Songs We Love: Wand, 'Dungeon Dropper'
WAND has made three albums in the past 18 months. By the standards of a '60s pop group under contract to a major label—churning out records filled with cover versions and mashed-together selections of songs released as singles in other countries—this might not seem so difficult. But the Los Angeles-based trio of latter-day mind-expanders led by guitarist Cory Hanson (a member of Meatbodies, Mikal Cronin's backing band, and the solo project W-H-I-T-E), have managed a coup. Over this brief period, WAND has showcased a consistent path of sonic and songwriting development, each record growing in scope and growling with ever-more mind-flaying blasts of distortion. The group may not have even made it to the 1000 Days of existence the title of their new album suggests; yet they pack both a purist intent and an inescapable weirdness into songs as adventurous as they are catchy, marrying a tendency for stadium-sized Britpop balladry with clouds of confusion that suggest Beck and the Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes undergoing an incredible two-headed transplant.
In just over two minutes, "Dungeon Dropper" finds Hanson laying down a bouncy low-end lead guitar that syncs up effortlessly with Lee Landey's king size mattress of bass, boxed in just enough by Evan Burrows' methodical drumming. The song Hanson sings is an acid-streaked lullaby with vivid imagery about a tragic hero falling into some strange netherworld where grains of sand are "jailed" and "put ... to work/in a giant hourglass." The group comes at this fantasy with a headful of loopy, late-night delirium, where the paisley on their shirts starts dancing around on its own. Look closely and you'll find it may be happening to you, too.
NPR reached out to WAND's Cory Hanson to discuss the nature of the music he's called his own.
There are many bands that claim the mantle of "psychedelic music" in the sense of being descendants of sounds that originally emanated from the mid-late '60s and the waviness of the society that spawned them. How much of an affinity do you have for the music that came from this era?
We are fans, but we don't really relate to current psychedelic or garage music at all. There are great records in flashes, of course. But the kind of aesthetic currency those genres possess, the quality feels thin and over-exposed. There's nothing to miss, and there's no reason to return. It's like a mood light or a lava lamp, or at its worst, an artist who makes a living taking photos of mood lights and lava lamps. There's a deep cynicism that runs through those two scenes. That said, we are huge fans of bands and records that are considered important to the tradition of psychedelic music. Sometimes we find that the most psychedelic recordings might not be related to any of these things.
What do you hope listeners take away from listening to WAND?
I hope they can find a piece of themselves within the music. My greatest fear as an artist is that the material we are creating will be neutralized upon impact and shrugged off into obscurity, that we will be spun on record players or listened on YouTube streams through low volume speakers, that we will be suffocated by our own accessibility. At my most optimistic I would like to imagine people making love to our songs, or crying, or confronting a terrible life pain.
1000 Days is out on Sept. 25 on Drag City.