Wilder Maker @Howler’s June 13

Wilder Maker debuts its new lineup on a series of U.S. dates that hits Pittsburgh on June 13th and culminates with an Aquarium Drunkard show to benefit the ACLU. The band will be taping an Audiotree Live session and releasing a new single along the way. 

James Joyce once said that if all of Dublin were to be destroyed, you could rebuild it brick by brick just from reading his novels. You could almost say the same thing about how Wilder Maker’s songs give us a snapshot of present-day America. Zion, the band’s 2018 full-length debut, is in one sense a record for every over-educated, over-worked, under-paid millennial watching their dreams and goals hover on the horizon like a mirage. On the other hand, the album also offers-up a group of anthems for a confidence that seems to be lost. Guitarist / frontman / saxophonist Gabriel Birnbaum’s scorching lyrics and frenetic music are passionate dispatches from a kind of exile, and they ring with a combination of anger, passion, and humor, as well as recognition that the world as it is won’t be put right by the tools of victory, technology, or money. 

In 2017, Saddle Creek released the single “New Streets,” which showcased the band in their poppiest Fleetwood Mac-channeling mode. A breezy summer jam for driving with the windows down, the song got them noticed by NPRSPIN and Stereogum, but Zion vastly expanded on that single’s scope with influences ranging from classic 70’s Dylan to blown out free jazz saxophone, from Dr. John’s swampy psychedelia to Ethiopian sounds picked up from Birnbaum’s many years as a member of Debo Band, with hints of Coltrane’s classic quartet and nods to The Velvet Undergound. It was the first chapter in a musical novel of sorts. 

Wilder Maker unveil the next two chapters in June with the songs “Love So Well” and “Rose Room.” The latter fits in exactly with the themes of power, failure, masculinity, fear, etc, the band explores on Zion, while “Love So Well” looks ahead to an uncertain future. Fittingly, both songs mark the end of the lineup that recorded the album. 

About the songs 

Love So Well — RIYL Weyes Blood, Big Thief, Katie Von Schleicher, Aldous Harding, Kevin Morby, Twain

Keyboardist/lead vocalist Katie Von Schleicher’s swan song with Wilder Maker, “Love So Well” is a country rock song with traces of Neil Young and Big Star. It’s about giving up on the greatest love you’ve had in your life, and the strange calm that follows. A dream of losing yourself on the great American equalizer — the highway, as you can hear in the lines “I aim my future with my hands / I am no one now.”

Rose Room — RIYL Amen Dunes, Big Thief, Spoon, State Champion, Bill Callahan, The Hold Steady

Crackling with anxiety and defiance, “Rose Room” sounds something like Spoon if they were more desperate and less cool, with flashes in a few choice moments of the brashness and humor of AC/DC. It is a song about the intersection of two truths: First, the tightrope we all walk to stay sane in a completely insane environment. Second, the moment when you understand that you’re the only one steering the ship and if you do nothing, you will crash. No saviors waiting in the wings.

Birnbaum, who mixed both songs himself, explains: “To me both songs are sort of an extension of the Zion universe. For example, the character “Cal” appears in “Rose Room” and he’s also the character that the narrator is talking to in “Cocaine Man” off the LP. I like the idea of the same characters reappearing over and over so that I can create a whole universe that’s full of its own connections and clues and locations, the way some authors do. You can get into a single song, but the further you go into the music the more of these trails you can find, and the more the experience can expand, spilling over the edges of the songs into the world.”