Having left more than a bit of myself in Boston, the music scene there is of keen interest to me. I look into who is making waves weekly, who is playing where, what the new sounds of the city are. A few months ago, I started seeing ‘You Can Be a Wesley’s” name springing up everywhere in the local press, in the venues and showcases, and on the Boston indie music blogs I tend to favor. After one listen, and learning a bit more about them, I devoured them.
Their promotional style and personalities are audaciously delicious. They’re confident, in-your-face, and fearless (there’s a promo shot of them covering their bits with nothing but their hands.) They’re funny as all hell, and can laugh at themselves with confidence, they are brutally honest, they don’t pull punches and there is an amazing sense of adventure that surrounds them “off the court.”
“On the court,” however, it’s a different story. There isn’t anything fancy about them, in the sense of pushing the barriers that they do with their promotion. But what people get in return is a captivating onslaught of sonic pleasure. It’s moody without being melodramatic. It’s simple without being over-simplified. They play their guitars, keys, bass, and percussion somewhere between a lullaby and rock-n-roll. Or is it somewhere between dream pop and shoegaze.
Whatever the case may be, it’s catchy as all hell. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve personally played “Feed the Moon, Starve the Sun,” a track that introduces itself as a fantasy with delicate picks of layered guitar, but somewhere (I get so lost in it that I can’t pinpoint where) builds itself into crescendo of riffs, a perfect see-saw to Saara’s voice, which would bring most men to their knees, then subtly backs off before building again, causing this listener to hit repeat again, and again, and again. Winston, Nick and Dan pluck, strum, pound and tinker away in perfect harmony, never taking away from Saara’s siren-esque voice, or Winston’s backing vocals, but are never downplayed. This Boston Univesity quartet is a class act, and I’ve wanted to get to know them, and introduce you to them for a while now. And Saara has been more than accommodating with her time, considering they are releasing their first full-length album, “Heard Like Us,” is available now on Amazon.com.
OAN: I’ve read several stories, tales, recollections about the origin of the name from the straight-forward to the fantastic. Would you care to share how the name “You Can Be a Wesley” came to be, and how the four of you came together?
Saara: It’s funny we get asked this name question almost every interview. I guess with an obscure name we have to come to accept that. We started playing together freshman year of college (spring of 2006). I met Nick through a mutual friend and we both were playing guitar. Nick knew Dan and he came over for a jam with a micro-korg. I met Winston with Nick and Dan at the Islands show in Cambridge and we all started talking about playing. Winston played guitar and Dan played drums and we figured we didn’t need 3 guitars so we told Nick he should play bass. He borrowed his friends bass the next time we jammed and started writing songs.
The name came about when we were in the market for a band name after writing a few songs. We would text each other ideas, most of them bad, and most of them getting a simple response of “No.” One night we were all sitting around the dining hall with some friends and one of our friends told Nick “You can be a Wesley” referencing both the Princess Bride and Nick’s look and the name. We all liked it so we used it.
OAN: The album has been awhile coming, and you’ve run into some roadblocks and hit a few bumps in the road, one of them being that nasty little thing called ‘education.’ Can you shed some light on some of the others, now that they are a thing of the past and the album (praise [insert deity here]) has been completed.
Saara: The album was fully recorded and ready to be mixed by the middle of August 2008, but Winston was going to Ecuador for a semester and Nick and I were going to Sydney (poor Dan was left in Boston) so there was a four month hiatus where we were all spread across the world and our reels of tape were sitting in Jeremy from Pretty & Nice’s basement. Once we got back the issue was more about money considering we spent most of our savings abroad. Finances have definitely been the biggest road block and the reason it has taken a little longer than we first thought. It’s hard when you don’t have someone financially supporting you and putting the album out for you but it’s also nice to have free reign over what we do and how we want to do it.
OAN: So let’s talk about the upcoming LP “Heard Like Us.’ From a music perspective, what differences should people expect from the EP “Feed the Moon, Starve the Sun?” Is this LP a true labor of love in the sense of getting it made? Did the material come together fairly easy from the four of you?
Saara: It’s a completely different piece of work than “Feed the Moon” (although one song carries over, “Rearrange The Sea” is a different version on Heard Like Us than on FTMSTS). For one we had been playing some of the songs on Heard Like Us for a while so we knew how we wanted them to sound and what we wanted to do with them. However, there are also songs from HLU that we finished in the middle of recording. But overall, we had a better idea sonically of how we wanted the record to sound. It also helped having J Mendicino of P&N behind the controls because he is a musical genius. For real. Most of the time our material comes together pretty organically I think. It definitely grows and changes the more we play it, taking out parts we don’t like, things that are unnecessary and adding bits and pieces to make it more interesting. If there is a song we are fully stuck on we usually leave it for a while and work on something else or we just trash it and forget about it. A lot of love went into this album in basements and practice spaces and late night bedroom sessions.
OAN: Speaking of creating material, how do you all do it? What’s your process as far as writing lyrics and music? Does everyone contribute or is YCBAW more a brainchild of one or two of you?
Saara: As far as the music goes its really a collaborative work. We get together to “jam” and see what we come up with. Whether it’s a bass line first or guitar riff we work best when we build and mold the song together as a group. Other times one person will come in with a specific idea and we try to fit pieces into what they have and build on that Then I usually come up with a melody of nonsensical sounds and I go home with that and write lyrics on my own. I like to think a lot about what I want the song to be about and what I want to say while simultaneously making it interesting and aurally pleasing.
OAN: I mentioned your marketing in the intro to the interview because you do take bold, refreshing steps. There’s so much personality behind how and what you do and I am going to assume that you do most if not all of it yourself. Do you just go with your gut feelings? Do you think it’s helped contribute to your exponentially growing fan base?
Saara: Most of our art direction is the brain-child of graphic designer and close friend Nick Zegel (zeegisbreathing.com). He’s the one that does our art work and web design and recently directed and edited our music video for “Creatures”. We owe a lot to him and pretty much consider him part of the band. He is just a super talented, inspiring person to be around and it gets us going. We also want YCBW to not just be music but a community, or a collective of inspiring individuals who Do Things. Makers and Do’ers. We came out with a couple of ‘zines (homemade mini magazines) with contributions from friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family that we give out at shows. On tour last summer we made stuffed animal “Wesley’s” that we hand sewed with button eyes to sell on the road. It’s nice to do things a little differently than the norm and people appreciate it and get psyched on it so that makes us want to do it even more. And it’s just fun.
OAN: Which leads me to this: your fan base is growing rapidly, but it all started in Boston. Talk about the music-scape of Boston today, if it influenced you, encouraged you, and / or supported you. Is it a tight-knit group of musicians? I guess I want to give readers a feel of what a great music town Boston is, from both a musician standpoint and how the fans respond.
Saara: There is so much good music coming out of Boston right now and it’s refressing because there is no specific “Boston sound” like there is in New York or Portland. There are so many different types of music and people seem to really support the local music that comes out of Boston. We are totally inspired by bands we play with around town and there is a nice tight-knit of really talented bands we have become friends with through the scene i.e. Magic Magic, Mean Creek, Hooray For Earth, Ketman, and so many more. It’s nice to go to pretty much any show in Boston and see people from other bands that you know out there supporting other local acts. I felt like for a while that I knew every band in Boston but the reality of it is there is so much music coming out of this town I don’t even know 1/3 of it. I guess once you get into a scene and keep seeing the same faces it just feels smaller. And that’s a nice feeling.
OAN: I mentioned an off-the-court personality because you definitely like to have fun and seem to be quite the daredevil. Take us through some of your favorite extracurricular activities. And, are there other creative outlets that you explore to balance how much time you put into the music?
Saara: Music is an enormous part of my life. It’s my passion and my escape and there are few other things in this world that do that for me but I do have a few. Snowboarding and surfing are my drugs next to music. I get the same kind of escape from those sports and I do music and they have been in my life almost as long ( music for a bit longer). I started surfing when I was 11 and started snowboarding around the same time. It’s just a way for me to be able to turn off my brain and only focus on exactly what I am doing at that moment and nothing else. There’s a rush involved too, a natural “high” that happens. That moment when you get the chills; I’m hooked on it. I find surfing and snowboarding to be highly creative. You have to be able to see something that isn’t there and make it happen that way you want to and the way that only you can.
All of us enjoy making things and I think that is what keeps our music inspired. Winston builds bikes, Nick writes, and Dan works with computer programming and designing. There’s a great satisfaction in creating something that didn’t exist before you got your hands on it.
OAN: Have you gone through any “be careful what you wish for?” Or are you exactly where you want to be as far as the venues you’re playing, the material you’re creating, etc. And what can we expect in the future from YCBAW?
Saara: There haven’t been any careful what you wish for moments yet. Maybe we’re just being careful with our wishes. It’s awesome to be in a band of best friends. We all love each other like family and see each other all the time. We are actually moving in together next year along with two other friends in a big house in Brighton, so that should make for some late night song writing and good times and probably a few careful what you wish for moments. I think we are in a good place as of now.
We would all like to do bigger tours, a national gig, play with some national and international acts that we look up to, etc. As far as the material we’re creating now, we are all really excited we are trying some new things but keeping the old formula that seems to be working for us. We all feel like it keeps getting better so hopefully listeners will too. In the future expect a bunch more albums, a bunch more shows, tours, videos, zines, dancing, smiling and fun!
OAN: OK, Saara, this is an open question. Say whatever comes to mind, pimp, promote, BS, joke, tell a funny story about a gig or the band. Whatever you’d like.
Saara: Our album release show is July 20th at Middle East Upstairs so come check that out! Add us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get on that social networking game and find us! [OAN note: I added the links to make it easy to find them.]
If you want to contribute anything for a zine, send your pictures, drawings, stories, comics, dreams, poems, and anything else you can think of to our email!
OAN: Get on it, kids! And Saara, thanks you so very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule with all all you have going on. I very much look forward to a gig or two down here in New York. Maybe I’ll sneak up to Boston as well.
Songs from Heard Like Us, the full-length debut from "You Can Be a Wesley:"
Listen: Stuck in a Battle
What's Playing on Saara's iPod:
Listen: Andrew Bird - Masterswarm
Listen: A.C. Newman - The Palace at 4 A.M.
Listen: Metric - Combat Baby
Listen: School of Seven Bells - Half Asleep
Listen: Yo La Tengo - Sugarcube
Listen: M83 - Kim & Jessie
Listen: Deerhunter - Little Kids
Listen: XTC - 1000 Umbrellas
Listen: The Wrens - Boys You Won't Remember
Listen: Ogre You Asshole
Purchase Heard Like Us from Amazon