With the follow-up to 2015's self-titled debut album (which our own Falling James called "one of the better, albeit underrated, releases by a local band in the past few years") on its way soon, the gloriously moody and melodic Wet & Reckless perform at the Hi-Hat this week. We grabbed the chance to speak to singer-guitarist Emily Wilder in advance.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did the band form, where and why — what was the mission?
EMILY WILDER: I grew up tagging along to my mother’s jazz gigs. I always refused to sit in the audience, so I would just sit quietly on her piano bench onstage while she performed with her band since I was about 3 years old. I guess that gave me the bug. Poetry was always my passion, and after I realized I didn’t want to be in a coffee shop reciting, it only made sense to turn them into songs.
I had known Jessica Gelt, who played bass in The Movies, for years, since the Northeast coast. We both ended up in L.A. and had a late-night discussion about starting an all-girl band called Wet & Reckless, which is a short step down from a full DUI, after she got one and spent the night in jail.
That was how the first version of the band formed about nine years ago. We later turned into Last in Class with Charlie Wadhams and Chris Watson, then reinvented Wet & Reckless with drummer Jalise Woodward. I spent one year in Portland, Oregon, a couple years ago and got offered a couple solo gigs up there, so I began playing with my longtime friend Ashley Berry on bass and lead guitar. Ashley and I moved back down to L.A., and we became a four-piece outfit.
Describe your sound.
I guess we are a little bit of an urgent, intentionally ragged rock band. Lyrics definitely drive the ship and begin as folk songs but when the girls get involved, they bring on the grit and guts. I am very fortunate to have these girls in my life.
How has the style changed over the years?
They are stories of our lives. So I guess lives and perspectives change with time. Some songs are about very personal experiences and some are about people close to us.
What recorded output have you put out so far, and how does it differ?
We’ve recorded four albums over the years and only released one with producer Kristofer Sampson out of Atlanta on cassette with Lolipop Records in 2016. Before that we released a single on vinyl on Fort Lowell Records. We are currently recording our second album on 2-inch to be pressed to vinyl.
Who were your main influences when you started, and now?
As a kid, I was lucky to have a little indie-rock club on Jacksonville Beach called Einsteins A-Go-Go. Also, my older brother would have garage practices every Friday with his band and storms of older kids would barrel through to watch. Then, my influences were Sebadoh, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Built to Spill and Neil Young. Right now I can't stop listening to Marlon Williams.
What influences your songwriting — what excites you, and what grinds your gears?
Heartbreak, the women in my life and the kind of basic human condition. I started off directing music videos in London for Virgin U.K., working mostly with men. I always felt I was trying to shout louder to get heard. It’s good to have a voice, regardless of who you are singing to. A lot of my lyrics are a bit self-deprecating, and I think most people can relate to that.
What do you think of the current state of the L.A. rock & roll scene, and how has it changed since you started?
I know I can always go to Starbucks and hear a friend singing over the speakers, but really I prefer the more off-the-rails type of artists — that’s why we prefer a talk-singer more than a vocal gymnast type thing.
When we first started as an all-girl group, we'd get put on bills with other girl singers regardless of how our sound worked together. It was kind of like promoters were thinking, "Hey, she's a girl with a guitar, let's put another girl with a guitar on the bill." Now, in L.A. there are so many badass girls playing music that the divide between the male/female bands has dissipated and it's more about the sound than the sex of the people playing the music.
This show at the Hi-Hat — what can we expect?
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Something geared more toward new material that we haven’t played live yet. Singing old songs is like reliving a part of the past. It feels good to bring new life into the set. The benefit is for writegirl.org, which is a program to inspire young female writers. We couldn’t be happier to play for such a good cause.
When it's over, what's next for the band for the rest of this year and going into 2019?
We are really excited to be recording a new album to release early 2019 and always writing new songs. It’s the best therapy to get through these days.
Wet and Reckless perform with Holiday Sidewinder, Mack, Slugs and Superbloom at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Hi-Hat.