Despite a newfound maturity (relatively speaking), Austin, TX’s Wild Child are still more than suited for their moniker. Earlier this month the indie folk outfit released their sophomore effort, The Runaround, on Ben Kweller’s The Noise Company. The album was even produced by Kweller, himself. While the band’s 2011 debut, Pillow Talk, garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim, in a recent chat with (co) lead vocalist and baritone ukulele player Alexander Beggins, he tells me that their debut really captured the band at their earliest stages of becoming songwriters and finding their sound, while The Runaround features something a little more focused and creative, yet without losing any of the band’s charm. The result is a very whimsically playful organic sound, incorporating elements of jazz, Americana, and even a bit of chamber pop.
Wild Child began with Beggins and Kelsey Wilson (violin/vocals) as a folk duo, with Wilson taking a shot at singing for the first time in her entire life. However, as they recorded Pillow Talk, the other four members seemed to enter the fold quite naturally, with Evan Magers on keyboards, Chris D’Annuzio on bass, Carey McGrraw on drums, Saide Wolfe on cello, and (a little later on) James Bookert on banjo. The band have done quite a bit of playing live and evolving in the two years since their debut and earlier this year they won both “Best Indie Act” and “Best Folk Act” at the Austin Music Awards and were also featured on Last Call with Carson Daly. They’re currently in the middle of a US tour that will have them making a stop at the North Star Bar this Friday, October 18th, which, according to Beggins, is going to be quite the exciting evening. Read about that and the relatively brief history of Wild Child in our recent chat.
Izzy Cihak: Earlier this month you released The Runaround, your sophomore effort. How do you think the album compares to your debut?
Alexander Beggins: So much has changed since the release of our first album, Pillow Talk. I feel like we were just kids when we recorded that album; I feel like it comes through in the songs, even. We were beginning songwriters who didn’t know anything about recording a proper album. In a lot of ways, that made Pillow Talk endearing. We wanted to keep a lot of those same endearing qualities, but polish it up a bit. Kind of like buying a brand new pair of white Vans and then dragging your feet through the dirt. Make sense?
IC: What do you consider to be the album’s biggest influences?
AB: I’d say the biggest influence on this album has been the evolution of our live show. We realized quickly after the release of Pillow Talk that our bigger songs were more fun to play live and translated better in a noisy bar environment. We were getting our feet off of the ground and were playing whatever shows we were offered, which usually meant loud, noisy bars, filled up with drunk people (which was great). I guess we started tailoring some of our writing around shining in that environment. Big, loud, crazy, and fun, while retaining the core elements that make us who we are at the core.
IC: Do you have a particular favorite track? I’m especially fond of “Here Now.”
AB: As cheesy as it sounds, they all have special memories. “Here Now” is one of our favorites as well, though. We went out to Wimberley, TX one day, just Kelsey and I; Wimberley is a little Texas town outside of Austin where Kelsey grew up. There’s a beautiful river that runs through the town and we went out to the dock where she grew up playing during the summers and sat down with a journal and my ukulele and tried to write a song that captured that one moment. I feel like we did a really good job of doing so. Every time I hear the song it takes me back to that day.
IC: The album was produced (and released) by Ben Kweller, who has a pretty extensive and impressive resume. How did that come about and how was the experience of working with him? Do you feel like he helped to bring a new or additional dimension to your sound?
AB: Ben connected us about a year ago and said he was interested in producing our new album, so we all met up at a little dive bar and chatted. It ended up with a lot of whiskey and a big time blaring of our Runaround demos in his car. We got along right away and knew it would be a great fit. He was really good about letting us make our own decisions, while helping us harness our sound. He was also such a positive presence in the studio, which was absolutely helpful and amazing.
IC: In addition to completing and releasing your latest album, what would you consider to be your highlights of 2013? You’ve already done quite a bit of touring.
AB: Getting to tour with our really great friends in Shakey Graves and Marmalakes made for an unforgettable summer. It sometimes gets lonely when we just travel by ourselves.
IC: And on the note of touring, you have a number of upcoming shows, including a stop here in Philadelphia at the North Star Bar. What can be expected of the live experience?
AB: Rowdy, beautiful, and full of whisky. Also, get ready for Kelsey to facepaint everyone.
IC: What are your plans for after this tour wraps? What’s in the works for 2014… if you even know yet?
AB: Pedal to the medal, baby. We’ll be on the road a lot of next year and hopefully get into some new markets, like Europe.