The Wans are like the sound child of Black Sabbath and Nirvana with a crush on the Clash, and after taking some time to perfect their pure rock sound, the three-piece is back with a new record and “lots of shiny stuff,” as their front man, Simon Kerr, would say. Since releasing their self-titled EP in 2012, the Nashville act has taken some time to compose He Said, She Said, and with the record making a debut this Tuesday, September 9th, it seemed only fitting that they would throw down at the Basement to celebrate its release tonight. You’ve heard the EP and haven’t heard much since, but don’t let the minimal material fool you. The Wans are here with “strong songs with a lot of fuzz” and a record that reflects the musical idolatry of the 90s in a mirror of modern rock.
Even though the seeds have been sewn in Nashville, The Wans have a heritage outside of the South. Simon Kerr (vocals and guitar), the Irish ringleader of the group, moved to America when he was twelve with a songwriter family and a pride for his home country that gave birth to the band’s name. “It’s an every day kind of saying. You say them wans, them wans over there. Everything goes back to Ireland, I love that country so much.” Having grown up in such a folk concentrated culture with a sincere respect for literature and written language, it makes sense that Kerr transformed his appreciation for Oscar Wilde and James Joyce into grunge poetry over gritty progressions. In his words, he began to craft “song based songs,” and it’s evident in the EP and even more so in the new record.
Kerr met Mark Petaccia (vocals and drums) back in April 2011 and found Thomas Bragg (vocals and bass) after the EP release, and the gang has been strong ever since. Their musical chemistry is nostalgic for the 60s and 90s while brewing a much needed and honest rock sound through simplistically solid songs. Kerr wrote the EP on an acoustic before he even met the band, and this contrast allows the anticipated record to have a conceptually novel sound. In comparison to the writing process of the first release, the band wrote He Said, She Said as a collective, allowing the songs to be more cohesive. “We didn’t go in to create this kind of song. It’s just natural. We didn’t plan for it to sound like a 90s band, that’s just how it came about.” And with the help of producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson), the record was cut completely live in his analog studio and was catalyzed by whiskey and little sleep. “The recording studio is really intimidating for me,” comments Kerr, “but the songs evolved in the studio. It was cool to have the guidance of Cobb.” Vance Powell (Jack White, Arctic Monkeys) graced the process with his talent and mixed the album, and the efforts of all involved crafted one of the most solid records to come out of Nashville this year.
He Said, She Said returns to the grunge basics in such a successful and attractive manner that makes the album a 10-track anthem for present-day alternative and rock. “Never Win,” the record’s opening track and Kerr’s favorite, begins the album experience with a heightened sense of stylistic awareness, highlighting the strong vocals and the clear grime of the dark electrics and punching rhythm. The progression of the record is fuzzy and dirty while still sounding like organized chaos. Don’t underestimate the slower medium in the album when “Holy One” and “I Can’t Fix You” consume you, for “Take Me Home” pierces the systematic stream of grunge with a momentary ballad that goes dark in a minute with a metal chorus and an impulsive beat. The album finishes strong with “Black Pony,” a track automaker BMW has used in a recent commercial, and it resonates as a legendary sound that confuses you on the year but makes you understand that this is real rock and true talent.
As Kerr says about the album, “we’ve been sitting on it a long time. I’m ready for it to grow its own legs and go.” Watch it go and hear it first tonight at the Basement. And as always, support your locals and go buy one of the best 2014 releases this Tuesday.