With a name like Golden Age Thinking, it would be fair to think Wylder’s new album is an ode to a past time when life was easier, care-free and creative. But the indie-folk quartet – based out of Fredericksburg, VA – reject the idea that such a golden age ever existed.
Released on July 12 with a performance at The Hamilton, Golden Age Thinking is the follow-up to Wylder’s first album Rain and Laura (2016) with returning members Will McCarry (singer/guitarist), Lonnie Southall (guitar/mandolin), Mike Pingley (drums) and Jackson Wright (bass/piano).
“Golden Age Thinking was initially for me about the idea of rejecting nostalgia or trying to sift through the idea that there was once a time that was better,” McCarry explains.
But Golden Age Thinking is more than just a reflection on history and nostalgia, as it also explores loss, sometimes up close and personal and other times as a distant observer. Perhaps the biggest, most personal loss explored by the band was the passing of McCarry’s grandfather.
“The songs are often about painful loss, some of it personal, a lot of it just narratives that have come to me over the last year,” McCarry says. “It was that idea that became even more pressing for me when my grandfather passed away.”
The idea McCarry mentions here was one to place his grandfather in the album artwork. While the frontman already had the idea of including his grandfather in this capacity, McCarry knew when he passed that the artwork – and the album itself – would be his way of paying tribute to his grandfather. The final result is a black and white photo of his grandfather wearing sunglasses and a hat and grandmother in Pamplona, Spain with none other than Ernest Hemingway standing behind McCarry’s grandfather’s left shoulder.
Despite strong elements of pain and loss running throughout the album, melancholic songs like “Ghosts” are balanced with feel-good jams like “The Lake” and “Ready to Break,” tunes reminiscent of the band’s first album. In fact, many elements that are present in their new album can be traced back to their original work, including the inclusion of nature metaphors.
Incorporating nature is “intentional in really specific ways and generally it’s also sort of indicative of who I am,” McCarry says. “I grew up on a farm, in the midst of being outdoors a lot. Animals and nature are my greatest passion outside of music.”
Another feature found in both albums is the tendency for songs to flow into one another. McCarry mentions that the first three songs off the new album – “Oh, Love,” “Fear” and “The Lake” – are connected and could be thought of as one long song.
“I have this obsession with making all the songs fit together, not only sonically but thematically, and when you listen through most of the songs bleed into one another and it becomes this tapestry,” McCarry says.
That idea of flow and connection could also be said of the progressions between the first and more recent albums. While the last song off Rain and Laura doesn’t literally flow into the first song off Golden Age Thinking, the two albums feel like different books in the same series.
“I generally feel that the songs [off Golden Age Thinking] are a natural outgrowth of what we were doing on the last record,” McCarry says. “They feel like the next logical step for Wylder in the best way possible where they’re a little bit folky, but it’s spoken with a darker, more intimate and hopefully more thoughtful approach.”
More than that, the songs off the new album feel like a more refined, mature version of Wylder. While the band gaining more professional experience as time goes by has surely helped, it could also be the fact that production for the new album ran much more smoothly than it did for their first album.
“We recorded with a producer who treated us very poorly. Essentially, he tried to change what we were doing and it was demoralizing,” McCarry says of their first record.
The band spent almost a year recording Rain and Laura while producer Ted Comerford dragged his feet, McCarry says, only for the producer to lose all their recordings and tell the band they had to start the process all over again. They managed to re-record the album in just two days, and despite it being a terrible experience, it helped the band grow and informed them how to step into the new album.
As a young band, more growth is surely in Wylder’s future, and as McCarry mentions, the DC community and the city’s numerous music venues have helped them do so.
“DC is a wonderful place to grow as a band and the community has been super supportive of us. I would say the same for Richmond and then Fredericksburg where we got our start,” McCarry says. “In general there are more venues to play at in DC than pretty much anywhere else we’ve ever gone, except for major city centers like LA and New York, which is pretty special. It seems like the music scene here continues to grow and evolve and we’re just happy to be a small part of that.”
See Wylder perform at Steppin’ Out Festival 2019 on Saturday, August 3 in Blacksburg, VA or lead singer Will McCarry performing acoustically at Jammin Java on Wednesday, September 4. Admission is free for Steppin’ Out Festival with Wylder performing at 2:45. Tickets for Jammin Java start at $10 with doors at 6 p.m. Learn more about Wylder at www.wyldermusic.com.
Steppin’ Out Festival 2019: 318 N. Main Street, Blacksburg, VA; www.blacksburgsteppinout.com
Jammin Java: 227 Maple Avenue E. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1566; www.jamminjava.com