by: Thomas D. Mooney
The Wheeler Brothers‘ debut “Portraits” came out just this last year. A few moments into the album, your hooked–and as those of you who have been to their energetic live shows, you know it’s not just a studio creation. But, with some bands, when you first hear them play, you don’t just hear the songs they’re playing. Sometimes you’re able to hear something more. Something makes you feel that they’re not just a “good, new band” but rather, a “good, promising band.”
“Portraits” isn’t just a good album, but it’s one that hints at something more than just “a good album by another Austin band.”
One that isn’t just a buzzworthy riser, but that have potential to be something special. Now, I’m not saying 10 years from now you’ll be comparing The Wheeler Brothers to The Beatles and Rolling Stones, but you’ll definitely still be hearing them. That’s an accomplishment in itself. But, what I am saying is that you’ll be hearing a band that is still getting better.
Before all that though…The Wheeler Brothers are now currently working on their sophomore album, in which they’re wanting to not just make a “better” album, but one that expands their sound and creativity as well. We recently caught up with guitarist/vocalist Danny Matthews to talk for a few minutes about recording the new album.
The Wheeler Brothers will be playing the Blue Light tonight (April 12) with Mike Kelly opening. Like The Wheeler Brothers on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. In addition, they’ll be doing an in-store performance at Ralph’s Records on Friday afternoon at around 5pm.
New Slang: I was really wanting to talk about was this upcoming album. I know you guys have been in studio, but where are you guys in the process?
Danny Matthews: We’re going back in. We were in there brainstorming the first time, or the first two times for about a week and a half each. We came up with about 20 ideas. We were rocking and rolling, just moving along. Just started working on lyrics and arrangements. We go back there after we play the show in Lubbock and just write it out. And then tour a few weeks and then go back to the studio and knock it out and finish it. It’s been about 10 times better than the last studio experience.
NS: What do you think contributes to that most? Just being more familiar with each other as a band? You think that’s what is making this an easier time?
DM: That may be. We’ve been playing together and I guess we’re all on the same level. But, we hired Drew Smith to produce the album with us. Best songwriter in Austin. He’s really great at glueing everything together, moving us along, and keeping everybody pumped up. I think this album is going to be better than the last album. Things are working a lot better, quicker, faster.
NS: What’s something you guys are really liking the most, song wise, so far? I know they’re not finished, but what’s something you guys are really excited about?
DM: “I’ve Been Around,” has been one we’re doing. Also, it just came out on a record, Ray Benson, we did a collaboration with him (“Sleep When I’m Dead”). We’re working on our own version of it. That’s going to be a good one. The other ones, we don’t have too many where the names have been decided yet. It’s kind of hard to tell. The others ones might mature and be ones we like the best.
NS: What’s it like after you write and finish a song and then perform it for the first time in front of people? What’s going through your head?
DM: Are they going to like it or are they going to hate it [laughs]? No, it’s a little nerve-wracking, but usually if we like the song, we think the crowd is going to like it. If we don’t like the song, we’re not going to play it. Usually, everything has worked out so well. We’ve been getting pretty good crowd acceptance with the new ones.
NS: Now is there any new sounds you guys are trying to bring in on this album? I know you guys bring in lots of different sounds from a range of instruments already (Not just guitars, drums, bass, but also ukulele, steel guitar, glockenspiel, shakers, etc). Are the any new instruments you’re working with?
DM: Rocking the banjo out more. We have added a violin. We have AJ working on the pedal steel. That’s the slide guitar with like 13 strings on it. He’s working on that. We’re going to try and add more of those sounds in there. You know, if the base of a song is done and we hear some French horn or something like that, we’ll definitely put it in there. We’ll just have to see how we hear it and find the instrument that’ll make it work. And some harmonica. You never know.
NS: You mentioned a few things that I’m assuming you guys aren’t going to be able to do live. French horn, maybe violin. Like how do know you want to add those instruments when you most likely aren’t going to be having them played live with the band while out on the road?
DM: Well, we just have to make sure that the base of the song is good by itself and the extra parts just make it better verses when you take away the horns, it cracks the whole song. We’ll work with most of the instruments that we can play ourselves so it’ll come across live the way it’s supposed to be.
NS: You mentioned you’ll be heading back to the studio after the Lubbock show. How long do you think it’ll be before the record is finished and everything?
DM: I would presume that we would have to spend 20 to 30 days more in the studio. We’re doing it the old school way with a tape machine. Getting that old vibe. It may take a little bit longer, but it’s better than digital. As of now, we have two one-week-and-a-half long runs in the studio planned. Hopefully in June, we can figure out when we can get that sucker out. Hopefully by the end of the year.