Like so many of indie rock’s most intriguing artists of recent years, American Wrestlers’ sophomore record sees the project evolving from a solo project to a full-fledged rock band. American Wrestlers began when Scottish-born, Manchester-residing musician Gary McClure moved to St. Louis in 2014 to marry girlfriend Bridgette Imperial. After the breakup of his band, Working for a Nuclear Free City, and his relocation to the states, McClure decided to make a bedroom album all on his lonesome, using an eight-track Tascam recorder and a pawn shop bass. The self-titled album’s original “official” release was on BandCamp, but last year it was re-released by Fat Possum. The charmingly lo-fi album embraces both late-‘80s twee and shoegaze and early-‘90s alt rock balladry. However, last month American Wrestlers put out Goodbye Terrible Youth (also on Fat Possum) as a quartet (including Imperial on keyboards). The new album (which was not recorded in a bedroom) has a notably bigger sound, along the lines of ‘90s summertime alternative anthems and the same decade’s most sincere power pop, along with a dash of ‘70s art rock. American Wrestlers are currently on the road and will be hitting up our very own Boot & Saddle tonight and I recently got a chance to chat with Gary McClure, who proved to be just as charming as his music.
I ask Gary about the differences between American Wrestlers’ first album, as a solo project, and doing Goodbye Terrible Youth as a band, and he admits that the biggest difference is that Goodbye Terrible Youth was the first recording that was actually intended to be an album: “The first one was never meant to be released; it was just this cassette that I did and then I put it out online. The second one I wrote the same way, but the band came in and kind of played over top of it. The live drums, in particular, really changed things and allowed us to have a much bigger sound.” He also confirms that the band’s latest sound was largely influenced by gen X rockers, but also admits to being inspired more recent songwriters, which would account for it not sounded dated, or “so ‘90s” (a common criticism a plethora of bands have been honestly earning in recently): “The biggest influences were like Siamese Dream and Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the stuff that made me pick up a guitar in the first place. And as far as more recent things, I like artists like Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, artists who are very direct.” Finally, when I ask McClure what can be expected of the band’s live show tonight, he tells me, “It’s gonna be high energy, loud, guitar music.”