Interview Wild Flag: Wild At Heart

We caught up with Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss just before the band released their debut album.

As every fan at some point realises, the land of music isn’t all that large. Musicians not only occasionally leave bands to form new ones, but launch side-projects, write for other musicians, play in backing bands, and collaborate left, right and centre. Wild Flag is a product of this ever-developing scene.

It all started back in the 90s, when Sleater- Kinney toured with Helium, leading to a collaboration between Carrie Brownstein, of the former band, and Mary Timony of the latter, which they dubbed The Spells. They went on to release an EP together,‘The Age Of Backwards’, in 1999.

Rebecca Cole’s Portland-based band The Minders, meanwhile, were also frequent touring partners for Sleater-Kinney, leading to a further partnership between Cole and Kinney member Janet Weiss in garage-rock covers band The Shadow Mortons.

That’s five bands, including two collaborations, and we’re not even into the 00s yet.

“We officially started playing together, in this configuration, last summer,” Weiss tells us, mid-packing for a trip back home to Portland from New York, where the band have just played a show alongside Sonic Youth and Kurt Vile. “Mary has been flying out for writing sessions regularly since then.

“Each individual is crucial to the dynamics of a band, or you could say, no two bands are alike. The four of us together feels unique and special, and we are learning how to make it work more and more as we spend time together.”

As Weiss touches upon, this particular band only formed last summer, following - you guessed it - a different project, where they were asked to create an instrumental score for Lynn Hershman Leeson’s feminist artists documentary !Women Art Revolution!.

“At the time, we weren’t thinking of this as a starting point to anything,”Weiss explains. “In retrospect, it holds more weight than it should, because the collaboration ignited the spark that became Wild Flag. But the music is really simple and easygoing, much less crafted than what we started writing together in the practice space.”

Unlike some of the previous endeavours between members, Wild Flag aren’t going to disappear after one EP; they’re not going to play just a handful of dates: for, there is an album on the way. An album they started working on in March of this year.

For their debut full length, the band travelled to California so they could hook up with engineer Chris Woodhouse in his Sacramento studio, The Hangar, which turned out to be vital to the record’s sound and feel: “We were looking for a raw, untapped vibe, a place where we could simply put our beginnings down on tape. The album has a directness that partially came out of those surroundings,” Weiss admits.

“We knew we wanted the record to be immediate and alive sounding, so we put ourselves in a situation where we could achieve those things. Intent and understanding are crucial elements to making art or music or anything that will hopefully have cultural and personal relevance.”

So the record, which they’ve simply titled ‘Wild Flag’, is finished. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but that’s ok because “sometimes the difficulties became blessings in disguise,” and besides, “adversity is good for art, and for building character.”It’s due out over here on this Autumn through well-respected independent label Wichita, home to the likes of Those Dancing Days, Gold Panda and Bloc Party.

“I can’t see any reasons why we wouldn’t make a follow up album,” Weiss finishes, as we let her get back to her packing. “We’re really enjoying getting to know each other musically. It feels like we’ve got so much more to explore together.”

Wild Flag’s self-titled debut album is out now via Wichita Recordings.

Taken from the Autumn 2011 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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