All images and words by Harry Acosta.
The Wild Reeds have traveled from Los Angeles to support their second album, and first release on Dualtone Records, The World We Built. Harry Acosta was able to follow up on his interview from last year’s Nelsonville Music Festival when they made their way to Columbus’ Rumba Café. Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva were available for questions.
HA: Capable is a powerful song. I know the three of you all write the music. This song sounds like a life-long battle to deal with. What inspired it?
SS: I started writing Capable when I was in a place of discouragement. I was trying to remind myself that I have support all around me via my dad and friends, so I wrote a sort of pep talk for myself from their perspective and my own.
It IS a life long battle though in regards to being a woman and being in the music industry. It’s funny I’ve introduced that song by saying a myriad of things like- “this song is about the music industry”, “this song is about…folk the system” and “this song is about dropping out of college”.
It’s also a story that describes my struggle with aggression after my parents got divorced and feeling like I can hide and take comfort in my anger. It’s still pretty dark to me, but there’s a liberating feeling when we perform it that balances it out.
HA: When we spoke at Nelsonville last year, we talked about the lyrics, and I brought up the line, “I only remember the sweetest things”, from Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight), another very moving song for me. Other than it’s popularity, is there any other reason you decided to rerecord that for The World We Built?
SS: We had a few reasons to re-record it, the main one being that it flowed with our other song choices, and had a bit of contrast lyrically. It still feels triumphant although it’s clearly about heartache and resentment.
We had a lot of other songs in the running, but I’m happy with our decision (and our producers) to put it on and include a beautiful string arrangement by Rob Moose. Peter Katis called the song an “epic journey”. Haha.
HA: You have 2 albums and 1 EP now. I can hear different influences in this latest release, like the wailing guitar in Fruition. What processes have changed in creating music for you since you formed in 2010?
MH: We’ve all grown as musicians and people, so naturally our taste has evolved and so has our instrumentation etc. For a long time we felt we couldn’t be loud and still incorporate harmonies. But we’ve come to a point where if there’s something we want to try, we no longer hold back due to the constraints of a “genre.” That’s helped us grow a lot.
HA: Over that time, has it gotten easier to blend the vocals together from being more familiar with each other?
MH: Ya time and practice have helped our blend. We also like that we have very different voices because our blend together has a distinct sound of its own, which is something that may not happen if we were sisters.
HA: Rolling Stone categorized you as country music in their “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2017” article. Is that better than the indie folk description? Does it matter?
MH: We don’t prefer the term country, nor do we feel it’s fitting because we aren’t a country band. We prefer “black metal sparkle folk,” coined by our drummer Nick haha.
They also stated you have a sound similar to Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris’s Trio release. Who among you would be Dolly? Linda? Emmylou?
All three of the women you mentioned are legends in their own right. I’d say Kinsey has got Dolly vibes, Sharon could do a decent Emmylou, and I’ll take Linda Ronstadt any day.
HA: I know a lot of people in the record industry have different preferences and experiences, AND they have advice to offer. You signed with Dualtone last year. How has that impacted your musical style and songwriting? Do you still have the same goals as when you started out?
MH: Working with Dualtone has been a great fit for us and they support our musical and personal style, so if anything we have room to grow. We don’t feel pressure from any side of our team to be anything but who we are. And good advice is welcomed! We do feel motivated to write more in order to make our next album, because we already have material.
HA: What do you consider success in making music?
MH: Before Rockstardom, musicians did not live glamorous lives and now with the dawn of the internet it feels as though we are entering the middle class musician age. Outward success as a band may not be congruent with financial success. We have always measured our success by milestones, like: staying together as a band, consistently putting out good music, building a good fan base, playing our dream stages/festivals etc., because we know we may never be “rich” but we get to make music for a living and that’s all we wanted to begin with.
HA: What is the most challenging aspect of promoting your music?
MH: For us the most challenging aspect of promoting our music is branding and self promotion. Social media is exhausting, and if you don’t participate there’s this idea that you’ll become irrelevant. Your personality as a band becomes a commodity, and there’s a delicate balance between playing the game and being played.
HA: You have done a lot of festivals and met a lot of fans. Do you find a difference between fans from the West Coast and East Coast?
MH: Our East coast fans are really dedicated, as are our West coast fans but I’m not sure there’s much of a difference in the crowds, maybe more so a difference in how they found us (the Internet vs. proximity).
HA: What is the most complimentary thing a fan can do to show their appreciation? Or from your experience, is there something they should avoid doing?
MH: We appreciate all kind gestures from fans whether it’s attentiveness, words of encouragement, notes, or simply showing up to our shows and buying our music. I do think most musicians would agree it’s good to avoid talking over someone’s set.
HA: As succinctly as you can, what is wrong with the world today? And what do you hope to add to it?
MH: The world feels really crazy right now and it’s hard to just exist and find homeostasis with the amount of news, tragedy, inequality and fear. It feels like years and years of systems of oppression are culminating and we are facing what we have done to each other and to the planet with the current state of affairs. But because of that we have a duty to stay present and open hearted, not just for ourselves but for the world. A smile, or eye contact, goes a long way. As musicians we feel that staying as authentic as possible is very important to us. We don’t have a political agenda, but the personal is political so we don’t shy away from writing about what’s wrong with the world. Live music has been my favorite experience for as long as I can remember (both playing and watching), and if we can give that experience to someone else, then we are somehow participating in promoting love and peace. Live music is also a platform and we are very aware of what we do with that privilege and position.
HA: For each of you: Which song that you’ve written holds the most weight for you?
MH: Sharon’s is Fruition. Kinsey’s is What I Had In Mind. Mack’s is a new one that isn’t recorded yet.
HA: I’ve seen you interact together. You have inside jokes and play like bear cubs. I know you get mistaken as sisters. I’ve read on a greeting card, “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” One of the things I really enjoy about your music is hearing each of your voices take the lead on different songs. It draws me back to the greeting card—I feel like the album is the garden, and your voices are the flowers. Being together for more than 7 years now, do you feel a sense of family?
MH: Our band feels like a family for many reasons. We are close, we bicker, and we love each other. We don’t have the vocal advantage of being sisters but in many ways we have become sisters and brothers. We have been through a lot together and we have learned to communicate much better, otherwise we would not have stayed together this long.
HA:What is the most uncomfortable you’ve been while touring?
MH: SXSW is probably as rough as it gets for us. We played 10 shows there this year, so that coupled with no sleep, and heat, was brutal. Once we had to play a show without sharon when she was in the hospital at SXSW and the songs did NOT translate with two harmonies haha. We also slept in a room that was the equivalent of a litter box once.
HA:Who would be the ideal tour mates?
MH: Thats a hard question I’m not sure I can answer. Blank Range were the best tour mates we’ve ever had, so it would be hard to top that.
HA: Final question for Mackenzie—Who is Rosey?
MH: Rosey is my twin flame! We met in Asia when we were 10 and traveled the world together in our early 20’s. That song Catch and Release, was inspired by years of emails between us; the type of stuff you say to your best friend when you’re down and out.
The Wild Reeds are touring the US through November. There are more photos and Harry’s review of their live performance here.
All photography courtesy of Harry Acosta