haven’t even heard it.

AS: Absolutely nothing to say.

JW: We were on tour in Europe when it came out…

SEC: You don’t hang out with Thom Yorke all the time?

JW: [Laughing] He is not from Baltimore.

AS: I’m sure I’ll come to that record…

JW: Yeah, I’m planning on listening to it. I’ll give anything they do a go. I like the last one.

AS: Yeah, the last one was kind of a slow-burn kind of record. And I haven’t been bowled over by the little bit I’ve heard from the new one in passing, but I think it would be more suspect if it was an instant gratification from Radiohead. You always got to dig a little deeper. I’m mostly psyched about the way they release their music now. Nobody can leak it, and it’s just such an equalizing process – just, here it is, check it out. They’re one of probably three or four bands in the world that could pull that off.

JW: Yeah, I’ll seek it out at some point. I haven’t really been up on anything lately, as far as getting a hold of new music. Honestly it’s overwhelming just being in Baltimore and feeling like there’s a million things to do at all times. It used to be that if you really really tried, you could maybe go to everything; and now, it’s just impossible. But in a good way, you know? It’s nice to have options, but I really wish I could do it all.

SEC: Alright, thanks a lot, guys.

JW: OF course! Thanks for asking fun questions.

So, if you’re question of the night was “Are the members of Wye Oak uptight assholes?” then you have your answer.

Interview by Taylor Dafoe and Drew Litowitz

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