Posted by kluster on May 5, 2009
Kluster editor, Kat Hartmann, speaks to Wifey frontman, Andy Calvert, about being considered an 'alt-country' band, winning band comps and past musical exploits.
Kat Hartmann: Tell me a little about the Wifey sound?
Andy Calvert: It's a bit weird. On paper we sound like an alt-country band – drums, bass, guitar, keys and violin – but we really aren't conscious of genre; we just do whatever the song needs and it's rarely 'alt-country'. Kathryn, our violinist, played with me while I was drumming in a fucked up spazz-rock band, so she is just as comfortable playing atonal weirdness as she is playing melody. I'm trying to marshal us towards some kind of baroque pop sensibility but there are always these ghosts of blues-ier atonal rock and simple folk music in the writing.
KH: And the history of the band: how long have you been treading stages as a five-piece? Which stages have you trodden?
AC: We started in a bit of a rush to qualify for the Sydney Uni band comp just under a year ago. We won that and started getting offered gigs straight away, and in reality, we probably jumped on stage a little prematurely and are only finding our feet now. We’ve played the Hopetoun, the Annandale, Factory Theatre, Spectrum, Hermanns, Mum @World Bar and Manning so far. We're really excited about the prospect of some venues in Newtown getting their shit together so we can play the home crowd.
KH: Wifey recently recorded its debut EP, Salt, Sugar, Fat. When is it due for release and what can people expect from the aforementioned record?
AC: It will be released in May if things go to plan (mwhahaha... plan!). Um yeah… this EP is just a sniff of the bottle. There are two songs on it we play live – and statistically it is unpossible [sic] to represent the live show with two songs – and they are indicative of that amalgam of baroque pop, aggressive rock and folk guilelessness. The other three songs are experiments; there is a boogie-woogie reinvention of a Leonard Cohen song, a song about a friend's penis and a stream-of-consciousness love poem to Charles Darwin.
KH: Wifey has a very distinct sound, a sound unlike anything coming out of any other bands in Sydney at the moment. Where does it come from?
AC: To a certain degree we are technophobes so there is no drum loops, programming or masses of pedal effects in the sound. On the other hand we don't subscribe to that kind of idea of a "pure" sound like some people do who look back to a heyday in music and try to recreate that one snapshot of it. I think it's possible to be individual and original compositionally, rather than taking a stock form and attempting to reinvigorate it by delivering the sounds in new ways. That means we don't really fit in anywhere in a “folktronica”, “neo-folk” or an “indie-dance” Sydney. But it's a situational rather than an ideological thing: we simply haven't had time to fuck around with technology yet and I'm too much in love with music as an expressive art form, rather than a symptom of pop-culture to pay tribute to a style or era, as much as I really enjoy bands that do just that.
I also think being happy to express and exorcise your neurosis in its totality means whatever you create, it will be distinct. There are some really big payoffs in society for not doing that, thus the endless array of bands that sound alike or say nothing individual.
KH: Andy, you have a pretty interesting musical career. You have made music with some impressive names. Can you tell us a little about your time with the infamous GiveGoods?
AC: Well for starters Tom Morgan – more famous as the singer in Smudge and the songwriter behind a lot of Evan Dando/Lemonheads material – was a friend of aforementioned 'spazz-rock' band Whopping Big Naughty and very supportive of my songwriting aspirations. He was out of contract and between bands and some major labels came knocking about a solo record. He brought me and my songs along for that very fucked-up ride – from lounge room drug jams to Triple J’s album-of-the-week – in a handful of months. We recorded the album with Paul Dempsey of Something for Kate, Evan Dando, Jaunita Stein of Waikiki/Howling Bells and some other mates like Kathryn of Wifey. It's kind of terrifying how tactile your ego is in regards to its surrounds and it took a long time to put my self belief back together after that record – I Want To Kill A Rich Man – commercially flopped. I think we realized at the point when Tom fell asleep from codeine tabs onstage at the Annandale with an erection while I was changing a string, the band may have ploughed into a few hurdles not of a strictly careerist nature.
KH: What’s currently in the works for Wifey?
AC: It sounds dumb but just playing together is the current project; being more consciously involved of the way we go about creating our songs, lessening our focus on the things-to-be-done like records and gigs, and remembering why we even want to play music. When we get back from the monastery I promise we'll bring you a good album.
Wifey will be treading the Hopetoun stage for their EP launch next Friday May 15.