2016 has already delivered great things for Texas-bred, New York-based WALL. They may not have even played a live show until mid-2015 but already, this year’s seen them release their debut EP on Wharf Cat Records to critical acclaim. On the day of its release, they reveal, the physical copies of their self-titled debut are already close to selling out.
One listen and it’s not too difficult to see why. Their four-track release is an exhilarating collection of spitting, growling post-punk, so ingrained in the very chaotic energy that surrounds most cities – the roar of traffic in rush hour, the buzzing chatter of an underground bar, the kerfuffle of a drunken fistfight - that it’s hard to imagine the band aren’t home-grown New York natives.
Though all of the band members have previously been involved in creative pursuits – bassist Elizabeth Skadden previously played in the Austin-based Finally Punk; guitarist Vince McClelland in The Keepsies with Austin Brown of Parquet Courts; drummer Vanessa Gomez works a manager at a photography studio; vocalist Sam York has a successful modelling career – like so many good rock n’ roll stories, it all started when they got to New York.
“When you get to New York, when you meet one person from Texas, you’ll meet everyone from Texas… we all somehow end up there,” Elizabeth admits. Elizabeth reached New York after a three year stint in the arts scene in Berlin before being joined by childhood friend Sam. There, Vanessa met Elizabeth at a show and mentioned she’d started playing drums; they brought in Vince and WALL was born. Within their first hour of practice, they’d already written the short but impactful ‘First Date’.
“That was the moment when we were like, 'cool, I guess we can be a band'”, Sam says nonchalantly, “We're all pretty rooted in a really amazing music scene in New York, so when we wanted to start playing we had a lot of good access to shows because our friends were just like, yeah, come! Play on this bill with us here.”
If their seemingly smooth transition from the beginnings of - as Sam says - “just jamming to see what could happen”, to being tipped as ones-to-watch seems a pretty chill one, that's in direct disagreement with their music itself. Sam York's growling vocals over pounding instrumentals nod towards 80s post-punk bands such as Pylon and Au Pairs, which is anything but calm. It's a grumbling, growling tribute to gritty urban existence.
Perhaps their most well-known release so far, 'Cuban Cigars' is “essentially about the pigs... the nasty men in our lives”, Sam explains. 'Milk' is about “people pretending to be something that they're not” and 'Last Date' about “being crushed under the weight of someone else's expectations”. This, along with a sound that hits like a punch in the jaw, may make it sound like they're pretty pissed off at the world, but when quizzed on what they'd want to achieve as a band, their response is pretty refreshing.
"When you get to New York, when you meet one person from Texas, you'll meet everyone from Texas… we all somehow end up there"
— Elizabeth Skadden
“The goal going in was to make music for friends and we're doing that and it's already gone way beyond our expectations of anything.” Sam says. “We just started it as fun and it's gotten really real, I guess.”
WALL don't see themselves as something that can change music, only as something that, according to Vanessa can “continue to make it interesting”. “There's no shock value left in society. Everything's already made,” Sam adds, laughing. “I mean, let's hope I'm wrong and something totally fucking bananas happens.”
WALL aren't necessarily hoping to shake up the post-punk scene, but with their aggressively inspiring sound and laid-back attitude, give them a little time, and there's a small chance they may do just that.