“We want to make sure everyone knows we’re making music for ourselves, but it connects with people because we’re like them,” says Max Rainer, frontman of folksy indie-rock trio Wilderado. The Tulsa-based band, who have been at it since 2015, seem to be doing quite a good job of connecting with people; their upcoming March 12th show at Johnny Brenda’s has been sold out nearly since tickets went on sale last year. Earlier this week they kicked off their current batch of dates, which currently run through early April. The dates are in support of Wilderado’s self-titled debut LP, which dropped last October on Bright Antenna Records. And while the album has received its share of critical acclaim, during our February phone chat, Rainer tells me that it is the reactions from the fans that stand out the most to him: “I think my favorite reaction is always when someone says they love listening to it straight through, or that they love the sequencing, which is a huge compliment for me because you can’t have great songs without great sequencing.”
When I ask Rainer what shows he’s most excited about, he tells me that Wilderado actually has a special affection for the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection: “Not to toot your horn, but Philly’s always been cool to us. The first time we were there we played with this guy, Ryan Bingham, a singer/songwriter, and he was like, ‘Philly can be rough sometimes,’ and they booed us, but every time we come back there it’s like, ‘Can we win them over?’ and I love that.” However, he also admits that their April 2nd hometown show at The Vanguard is something he’s especially eager to play.
“We’re really excited for Tulsa, where we are. That’ll be the first time in like 15 years of music that we’ll be playing to more fans than family. That’ll be a special night. It’ll be a room with 600 people and only 20 or 25 or so are my family [laughs].”
The true sign of success for a band, though, is when highlights come from completely unexpected places, which Rainer tells me has started happening for Wilderado.
“One of my favorite things happened last week. We went to San Diego and did a radio event for 91X and we didn’t promote it too much, but we played to a packed box. We went to dinner that night and came back and it was full. And we’re playing as a new band, playing as a five-piece and getting used to that, and we had low expectations and a high outcome, which is always what you want.”
Supporting Wilderado on this run of dates are equally impressive indie rockers flipturn, who immediately impressed Rainer: “We wanted to make this a night, a whole evening of a great experience, not just a band that plays before us. We listened to 10 or 15 bands, and they stuck out the most.” He also tells me that he’s anxious to spend some time on the road with them and see just exactly how they do their thing: “Dillon, that guy has a pristine voice, so I’m excited to hear him sing. Night after night that’s so taxing and I always want to see how other people do it.”
I ask Rainer what can be expected of a Wilderado live show and he tells me, “I hope the vibe of the night is just one of fun and relaxation and you leave what you came with at the door.” He also tells me that at this point their headlining sets have proven to be an exciting challenge: “We approach the set just the way we approach a record: ‘How do we make this flow as seamlessly as possible?’ We had a bigger discography that I guess I was prepared to make a 70-minute set out of. We got all the new stuff and seeing how that fits in with the older stuff.” He also tells me that, no matter the show, their audiences never disappoint: “It mostly just seems to be wonderful people. We go to these shows and stand up there and it’s such a wild perspective to see all these people looking back at you, but they’re always so welcoming and it takes a special kind of person to do that.”