For those of you, like myself, still yet to visit the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection’s very own, recently opened, City Winery, there are a number of good reasons coming up, including our good friends The Last Bison, Holly Miranda, and Scot Sax & Suzie Brown. However, this Saturday, November 9th, I think provides an equally sufficient reason to come out. The Loft at City Winery will be headlined by jazzy, Americana rockers Upstate, while support will come from our new friends, The Way Down Wanderers.
The Way Down Wanderers hail from Peoria, Illinois and boast a sound with roots in bluegrass, but who also readily embrace influences from the worlds of classical, jazz, classic rock, and even punk, metal, and hip-hop. The band are currently touring behind their second independently released LP, illusions, which dropped this February and has received glowing praise from the likes of No Depression and Rolling Stone Country. I recently got a chance to chat with one of two of The Way Down Wanderers’ main singer/songwriters, Austin Krause-Thompson, about the band’s latest album, their future, and just what can be expected of the live show this Saturday night.
Izzy Cihak: I don’t necessarily like to start with a huge question, but I often do. Considering that this band is still relatively new, what have been some of the highlights of The Way Down Wanderers for you, so far?
Austin Krause-Thompson: There have been many moments worth noting along our journey. Some of which are recording our debut album at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, TX; touring the United Kingdom in 2017; and working with Grammy-Award winning David Schiffman on our most recent release, illusions.
Izzy: illusions, has been out for a little while now. Have you had any favorite reactions to it?
Austin: A personal favorite of ours is Rolling Stone Country naming us one of ten Americana bands to watch out for in 2019. illusions also remained on the Americana music charts for 16 weeks following its release, which we were all pretty excited about. There will always be folks who never want bands to change, but for the most part, everyone has embraced this record with positivity.
Izzy: For personal reasons, I have to ask how you hooked up with Roger Manning? I mean, I remember him from my youth when he was doing Jellyfish, which would seem to be nearly a million miles from the kind of music you’re making.
Austin: We honestly had no idea who would be recording keys on illusions until a few days prior to stepping into the studio in LA. All we knew was our producer, David Schiffman, had a friend who had a massive amount of experience and musical intuition. When we realized he was Roger Manning we were all blown away. Just seeing the other albums he has worked on will make your jaw drop.
Izzy: On a related note, do you have any influences that you suspect would surprise fans, whether musical or otherwise?
Austin: Some of us in The Way Down Wanderers come from vastly different backgrounds. Our bassist, John Williams, was in punk bands growing up. While our drummer, John Merikoski, grew up playing in metal bands. Both moved on into classical and jazz music before joining The Wanderers. I myself love my fair share of hip-hop music.
Izzy: You have a ton of upcoming live dates and are playing a bunch of really cool bills. Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play, or just cities that you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?
Austin: Philadelphia, of course, is one we’re always stoked for! Philly Folk Fest was a blast this year, and we’re looking forward to our return to City Winery. Aside from this, we’re excited to make our debut in Burlington, VT at ArtsRiot, and returning to Brooklyn, NY to play The Knitting Factory.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you play City Winery?
Austin: We like to form our live shows a lot like we do an album, with many peaks and valleys. Everything from slow rock ballads, banjo barn burners, to poetry and spoken word can be expected.
Izzy: For that matter, what can we expect of City Winery? Ours just opened and I’m yet to go there, but I’m guessing you’ve at least played the one in Chicago? What kind of vibe do these places have?
Austin: We’ve been lucky enough to play both City Winery Chicago as well as City Winery Nashville. Both are beautiful rooms built for wonderful sounding shows. They definitely have a lively listening room vibe. The atmosphere is one of a kind.
Izzy: And finally, what are you most excited for in 2020? I see you already have some live dates line up. Any chance of some more new music?
Austin: We most definitely are putting together a third studio album piece by piece. We’re hoping to hit the studio in between tours next year with a release in late 2020. Other than this, we look forward to releasing another live album closer to the beginning of the year.