Wednesday, October 7, 2009

JENN WASNER OF WYE OAK: Fluids Notwithstanding

Jenn Wasner & Andy Stack are Wye Oak, a rock and roll duo from Baltimore. They are both in their early twenties and have been touring nonstop recently. This interview was executed right before they went to Europe with the Dodos, and then scrambled all over the US with Blitzen Trapper. The image above is Jenn at the Merge Records 20th anniversary party where they hot-tubbed with Superchunk. The last time I saw Jenn was in the Nordstrom Rack men's shoe department, where we discovered that Andy & I have roughly the same size foot.

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
What do I do? I just spent the last week visiting family out-of-state, trying to construct viable answers to that very question. I think I do music. Play in bands and stuff. I play in this one band, Wye Oak, which is about to go on tour for 9 (count em!) weeks starting in September. That band consists of me and my colleague Andrew Stack. We just put out a new album that looks like this:

I also play in this band Noble Lake, in which Andy and myself (along with an illustrious cast and crew of pickers, pluckers and jammers) expound upon James Sarsgaard's gothic country masterpieces. This summer we made a record, which is, I think, mostly finished.

But lately, it seems like what I'm doing the most has very little to do with either of these things. Mostly I'm just doing...bullshit. Like, dishes and laundry and balancing of checkbooks, etc. Trying to tie up loose ends so that when we finally do leave for tour in a couple of weeks I can just ride the know?

How long have you done these things?
I've been playing in bands for all of my teen and adult life, but only in the past few years have I been lucky enough to start doing real stuff like touring and answering sweet interviews! (I like this interview because I find myself writing like I would if I was just talking to you, Lexie, even though I know other people will read it, probably.) Anyway...yes...let's go with four years.

Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
Because I have few other skills (other than waiting tables, which you know I am amazing at) and playing music as my "job" is just as incredible and fun and exciting as you think it could be. I even like the crappy stuff, like the excessive driving and the playing with crappy bands sometimes and the shitty road food and all of that. I never really got to travel when I was a kid so even driving a few hours away has this super extreme energy to it that I really love. And sometimes people like your band, which is the best of all.

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Probably when our label (the swell folks at Merge Records) send us a casual email one day that was like "hey, whaddya say we put out this record of yours and basically legitimize your entire band and make your dreams of being a career musician come true!!" That's not what the email actually said but that's how I read it. That moment pretty much made it possible for us to do everything that we currently do. I was out shopping with a lady friend when Andy called to tell me the news and I started babbling and spouting fluids and embarrassed myself in front of the whole store. That was a GREAT day, fluids notwithstanding.

How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?

My life has changed in major, major ways. I pretty much do music stuff now, which seems kind of insane. People I don't already know come to our shows and listen to our music. I've gotten to travel around to awesome places and meet great people.

How has your work affected your life in return?
Well, for the most part I was pretty much prepared to keep at this music stuff indefinitely, because I had no other plan for my life and I was just going to MAKE it work. But the fact that it happened so quickly is amazing, not least of which it kind of vindicates me in the eyes of my immediate and extended family. There were a lot of judgments passed when I dropped out of college to wait tables and start a band. Not that it was that big of a deal...I'm sure most people in creative/arts professions suffer the same judgments daily. But I have to admit that it is really nice to go to my grandparents, for example, and be able to present them some indicators of "success" in a context that they can understand. Like, "so-and-so blog really likes my band" doesn't mean anything to them. But "hey, you can buy my album in BestBuy!" --that means the world. It really means a lot to me that they can be proud of me in ways that they understand.

What is the best thing David Lee Roth has to offer the world?
By far the best thing about David Lee Roth is the existence of this website:
I spent like an hour and a half doing this.

For more about Wye Oak:
and myspace and stuff

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