"Portland band Wild Ones is the perfect example of how modern local music scenes work when at their best. If a city is bustling with musical talent—regardless of genre—a DIY scene will naturally spring up. People will host shows in their basements, bands will consistently play with a short list of fellow local bands, and everyone kind of becomes one big group of friends supporting each other. It's a brilliant environment to grow and learn about yourself musically. It's also great because you could end up brushing shoulders with your potential future bandmates.This is how Wild Ones came to be.
Each member of the band grew up in Portland and would play in separate bands but in the same music scene throughout the city. Thomas, who plays keyboards, and Danielle, who sings, were the first to come together to write a few songs. It was just a side project at the time, but after getting a great response from the first few songs release they decided to keep writing. After a few new members were added, the rest is history. We were able to hang out with the band and to chat with them about Portland, what tour life is like as an emerging band, and what them like Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home" so much that they were driven to record a cover of the song. (And speaking of Portland and local music, we'll be in PDX for the last stop on our UO Live tour this week — if you're in town be sure to come hang out on April 2 at Twentysix Cafe.)
Photos by Michael J Spear
So tell us a little about yourselves and the band in general.
Thomas: We’re all from Portland; most of us grew up here. We all played music in the local scenes for a long time in various bands. We formed about four years ago. Danielle and I started a side project because we were playing in other bands, but we got a good response after releasing some tracks and then that started growing into a band and adding new members. The band has been kind of a slow bloomer for a few years, but now it’s our number one priority and we’re trying to make it our living.
How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard you before?
Danielle: I guess you can call it indie-pop or synth-pop, but we’re definitely a pop band. I feel like the way we use synths and the way I use my voice definitely makes it dream-pop. This kind of ethereal feeling is consistent throughout all our music.
Do you remember the exact moment in your life when you knew you wanted to do music professionally?
Max: There was this White Snake video on MTV once, so that’s mine. I’m growing my hair out, it’s gonna be rad [laughs]. But seriously, I guess for me it was my mom’s record collection. She had a Stevie Wonder record that I would listen to over and over, and to this day I don’t think I can find anything more fascinating.
Danielle: I think I had about ten different experiences like that when I was 17 or 18 years old. But one comes to mind that I’ve been thinking about a lot the past week. When we were just starting college here in Portland there was this really strong house show scene that we were involved with. The shows would be in basements of these shitty houses with nine people living in them and they would just be packed full of kids. One of the very first ones I went to was in freshman year before I even had the guts to sing in front of other human beings and this band Kickball was playing—it was purely a magical experience. The first thing I noticed was their drummer was this incredible woman, and I’d never seen a female drummer perform before. She was just shredding and going completely crazy. I had my jaw open the entire time just watching her. I think that was the first time I—not necessarily wanted to do music as a profession, because that seems way too farfetched—but I wanted to do something like they were doing.
What’s life like as an emerging band?
Nick: It feels like an insane amount of work for a small push forward sometimes. Which is funny because most of the time it’s super rewarding. We have a studio that we can come to at any time and just work on new music, and we wouldn’t be able to do that if we were working really hard on touring all the time. So it’s nice to see it pay off in small ways.
Danielle: It’s a lot of traveling, touring, meeting new people, and seeing new places. It’s a lot of exploring and being with these five people around the clock in a very tight space.
What’s life like on the road?
Max: One thing about touring is you get to visit places you probably wouldn’t go to on your own, and all these places in between. It’s really surprising what places actually leave a lasting impression.
Do you guys have any examples of that?
Danielle: We play plenty of shows in big cities like LA and Seattle, but we definitely played a ton of shows in places we didn’t even know existed. One show was in this tiny rural town in southern Oregon. We played this ancient theater that was like this vaudeville theater that they just reopened, and it was so beautiful and had so much history. It was in this tiny town surrounded by snowcapped mountains...and it’s shows and moments like that where you meet some of the most incredible people on the planet. We ended up staying with this family that was so kind and had an enormous farm with horses and cows. It’s just those places we really didn’t expect are always the best to me.
What makes Portland a good city for music?
Max: It’s a terrible place for music, don’t move here [all laugh]. I think what makes this city really good for music is it’s a small town and for a really long time no one would come here to play, so a scene grew out of that. There’s a really nice DIY aesthetic regardless of what kind of music you’re doing. Everyone makes their own thing here. Folks are friendly, rent is pretty cheap, the weather is...OK. It just seems like there’s not a big hierarchy, people are pretty even with each other. There are a lot of rock stars that live here but people just treat them like normal people. There isn’t much elitism, which makes everything readily available. The only thing stopping you in Portland is you.
What is the song writing process like for your band?
Thomas: It's pretty much done by trading demos back and forth. Traditionally, Nick or myself will just create a basic structure for a song, and then we’ll throw it to Danielle. If she thinks of something wherever, even singing in the shower, she’ll record it on her laptop. Then she’ll send it back to us and we’ll collaborate from there. The songs are really recording projects. And then when we take them live and play them on the road. That also affects the writing process and gives us new ideas on what might work better. That’s where we’re at right now, settling between these two versions of the new songs.
Where does the spark for a song usually come from?
Nick: I feel like what inspires us a lot are our peers and other bands doing similar things. I think that’s mostly what gets us going as far as the music.
What are some of the recent standout records you’ve been listening to?
Nick: I really like that Viet Cong record. I've been listening to that a lot.
Danielle: I’ve been listening a lot to of Damien Jurado. His stuff has this sad nostalgic quality to it.
Max: Chris Cohen...he’s the guitar player for Deerhoof. I can put it on and just flip it over and over and over. It’s really good.
What was it about “Hold On, We’re Going Home” that made you want to cover it?
Danielle: I obsessively listen to top radio pop music and I just love Drake so much. I think there was a sign to move our songwriting to a more simple structure; a catchy pop song that can play the same part for three minutes and still be interesting, instead of having six different parts with layers making it overly complex. That song in particular is just such a great example of that. It doesn’t change; the whole song is the same thing and it’s just the catchiest. I would be listening to the song a lot on tour and the first time we played it was just Thomas and I with an acoustic guitar and we liked it so much we decided to record it.
Any other songs you’d love to do a cover of?
Thomas: Probably one of the new Drake songs where he raps the whole time.
Danielle: “Runnin' through the 6 with my WOES.” Sounds super cool.
Nick: I always try to get the band to cover GG Allin songs. But then I had to tell Danielle who GG Allin was, and that messed it all up.
Danielle: I was like ‘he did what!?’ I think the key to having a good cover is having it be just different enough from your style of music that it’s an interesting contrast.
Max: And you have to make it your own thing.
What does the rest of the year hold in store for Wild Ones?
Nick: We’re touring a bunch, and we have plans to release new music. We played 95 shows last year, and we’re hoping to hit 100 this year. I think we will."- Urban Outfitters