By Brian F. Johnson
In 2011, when Jonah Wisneski released his solo debut Lights he found himself in the position that many songwriters do. Wanting to have a bigger sound on stage than he could make by himself, Wisneski started scanning his contact list for musicians to help flush out his songs for live shows.
But a few months down the road, Wisneski — one of the lucky ones who had enough musician friends to keep things going — realized that he was spending as much time as a human resources manager as he was playing music.
“I made that record with all of my friends,” Wisneski said. “My friends in Fox Street Allstars and Kinetix, and friends like Nate Barnes and Bill McKay helped me record it. But when I started to play it live, I felt like I was hiring different people for every gig,” Wisneski said in a recent interview with The Marquee.
Through that revolving cast, though, Wisneski met bassist Logan Muckler and drummer/vocalist Scott Roush, and soon, almost as if pre-destined, Wisneski started to focus more on being part of a band, rather than being a solo musician supported by a band.
“I had started to change the direction a little bit and I met Scott and Logan and right off the bat they were so good. A lot of where I was going was just hanging out with other people and talking about these other ideas and bands that I was listening to, and with these guys it just felt like everyone was on board. By then we had been playing together for a few months and at one point it just sort of switched and stopped being my name and started becoming The Whales,” he said.
That was right around the early spring of 2012, but thanks to a nearly relentless local touring schedule, the group has solidified itself far more than most bands with just a short history.
The sound that Wisneski and his bandmates have been moving toward is “a little more rock and roll than my last record,” Wisneski explained. “With my last record especially, we went into the studio and I already had these songs, but with the band we have a much more firm idea of what is happening because we can sit around and rehearse these songs out. Even during the Lights process, I was always asking people for input and for what they thought. But now, Scott and I have started writing together, which is a great experience. Being a solo artist is great and all, but I have always really loved working with other people. So being able to combine creative forces has been incredible.”
Having some of the pressure off on the writing side has also allowed Wisneski to explore elements of playing that he hadn’t previously had the time to do. “I’ve really been geeking out on all of these effects, and I love bands that have that kind of alt-Americana, alt-blues, and rock and roll revival thing going. So I want to focus on all the stuff I love from the older music that I grew up on and put this new spin on it by having some of these crazy delays or sonic soundscapes in there. I want us to look at our record as having one foot in the past and one foot in the future moving forward,” he said.
To date, The Whales have only released a few songs on Soundcloud that they had recorded in Kinetix bassist Josh Fairman’s studio, Scanhope Sound, as well as some video shot by NoCoast.TV during the same sessions. In early 2013, the band plans on heading into the studio to record its debut release and Wisneski speaks with the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store, discussing the analog equipment that he hopes to use.
As a long-time employee of Dog House Music in Lafayette, Colo., Wisneski is one of the lucky local musicians — he spends his days surrounded by music; no cubical day job for him. And as part of his duties at Dog House he runs the summer music camps for kids. While he studied composition and theory in college and used to come at songwriting from a “very calculated approach,” he said that teaching kids to write music over the last several summers has changed his perspective of what songwriting entails.
“Working with these kids — some of whom have never held an instrument before, let alone written a song — has upped my ability to write,” Wisneski said. “I can sit down and say, “OK I’m going to write something today, and see what happens. And whether I keep that song or not, it’s just like going out to do something for the sake of doing it and creating art. It might be incredible and it might be something that I want to put away for another time. Either way it’s creation.”
:: The Whales ::
:: Centro :: January 17 ::
:: Dickens Opera House :: January 19 ::
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