By Hayley Tomkiewicz
There’s a lot of overlap in the names that come up when you’re talking about acts like Meatbodies, Ty Segall, Fuzz, and Mikal Cronin. Think CA-based fuzzy garage rock. But Wand has earned a category of its own.
Now think metal-influenced psych rock with some doomy notes. You’re getting closer. Wand’s sound has evolved substantially since its beginning with the album Ganglion Reef. This is the point at which the nerdy, D & D-fandom essence really shines through. It’s melodic and eerie, with (as always) some serious shreds and a whole bunch of reverb. But my favorite quality of Wand is the somewhat parodic metal riffs, that demonstrate a self-awareness, and an ability to imitate and sometimes upstage the bands that they listened to growing up. 1000 Days and Golem, both put out in 2015, are dreamier, though still serious, seriously anthemic, most of the time.
Now we arrive at Plum, their touring album that came out in September and was showcased at Lost Lake on the 27th. I went to this show in pursuit of my face being entirely melted off when I left, and although this did not happen completely, I was not disappointed. Wand has mellowed out since I last saw them at Schuba’s, but I have no complaints, and would wager my fellow audience members feel the same way. They’ve always been good at a softer sound, are still more than capable of head-banging jams, and can sustain a pretty decent mosh pit. But this new album is more experimental, yet more deliberate. The track Bee Karma, with which they began their set, channels the sort of over-the-top sounds of the past, but on the whole the emotion is more genuine in this album. Their roles as musicians incorporate their own life experience more than older albums, when you were just left gaping, jaw on the floor of the venue, at the three band members’ cohesion, virtuosity, and creativity as artists. Then your ears would be ringing for about a week.
Since then they’ve acquired two more members and a more hopeful sound (listen to Blue Cloud). At Lost Lake Wand really took their time. We heard the classics, but more importantly we knew Plum better by the end, and got some insight into it’s creation. They built up each tune slowly, with direction, one component at a time.
Darto and Serpentfoot opened up for them, and Darto’s lead singer came on stage during Wand’s performance for a cover of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl. It’s no surprise that both these bands love the guy, you can hear the influence in both their work, but with a more psychedelic, contemporary twist. Darto’s new album Human Giving is on Spotify, as well as the short 2014 EP, Hex, which every member of Wand (and I) enthusiastically endorse, if you like crunchy noise rock and a driving beat.
With four albums in 3 years, we can hopefully expect more from the prolific band soon. Check out their KEXP session below, from July of 2016. It’s pre-Plum, but demonstrative of the magic that Wand can produce in a live setting.
Their stuff is on the Drag City website or bandcamp, and Golem is on Spotify.