Wand: The Best of What's Next

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Cory Hanson’s well aware that you’re having a helluva a time Googling his band name. But, he’s hoping you’ll stop to think about that for a second.

“I feel like we’re the last generation able to remember a time without limited access,” Hanson said. “Things just don’t necessarily need to be that easy to find.” But more on that later.

Hanson is lead singer/guitarist and the founding member of Wand, a quartet based in north east L.A. (just a stone’s throw from Pasadena, really). Theirs is a fuzz-shrouded kind of rock ‘n roll displaying an imaginative urge to re-smear the already kaleidoscopic boundaries of the inventive modern crop of modern psychedelic music. Hanson and crew rake in healthy heaps of crunchy noise cushioned with cool acoustic bristles and breezy vocal tones riding sweet earworm melodies.

Wand embody a bridge between the delicate and the dissonant. Their songs can start off like day-dreamy/paisley folk trips that suddenly veer off into ominous purple clouds of a doom-laden metal storm.

“The best thing about fuzz is that it has a very distinct character to it that doesn’t lend itself to everything,” Hanson said, speaking to his tendencies toward that aural effect. “And, if you put it into a situation where it seems inappropriate, then interesting relationships can take place between the fuzz and the other instrumentation. That’s where we like to put it now…”

Hanson had been experimenting with some song collages a few years ago, forging some “psychedelic-influenced songs” that eventually formed the basis of Ganglion Reef, Wand’s debut album from summer 2014.

Their first record came out on God? Records, the label started by the West Coast psych wunderkind Ty Segall. After “slicing it up and doing some surgery on it,” referring to his songs on Reef, Hanson “found a band, and we re-recorded everything and then just started playing…really intensely.”

That band was drummer Evan Burrows and bassist Lee Landey. “Intensely” is a good word for Wand, actually. Since forming in late 2013, they’ve been touring like monsters and writing just as ravenously. 1,000 Days (coming out on Drag City in September) is their third album in just over a year’s time.

After they’d formed and finished their debut, Hanson said, “…we realized we were each addicted to the intensity of playing and writing, so, (after Reef) we said: ‘Let’s make another record!’”

Between Reef and next month’s 1,000 Days, they indulged their more cacophonous urgings, wading waist-deep into a thicker sludge of sonic tumult with Golem, which came out in the winter on In The Red Records.

With Reef introducing their proclivities for Laurel Canyon lullabies and Hendrixian guitar wails, they then shifted gears with Golem’s more nightmarish, séancey sweep of psychedelic metal, with deluges of provocative noise experimentations and minor-key bending sidedoors into the power-chord riff.

So, it’d be too easy to say that 1,000 Days is the middle ground between their first two records. But, again, Hanson talks about the “fuzz…”

“With this, it’s more about putting that intense character (i.e. “fuzz”) in places where maybe it would seem less appropriate or that weren’t as heavy. If I could have a light-switch that just clicked from “Doom” for one part and then switched to the other side… which would be…really light and feathery and free…then I would just flick that on and off in different intervals and variations …and then there would be songs.”
“It’s just one of the things we were playing with on 1,000 Days,” Hanson says, “the dynamics of serene and nasty…in a pretty aggressive way.”

“Stolen Footsteps,” the lead single, is a strange, synth-inflected beauty, casting this bewitching little melody in its slinky, strummy choruses between the eerie, Gary Numan-esque drones of its verses.

Stolen Footseps —

But I tell Hanson that we have to return to two things. First, let’s talk about how some corners of the internet are trying to cast Wand as being championed (or “discovered”) by psych-phenom Ty Segall.

“‘Discovered’ isn’t really the right word,” Hanson says. “I definitely share my music with (Segall) and we often share each other’s music together. So, the ‘discovery’ was in sharing stuff. It’s not like he showed up at one of our gigs and pointed to us saying (affecting prototypical raspy A&R guy voice from the ‘80s) ‘Hey, you guys are GREAT!’ It was more that we’re just close friends and shared what we worked on and he offered to put something out. It was very cazh… (i.e. casual), very cazh!”

Okay, and secondly, what if someone really wanted to Google you? Hanson says “…in a lot of ways, the journey of looking for something is a lot more rewarding when you finally find it. Nowadays it would be considered “mysterious” but back (in the early 1990’s) it was just part of the process of finding new music. Now, there’s forums dedicated to every single possible niche market you could ever imagine with databases full of downloadable content and live videos. It’s so easy. “

But, I tell Hanson, we want to know more about you.

“It’s not an interesting story,” he responds immediately in an affable tone. “Ya know, I’ve never really felt super comfortable being part of any ‘scene,’ so, I feel all of us in the band, collectively, are kind of drifters in a sense that we have loose affiliations to many things but very little responsibility…except for this band. We’re just sort of lost…”

This is also the point where I resist the urge to imply a pun about Wand being short for “wanderers.” Sorry, Cory.

But how does a musician and songwriter inhabit these extremes, the nasty and the serene, the soft and the loud, without having it mess with (or perhaps ravage) him or her, emotionally, psychologically, physically…? Wand often travels from the dark and the crazy of hellstorm buzz to the clear, crisp sunrise of acoustic folk.

“It would be easy to get wrapped up in some sort of formula,” Hanson says. “Even these ones that are existing now are meant to be broken, even the ones presented on 1,000 Days, these new hybrid forms of interest are meant to be undermined and done away with or changed! We’re sort of building up now in confidence when it comes to how extreme our songwriting can possibly be and how possibly idiosyncratic it can be, without totally alienating other people…or ourselves.”

With the release of 1,000 Days, Wand are finally allowing themselves a little breathing room as opposed to jumping right back into the cave of a studio. “I really am happy and proud with everything we’ve accomplished in this time,” Hanson said. “I think that maybe a little bit of us just being generous with our time right now might be a little more rewarding than sticking to the script. But…that’s all part of finding the next thing that feels good and reacting to the last thing. So, then, that way, we don’t do it the same way again.”

Chin-scratching. Head-banging. Wand’s 1,000 Days is out Sept. 25 via Drag City Records.