With R U OK? Wyves prove: Rock is Alive & Well in Phoenix

The last time I stayed up all night at a mall parking lot, jamming to music, hanging out with friends, and waiting for Dillard’s to open to race to the Ticket Master office to get concert tickets was for U2: The Achtung Tour. For all of the awesome that the Internet provides, for the ability really to get any seats we want for a concert, {depending on the money we are willing to give people who are not the artist}, for the ability to video and share those concerts Live…. there is something to be said for nostalgia.

I think that everybody is feeling it right now. It is in the throw back television programming, like Mad Men or Stranger Things. It is in the vintage (even though saying that makes me feel dirt old) resurgence of Rock T Shirts. It is in the hair cuts, the backwards Rosie the Riveter head handkerchiefs, it is literally everywhere. It is is in the music that we are listening to. It is in the revival of the vinyl records we want to listen to it on.

The reasons for this nostalgia are probably as many as the people who feel them, but one thing is certain. Dreaming of recreating that Dazed & Confused, summer of love, fun, music, and youth…. romanticized idea of a summer rock n roll show that I and my friends have tickets to and are all piling into Clint’s green, Mustang Mach 2 Fastback to go see….. is a Wyves show.

I have spent a lot of time trying to describe Wyves to some of my Classic Rock friends at work, and certain comparisons come to mind. But the more I listened to the Wyves’ sophomore album R U OK? and thought about nostalgia,

I realized Wyves remind me of a time, an era, an attitude in Rock n Roll and in society, more than any one band.

Wyves are a four piece rock n roll band out of Phoenix, Arizona.

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Evan Knisely: The Sexy

Evan, the incredibly charismatic {and talented btw…. } drummer of Wyves, is an absolute pleasure to talk to. I have watched several shows with the dude, and yeah… he is cool AF. One great memory is him explaining the Punk value of this crazy band that was playing Nirvana-esque, Bleach era rock, but dressed as incredibly cheaply costumed birds. It was insane, and that show was awesome because of Evan’s commentary. I wish I had it recorded!

 

“We wanted this record to really have a particular vibe to it,” Evan explains, “and each side has its own personality. The first half tackles a lot of issues, and is aggressive and upbeat. The second half gets a little bit more into the emotional side, but drops you into it lightly with Speed of Sound.”

I couldn’t agree more….. but we will get to that.

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Brenden McBride: The Professor

As I have discussed on here several times, I listen to most of my music on my phone. Either piped into my motorcycle helmet, or from my chest pocket while I am jamming at the Co. It is awesome, but… quality is very much sacrificed. When I came home from work that first day, listening to the album on pre-release on Soundcloud, I had heard it probably ten times. But when it went through my sound system, for the first time…. I sent the following message directly to Brenden:

Ryan B. Clark:  Your bass lines on this record, do not come through on my phone.  When I got home, and put it through my stereo…. my brain melted.  You are not messing around at all.  One of my favorite bass players of all time is Simon Gallup of The Cure.  I always thought he played bass, like lead guitar.  He was just like a lead guitarist, but still all about the bass.  You channeled him for me on this record.

Brenden:  Damn dude, that makes me feel amazing.  Nick and I worked hand-in-hand together to craft every single bass line and interchange that you hear on the record.

 

Ryan:  It shows

Brenden: We went into the studio with a lot of our parts hashed out and ready to go.  It is definitely the most cohesive and solid record that I’ve been apart of to date.  We are extremely proud of it.

Ryan:  Turn those bass amps up loud my man.

Brenden:  Don’t worry…. I will be crankin at The Van Buren!

Brenden also plays bass for Treasure Fruit here in Phoenix.

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Corey Gloden: The Poet

“Corey is definitely a poet”, says Sterling. “He is not simply plugging in words based on syllables at the sacrifice of the song. He will bring in a line that he is grooving on and maybe a melody, and we approach it organically.”

Poetry is Necessary.

“I wanted a sense of urgency and relevance in the lyrics and overall sound and performance of every song.  To do so, I was writing and rewriting entire songs in the 30-40 minutes before walking in the booth, and even making changes between takes.”  Such is the process of trying to use devices to add power to one’s words… I do the same, and was very much in awe as Corey described his process.  “There is something that happens in these moments of pressure.  It allows a person to transcend beyond his or her self perception, self doubt, and mental and physical strength.  That hulk shit is real!”

Corey Gloden is one of the most energetic front men singing his heart out in the Valley of the Sun.  Always a character, always turned up to eleven, and always ready to rock n roll, I have seen Corey show up in all manner of crazy outfits and costumes.

 

He is a chameleon with a ready smile and a raspy rough voice that just screams, “Let’s Rock!”

A pretty solid guitarist of his own right, playing guitar for Dry River Yacht Club as well, he often joins Nick and Brenden playing rhythm…. and the sonic levels of depth these guys are able to create on stage is phenomenal.

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Nick Sterling: The Producer

Speaking on that sense of nostalgia, I asked Nick about the value of albums versus singles in todays music business. His answer spoke directly to the core of my indie soul. “I’m a bit of a downer, when it comes to the business. Most of what I have seen in my life in the business is that it is sick and evil. That is not at all my concern. I am a believer in the music, and the way that we want out music to be received and experienced.”

“This album had a massive amount of pre-production”, Nick continues, “before we ever went into the studio (Flying Blanket Records). Everybody knew their parts, and they had been hashed out and rehearsed countless times. This expedites recording, and allows you to spend that studio time really concentrating on and tightening your own contribution to that whole.”

 

“The last thing on my mind was wanting to achieve some sort of me standing on top of a mountain, my hair whipping in the wind, fanning guitar god kind of thing. He laughs, which comes easily to a very humble man who has seen almost two decades, already in the business. This album was all about capturing our live sound, our live energy, on a recording. And Bob Hoag is the man for capturing that sound.”

“I really took a Producer role on this album. The first one {Spoils of War} was pretty much all me doing what I do in the recording department. This one, we wanted to capture a sound that Bob is known for capturing. We used his amps, because he knows his equipment. This was about us bringing our sound to Bob and his engineering genius to record and master. We didn’t want this album to be overly produced; we knew Bob would be able to achieve a sound that was as close to live as could be.”

 

Bob Hoag, the engineering/ recording genius over at Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa, Arizona, achieves a sound that is very unique in today’s musical market. Recording software, and soundproofing has made solid recording possible for very little money and no overhead. Many indie bands have gone this route for recording demos and early release EPs, but there is a lot more that goes into the recording of sound, than simply recording the electric impulses that come through wires.

Bob, as I explored in depth with my interview with him several months ago, READ IT HERE, is very much of the same school as Steve Albini in Chicago. Watching the Chicago Episode of David Groul’s Sonic Highways, Albini showcases his recording studio, where even cuts in the floor along the walls are all engineered to be part of the sound. Bob does similar techniques, mic’ing up, not only the instruments, but the space. Leaving doors open, or closed effects the sound. Running all of the recordings through spring reverb, creates a resonance. Additionally, three of the four guys are usually up and recording simultaneously, sometimes in the big room, other times isolated in different areas of the studio. All of these methods contribute to the depth, the fullness of sound, and the sense of a live aspect to the recording that you can hear on any Flying Blanket Recording.

It is showcased admirably well on R U OK?

 

Art is a reflection of the world through the lens of the creative artist. Vietnam, Civil Rights, Woodstock, huge political events shaped the music of the 60s, and as the flowers and smoke faded, the glitz, neon, and feel good party of the 70s commenced. Was it Watergate? Was it political overload? Was it the raw numb reality of the aftermath of Vietnam? As a student of literature and history and a lover of music, these are the questions I ponder on… when left to my own devices, but consider this:

When one thinks of the absolute dumpster fire of depression and overwhelming what-the-hellness that is going on in our world, almost every single day, is it really that surprising that we are all overcome with a sense of longing for a more simple time, a more fun time, a less stressful time?

Wyves seem to be asking the same thing with their sophomore release RU OK?

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Slip down that path of Nostalgia with me once again, Amigos. For me, it was PDQ Records in Tucson, Arizona. I would rummage through the imports, and run home clutching a new Cure Single or Bauhaus Interview Picture Disk like they were made of pure gold. It was like I couldn’t get the stereo on fast enough, and as I slit the plastic, and removed that shiny record for the first time, it was awesome to just sit and look at the art work, the photographs, the lyrics, the time that was taken on the entire package and presentation of that work of art. Like the cover on a book of poetry. In fact…. exactly like that.

R U OK? Is meant to be listened to as an album. It is a solid set of eight very tight songs, that can be enjoyed in its entirety in less than 40 minutes.

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“Coming at em rather RUSH on the cover,” says Evan in this message when he got his first look at RU OK? “I knew you’d dig it.”

Where does that cover take you? What mental pathways does it open? Is it isolation? Is it feeling lost in space? Is it the infinity and infinitesimal size of our own presence in the cosmos? Are you okay?

The artist in me loves absolutely everything about this image. I am plugged in, trying to achieve a synergy with the band, their music, and their message… immediately! This… is not something that is the same, on the Single level. I have often made the argument that music is the modern equivalent to the great poetry of the past, and in that… this cover is a poem, and bears scrutiny as such.

Princess Excess

With one of those driving bass leads, that I referenced earlier, Brenden opens the record with a solid anthem to well….. sex…. drugs…. and rock n roll. One of the coolest things, in my opinion about lead bass, is it frees up your lead guitarist to do other things…. it becomes almost like a sonic addition, rather than a vehicle to deliver melody. It is fun to hear bass guitar that can hold that kind of power out front, rather than layering foundations in the background.

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Corey immediately connects us to this growing sense of uncertainty.

Never really knowing what to believe/ She never realized that I was her favorite disease

Give me all your money/ Let’s get me back to the trembles and the trenches like we used to do

Oh Well/ Might as well get up and run

You better get gone/ You better lay low

And Nick sweeps in with a precise laddering scales solo that builds intensity into a sonic wall behind the last verse…..

A surging rock song…. about classic rock themes…. right out of the gate.  It sets us up for a fun listen…. we are ready…. we are tuned in.

R U OK?

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Woke up in a cross eyed dream/ You know I know its only make believe

What you want to be baby with your time

Funny faces break the silences/ I’m in the big machine

Look at me I went and caused a scene

This song really exemplifies that all the boys are mic’ed on this album, and the backing vocals are a weaving of their harmonizing.  Nick told me that was an evolution that the whole band was excited to explore, and have been working in more and more to live shows.

Evan is a vocalist in his own right, most known for his rendition of Sabotage when Wyves plays their rockous cover of the tune, but Nick also has a history in singing vocals.  Their addition behind Corey’s rasp and growl…. is very exciting to here, and adds a layer of difference and uniqueness to live performance.

Mar-a-Lago

An openly obvious political satire, Mar a Lago is the first single released from R U OK? Interesting side note, Facebook would not let the band pay to sponsor the video release, as it labeled the content too politically motivated. The song is told from the Donald’s point of view, opening with, “Television taught me to read, and closing with the the slight change, “Television taught me to read I’m all alone… I’m all alone. The video is an animation that pulls from the headlines of the last 18 months of the American Circus and makes all of it’s characters: Trump, Kim, and Putin all clowns in space. It is quite entertaining actually, and a solidly sweeping rock song to release first in this current climate.

Check out Wyves on YouTUBE HERE !!!! Subscribe to get access to new videos!

I hear you creeping in my bushes/ Couldn’t catch me if you tried

I see you found my dirty laundry/ I think a presidential pardon

Could suit me just fine

Mar a Lago/ That’s where we go/ Bill it all on daddy’s dime

Make the martyrs/ Hide your daughters

And everything will work out just fine

Distractions

Definitely the most musically complex song on R U OK?, Distractions signals a trip down Progressive Road to the corner of Rush and Yes. The depth of sound in this recording has layers upon layers, and several listens are still revealing details and chills. Turn it UP!

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Nick Sterling even plays his guitar parts on a double neck Epiphone, 12 String on top, 6 string underneath.

After about 28 listens to this album, I finally decided this track was my favorite on the record, and I let Evan know. “For the record, I guessed that distractions would be your favorite tune on the album. A little mathy, a little rock, some stones-y pre choruses and a guitar solo to boot.”

I can’t change the channel/ I can’t fix no fuse

We can’t pick out battles/ Baby but we can watch the evening news

As you listen…. hopefully loud….. prepare for your face to glow between 2:50 and 3:40

I see no reason to be believing it was great before.

White noise/ White noise/ Distractions.

This song will be performed live for the first time on September 28th at The Van Buren in Phoenix. It will be THE PLACE TO BE IN PHOENIX that weekend my friends. Get there!

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Speed of Sound

The second of three personal tribute songs, Speed of Sound is told from the perspective of Chuck Yeager…. as he strives to be the first to achieve Mach 1.  Metaphorically, it is a fantastic anthem about pushing one’s limits to achieve the barely imaginable.

Take me back to the world in which we came from

I believe I can breech speed of sound

Baby lie about the bad news

Come and wake me when I’m done

Cut my teeth in the fields of West Virginia

I can go beyond the barrier we’ve always known

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The song, like just about every second of the record actually, is incredibly precise, and I realized that my first approach to doing this review was not going to work.  I wanted to talk about this album in the frame of the sophomore experience.  The approach to a craft, but this time with maybe a little more pressure to outdo, or rise above, the previous work.  Sophomore albums tend to be… sophomoric, hence the cliche….

After a few listens, that framing device was not going to work at all in this case.  There is nothing sophomoric about R U OK?  I did nothing but listen to this album, over and over again, with no skips and no repeats for about four days… and the layers and details just kept peeling back and revealing themselves.  A framing device for this album would take a few deeper listens…. I was OK with that.

Gravity

Pushing the existential bonds and physical reality metaphors, Corey uses Einstein’s theory of gravity to explore love, attraction, and purpose.  On a first listen this song seemed like a huge shift in tone, almost like a launch from the classic rock of the 70s to the alternative rock of the 90s. I almost heard Gin Blossoms in those first few seconds, or Toad the Wet Sprocket….

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All I could do was sit and sink/ Beneath the floor

I only know I could not think

Above, where the souls collide and the bodies meet

I used to be so lonely

I’ve got a million people around/ But they never satisfy me Baby

Gravity becomes this album’s Puppycat, a loving tribute to a significant other person that brings balance…. connection…. and weight to one’s life… to one’s drifting….

Shake off the Day

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Its the same old tune

I guess I’ll keep my head in the clouds all day long

Bright lights/ All I know

Stay with my comforts/ And live my own

Shake off the day

I then thought about framing this review as a mastering of artists… choosing a couple of songs to really exemplify each members expertise and craft.  But again… something was not right with this approach.  It was in my phone conversation with Nick that I started to grasp it.  This album was a pure synergy of a band of fantastically talented musical professionals that were only in this endeavor to make everyone else around them better.

It is hard to single out individual prowess on the album, because each time you really try to focus in and listen to individual parts… you realize how wonderfully they add punch to everything else around them.  Each of these guy elevated each other, on this album…. and the result?

We are definitely OK.

Leroy

Leroy is about my Grandpa Norman Leroy Love, who passed away days before we released our first album.  We share the same middle name, and this is my tribute to my bond with him and the work ethic values he gave to me.”  I too have a Grandfather Norman…. and this story gave me the feels right away as Corey was telling it.  “This is the first song we started working on for RU OK?”

Be sure to check in with WYVES for TOUR DATES and TICKET INFORMATION

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Been sleeping all day Don’t you know

I don’t give a damn about the world

I don’t/ I don’t

And and on and so it goes/

Can’t step back/ Stay with me/ Get me home

I live in the middle/ Feel it in my bones

As I listen, I find myself returning again and again to that lost man…. that isolated man…. floating through space on some sort of rocket debris, and realizing that each song…. is a focusing of a particular part of the experience and an asking…. R U OK? Are you ok with the excesses that have caused your life to be a run and gun? Are you ok with with being a part of the machine, but still caring about what you do with your time? Are you ok with the circus of space clowns that our world has become? Are you in need of distractions from the continual white noise that surrounds and permeates everything? Do you feel a crushing need for the old times, and wish you could get back to them at the speed of sound? Do you have a love that controls the physics of your world like Gravity…. and lets you know you are going to be Ok? Do you find yourself allowing your head to drift into the clouds, and find that you like it there? This is your safe space…. and you are ok with that. Have you unplugged from the chaos….. and are you still ok?

 

This album…. is more than a collection of singles, released for streaming and iTunes purchases. It can certainly be bought that way, yes, but the fact that it exists, in such a finally crafted form, is a testament to that sense of nostalgia we are feeding on. This album tells a story, from start to finish, it creates an experience. It is a tale of alienation and self analysis, told as a Tale of Two Parts. The External…. and the Internal.

And caring more about the presentation of that creative spark. About stamping your own sense of ownership on your creation and the way that you intended it to be experienced….. and the way you envisioned it coming into existence in the world….. has value that is immeasurable with the tools taken from the darkness and sickness of the business side of what we do.

Motorcycle Vest Patch??? Check!

It is a compelling argument for staying Independent, and loving what you do so much…. believing in what you do so much….. that your art transcends the human vice of greed.

It is inspiring.

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Keep the Greasy Side Down, My Friends.

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