By Tiffany Lam. Earlier this summer, we caught up with Brooklyn-based psych-folk band Wild Leaves who were in Toronto performing a showcase at the Cameron House, as a part of NXNE 2014. Wild Leaves is a writing story of five friends – Adam Lytle, Brett Banks, Cole Emoff, Genevieve Rainsberger and Joey Deady – who moved from the midwest to New York together. In this joyful interview, we chat about recent memories, college memories, recording difficulties, musical transitions and musical guilty pleasures.
Your new record, Hello Sunlight, is coming out soon, and your previous was the Wind & Rain EP last year. What inspired the overall seasonal nature theme?
Adam: I think as a band we’re motivated by having moved away from where we all had family and everything, and that’s where the name came from, having left the tree, left our roots behind, etc.
Joey: The way we write songs is kind of organically just writing the music and then wherever the music inspires us to write lyrics for, we go. So I guess the headspace we were in when we wrote it… that’s where we were. Being in NY, it’s all concrete. We kind of miss the nature.
So I heard the recording process was done over a few days. Were there any difficulties, or perhaps an easiest, most natural song to record?
Brett: There was one that was the hardest and it was called “Mystic Ocean”. The soul of that song has always been a weird in between [of] slow and fast, up tempo and down tempo. We tried to do it at a certain tempo and we would always deviate from it; we would never click in. We had Cole playing with the metronome to keep us tight for the recording, and then at a certain point, the producer, our good friend Bob Mallory said, “Cut off the metronome, the only way this will work is if you feel it and you completely just let it roll out”, and so that’s what we did. That one was tough.
Joey: We had to take a break, because we were starting to get really… we almost broke up, [laughs]. No, we just got to a point where we had to just step away from it and come back.
Adam: And ultimately, as part of our organic process, we were trying to force it playing with the metronome, but no song HAS to be done by metronome. We record everything live as a group and if in the moment we’re driven and have high energy, things start to accelerate. I think that’s where you feel the songs.
Brett: In that way, I’m really proud of that song and what it turned out to be, because of how low it got at moments. I mean, we weren’t at each other’s throats.
Joey: Internally and mentally we were all a little down.
Brett: It was like it was pouring rain on us inside the recording room.
Were there other songs that you had planned to have on this record, but decided afterwards it wouldn’t work?
Gen: I think we leaned it down to 4, because we felt really strongly about those. There’s plenty of songs that we’ve all fallen in love with but for some reason, we didn’t feel that need to be put down to tape, at least now. Maybe one day.
Cole: Those were also all written in transitional periods. The next ones won’t sound like the first, so they all fit together in that way.
That being said, EP after EP, how is this Hello Sunlight different than any previous work you guys have made?
Joey: The transitions are kind of an evolution; the first one, Wind & Rain, was really kind of getting to know each other’s positions. Forever Moonlight was all of us being more comfortable with each other. We were like, “We have these four songs propelling us into new territory, so let’s record them now because if we don’t, we may lose them.
Gen: We’re constantly just trying to find ways to mend our musical styles.
Brett: Also, I think as a band, after we put out Wind & Rain, we began to write songs which were clearly very different and not from that period of time and I think collectively we embraced the fact that our sound is changing and evolving, to not buy into that and put our weight behind the evolution is almost for us something that would be dishonest. Hello Sunlight is just the next step in where we were.
Adam: Everything I think in terms of our growth in this new city. So, first one is figuring out where the hell we are and what we’re doing. Second part is, “Hey, we’re here, we’ve been touring and playing hundreds of shows”. Now there’s just more urgency and opportunity of us getting out there and doing stuff.
Joey: We’re really embracing all of our talented influences right now, which is a really cool thing. We all have a wide range of musical tastes that we are now deciding to harness this energy.
“Hello Sunlight is just the next step in where we were.” – Brett Banks
Being longtime friends before becoming a band, what’s an outrageous place or memory you guys have shared together?
Gen: We all met around 9 years ago, our freshman year in school.
Joey: Skinny dipping night.
Gen: That was good. Poor Brett was living in LA at the time, but we had this epic last summer right before we all finished school. This one special night, we were at our favourite bar with a bunch of friends and somehow we all magically got into this country club pool, naked. The entire bar came with us.
Joey: It wasn’t just our band.
Gen: Another favourite is at this place Burnet Woods, beautiful park but awful place to be at night.
Adam: Once we graduated school, there was a little bit of a push amongst our friends… you know, there wasn’t jobs for us and we just started having fun and realised, “Holy shit, this is so much more important than rushing into getting jobs”. We had a blast. The last summer that we were in Cincinnati was amazing. Then we moved to New York and it was back to work, but I think we bonded the most that summer.
Joey: But that doesn’t answer the question of what’s the most outrageous place we’ve all been together.
Adam: Oh wait, here we go. Washington, DC.
Joey: Well, earlier before this Cole got locked into the bathroom so we almost didn’t make it to this.
Adam: Gen had towels hanging on the door and he pulled the door shut, and it was just stuck for like 10 minutes.
“We’re going to drink beer and get in trouble and play music no matter what, so might as well make it something that grows.” – Adam Lytle
If you guys weren’t making music together, what would you guys be doing? Do you think you’d still be close friends?
Brett: Oh yeah, I think we definitely would.
Joey: We’re kind of friends for life.
Brett: Honestly, we’d probably be on Joey’s roof drinking Tecates right now if we weren’t a band.
Joey: Or we’d be at the beach!
Adam: The band just started to make our hangouts more productive, ultimately. We’re going to drink beer and get in trouble and play music no matter what, so might as well make it something that grows.
Gen: We actually have this table that the guys built in our first apartment that we lived in together – we’d call it “The Table of Truth” – and we’d kind of always end the night at the table with a bottle of whiskey. We’d finish the bottle and pick up the guitar; those were some great nights, those whiskey-driven nights. I think that helped fuel our excitement to keep playing together.
What is something on Wild Leaves’ bucket list that you guys hope to scratch off soon?
Gen: West Coast tour.
Gen: Yeah. I think we all think the most magical part about playing music together is having an excuse to also travel. Some of our best memories together have been out on tour. I think it’d be nice to do it on the beautiful west coast, saunter through some lovely towns and drink a lot of wine.
Brett: The east coast is lovely too. I’m sure there’s a coast in this province on Lake Ontario that we’d love to see sometime, [laughs]. We just want to make sure the audience gets that…
Joey: What are the five Great Lakes, Brett?
Brett: Um, I don’t want to talk about it.
Joey: Champlain? Is that one of them?
Brett: I really thought Lake Champlain in Vermont was one of the Great Lakes. And it was just a terrible mistake. It’s a good lake.
” We’re really embracing all of our talented influences right now, which is a really cool thing.” – Joey Deady
Individually, what are your biggest music guilty pleasure?
Adam: I’ll dig into anything sixties popular country; George Jones, Glen Campbell, etc.
Joey: I have a soft spot for a lot of different things. Whenever I hear this question, my go-to is always Blink-182. In my head, I don’t feel bad about listening to it, but I know that if I say it right now, in the band that I’m in, with all the other music I listen to, people will give me a look, [laughs]. So that’s mine I guess.
Cole: Mine’s gotta be the Crazy Frog.
Gen: I wasn’t guilty about this until they made fun of me, but I really dig SWV. Sisters of Voices. I think most people know them because they’re on the soundtrack for Free Willy; it’s a great soundtrack too, with Michael Jackson, but anyway.
Brett: I’m with Joey, I think we’re not actually guilty about any of these things. We love these things, but society tells us we should feel this way… so my two would be 1) Kriss Kross. Kriss Kross’ “Totally Krossed Out” was my first CD I ever had and I still love it. 2) Boston, I love Boston, [laughs].
Coolest show you’ve ever played?
Adam: Playing in front of everybody we knew our whole life in Cincinnati at Midpoint Music Festival last year was really cool.
Joey: That’s true.
Gen: Our families were pretty sauced up in the crowd. We actually got Adam’s younger brother on stage with us; it was a great homecoming.
Adam: Seriously, people from grade school through college, everybody who we’ve known, was there. It was our first time back after having released all this material and working on stuff, so I can’t think of a show that had more satisfaction.
Brett: I feel like that was almost the culmination of the first phase of the band, it was like going through the finish line of the ‘Wind and Rain’ stuff. Now we’re looking forward to returning to Midpoint in the fall and share a new batch of work.
“Some of our best memories together have been out on tour.” – Genevieve Rainsberger
Future plans for Wild Leaves? Any exciting tour stops?
Brett: Right now we’re really just excited to play in a room in front of new faces and, you know, the west coast would be amazing obviously, but we’re open to everywhere in the world.
Joey: We just bought our own recorder, a Tascam 388, and we have a lot of new songs we’re going to go record in the studio – or well, our ‘studio recording’ space – and just keep going, cause we’re writing machines right now.
Cole: We’re going to do a lot of it ourselves this time. Every other time we had someone record for us, and it wasn’t…
Brett: We’re all really into the recording process and we all care a lot about that identity, so we’re excited to play with it ourselves and have a little more time to experiment too.
Check out some photos from their Toronto show here!