Wye Oak on “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs”

Learning to Let Go

Jun 19, 2018 Photography by Shervin Lainez Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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You pour your heart into it. You dedicate hours, long nights, lingering years to it. You strive until your muscles and mind and emotions sear from the strain. And finally, when it's in your grasp, and yet you still have to wrestle with it... well, then what?

For a musician as impassioned as Jenn Wasner, such struggles never seem to cease. The guitarist and vocalist for Wye Oaka duo she formed in 2006 with drummer and high school friend Andy Stackspent years pursuing success as a musician. But when that breakthrough finally came, via the inclusion of their song "Civilian," the title track to their 2011-released third album, on the hit series The Walking Dead, Wasner's demons didn't die. She has now, however, turned a corner in that regard, which she reflects on in the lyrics for their new album, the aptly titled The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs.

"This is one of the first times in my life where I'm basing my identity around who I am as a person, and not what I'm making in any particular moment," says Wasner, an admitted headlong workaholic. "I've realized for the past 10 years of my life I've always been actively working on something. This record was about a lot of frustrations I've had about what drives me to function that way. It's about my anxiety and detachment from the world."

Wasner not only contended with those issues lyricallythe actual process of writing and recording also melded fully with those themes. "We were trying very intentionally not to be hyper perfectionists, to deeply and obsessively consider what we do," she says of working on The Louder I Call. To wit, the writing, recording, and mixing took place in eight months, a far tighter timeframe than any the nitpicky pair had used before. "That was quite quick for us. But we decided to stick to it because a lot of the music we like the most is full of life and air and imperfections."

That sped up process didn't allow for second-guessing, fussing, or fretting. Instead, Wye Oak was free and raw, though the new approach was by no means easy to adopt. "It was really scary in some ways, because we couldn't think, 'Is this good, should we keep this?' We just allowed ourselves to create the best reflection of where we were psychologically in that eight months, and didn't allow ourselves to consider it. Fortunately that little experiment paid off, it's the thing we like the most that we've ever made."

What's more, Wasner says that looser studio environment paid dividends beyond the album. "Learning a creative practice like this, for someone whose identity is so wrapped up in the creative process, is also like adopting a new life practice. It trickles into the other parts of your brain and gets those parts running. It's all about relinquishing controlling behavior."

It wasn't easy for Wasner to let go in that fashion. But it was necessary. "I tend to take everything way too seriously. I want to obsessively control the outcomes of everything," she says of her natural tendencies. "But so much of life and creativity is completely out of your control. So I think making a record like this trickles down. It takes constant vigilance, but it's starting to stick. These things that I've been trying to unlearn for years, it's really cool that I'm finally unlearning them."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.wyeoakmusic.com

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Justin Park
June 20th 2018
4:28pm

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