Wednesday on “Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up” and Discovering Country Music | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, April 17th, 2024  

Wednesday on “Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up” and Discovering Country Music

Crunch Time

Mar 09, 2022 Photography by Charlie Boss Web Exclusive
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When faced with the prospect of too much new material and too little recording time, the rapidly rising Asheville, North Carolina quintet Wednesday shifted to Plan B. Songwriter and lead singer, Karly Hartzman, and the band’s bass player, Margo Schultz, joined us by Zoom to explain how the nine-song all covers album, Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘Em Up came to be. The album’s cover art is a shakily hand drawn cartoon on yellow paper slapped on a plain white cover, which gives the work a devil may care and bootleg-y appearance. The contents themselves have an exhilaratingly rushed dynamic as well. “We had material to record a new album, but chose to just have fun and do something for the fuck of it at the Betty’s session,” Hartzman says, referring to Sylvan Esso’s studio in Durham, North Carolina.

Opening with a haphazard and feedback laden cover of Gary Stewart’s honky tonk classic, “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinking Doubles),” is a brilliant move. But also a tribute to how a sturdily constructed song can stand up to hurricane force winds. The album’s tracks have a first take immediacy to them, but similar to the band’s breakout album, last year’s Twin Plagues (Orindal), all fit well to Hartzman’s vocal range. “Karly picked the songs we did because she’s the one singing them, so we need to make sure it will work for her,” Schultz explains.

Though the songs selected range from covers of The Smashing Pumpkins to Hotline TNT (a band Wednesday became friendly with during the pandemic), it’s the country tunes and an early Vic Chesnutt gem that speak the largest volumes. Roger Miller’s “Lock, Stock and Teardrops” was originally graced by the talking pedal steel guitar of the legendary Pete Drake. Here the opening pedal steel notes are quickly overrun by the squall of Jake Lenderman’s guitar, leaving only Hartzman’s vocals and Schultz’s gravitational bass line to keep the song from going fully off the rails.

Unlike many background tales that you hear, Hartzman’s love of country music was not passed down through generations. “My mom was really into Counting Crows and my dad liked Eminem and Jane’s Addiction,” she says. “My roommate is from East Tennessee and grew up listening to a ton of country music. During the pandemic we would sit in the yard and listen to what seemed like two-day long playlists of country songs,” Hartzman continues. Some of which she describes as being “almost comically depressing.”

Chesnutt’s “Rabbit Box” is so nostalgic and deeply personal that it would seem “un-coverable,” but the close harmonies of Hartzman, staying a step behind Lenderman’s lead vocal, tap an otherworldly well of empathy for the doomed artist. Stewart and Chesnutt took their own lives, while Big Star’s Chris Bell (who is covered here as well) also had a tragic end. It’s easy to gravitate to darkly veined stories, but Hartzman proves grounded on this topic as well. “I always have to be really careful with how much I put artists on a pedestal that literally sacrificed everything for their craft,” she says. “It’s easy to be drawn to characters like that, but you can’t romanticize it. I don’t want to live life destroying myself just to get my art out there.”

Wednesday’s star is definitely rising and this punchy collection of cover songs has a bit of something for everyone. With an upcoming tour of their own along with dates playing alongside Beach Bunny, Hartzman plans only to maybe weave in a few select covers along the way. “We’ll probably stick mostly to our own material, because we have so much now. The attention [since Twin Plagues] has been a huge confidence boost. It makes me feel I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to,” Hartzman closes.

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