Music is the most tangible connection man has to the ethereal. Napoleon said that it is proof that mankind is greater than it knows. Einstein said that if he wasn’t a scientist, he’d most likely be a musician and that he sees the world in terms of music. Tolkien wrote that the Lord of the Rings universe began as “great music” sung by the equivalent of god and the angels. Seriously. It’s the first chapter of The Silmarillion. So yeah, music’s important.
I am straight up in love with music that I’m passionate about. The right notes trigger an emotional response out of me. Hearing “Stairway to Heaven” for the thousandth time on the radio still invokes that feeling. I saw a YouTube clip of a girl playing Iron Maiden’s “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fur Elise” on the piano, and one leading into the other sounded perfectly natural.
Music is supposed to make you feel something. So the natural conclusion would be that seeing a live band would make a great night out, but you know that live bands are hit-or-miss, man. I’m not talking about cover bands, either. A good cover band will get you through the night, as you order another round in the tiny bar you’re frequenting while screaming directly into your date’s ear canal and they play a rock version of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face (which was actually way cooler than it sounds). I’m talking about finding good original local bands. Well, Rhode Island is home to original acts that restore faith in the local scene, one of which is Wild Sun.
Wild Sun is a three-piece out of Westerly, comprised of Glenn Kendzia, Paul Fazio and Cameron Raubeson. They sound like an alternative rock band that took the psychedelic influences of bands like Phish and compacted them down to 3-5 minute songs (thank god, because even as a musician I hate 20 minute jam pieces). The psychedelic influence is appropriate given that their debut album, Little Truths, was produced by Phish producer Bryce Goggin.
“Our biggest influence is ‘90s rock and psychedelic classic rock,” Glenn says. “We all grew up with ‘90s radio shaping our tastes in hooks and sound, but where we differ from that era is coloring out of the lines with more psychedelic influence. It winds up being hooky, accessible rock with, windy turning passages and improvisation. We love bands with great energy that you hear in both their recordings and their live show, and that’s what we aim for as well.”
That covers the instrumental aspect of music, but lyrics are often trickier to write. Glenn, the band’s songwriter, says that he doesn’t have to look far for lyrical inspiration. “I think New England is a real oasis of inspiration for writers. First there’s the rigid seasonality, which affects most people and gives you four major changes in every given year to observe and reflect on. Even more influential is the geographical size of the region and the rich historical backdrop many of the towns and communities have within the area. It creates a small town atmosphere wherever you go, which is a goldmine for writers.”
The small-town influence is evident in lines like “I’ve found myself on roads I swore I’d never travel down/I’ve drawn tired fists in the alley of this town” (“Shy Hinges”) and “Still we hang our dreams from broken windows/So some days shards of light are simply not enough” (“The Vacation”). “Even Californian writers like John Steinbeck would wind up writing about very small communities where you knew everyone,” Glenn says. “Westerly and South County often feel like that, so as a writer you can really study people in a unique way.”
2014 has been good to Wild Sun. They’ve received praise for the passion of their performances from the now defunct Providence Phoenix and WBRU, and were semi-finalists in the radio station’s 2014 Rock Hunt series.
“We have built a lot of momentum in the past year that we would like to continue generating to access a larger scope,” he says. “None of us are jaded by a dream of making tons of money doing this, we just want to keep playing these songs for more and more people. We want to earn respect and our place, and the more we work and play, the more that happens and our audience grows.”
WBRU particularly praised the emotion Glenn puts into his performance. He understands that emotion is just as important as talent. “There is certainly a lot of talent in the local scene. There are a number of venues and bars that have live music and pay for it too, which is great. However, I think bands simply expect people to be very supportive of local music and search out these bands at every dive and stacked venue bill. That’s not a given though, at all. You have to stand out and really do something special for people to notice and come out, regardless of the genre or anything. There’s no room to half-ass anything.”
Catch Wild Sun January 17 at The Malted Barley, 42 High Street, Westerly