You probably haven’t heard of Wand.
I’m not saying that with some hipster, record-store-clerk kind of attitude -- it’s just most likely the truth. And for what it’s worth, the L.A.-based band hasn’t really made it easy on would-be fans. They’ve got no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Instagram feed. Fact is, you've got their website (a jumbled Tumblr full of links, jargon and randomness), their record label (currently Drag City) and whatever other music journalists have written about them to look through.
Bottom line: These guys -- lead singer/guitarist Cory Hanson, bassist Lee Landey and drummer Evan Burrows -- could care less about your social network.
“We don’t want to be involved with that,” Hanson tells me by phone after his band had pulled into Chicago for that night’s show at the Empty Bottle. “But I don’t feel like I’m missing a limb. We’re not a three-legged dog because we don’t have Facebook. People have definitely not had Facebook in the past, and they’ve done just fine. It’s not a hindrance in any way.”
Normally, when someone tells me they “don’t do Facebook” or deactivated their account (“to get away from it all” or whatever) – I eye-roll so hard I can see my brain. They might as well be delighting in the smell of their own farts ("South Park" reference, FTW).
But Hanson doesn’t have an air of superiority about him or any kind of pretentious affectation when it comes to this stuff. He’s being sincere. He just simply doesn’t see the point. According to him, no band has magically achieved long-lasting global stardom because they got the maximum number of friends to RSVP to their Facebook event.
“I feel a lot of bands starting out in the last four or five years are so concentrated on over-exposure and have saturated their community," says Hanson, "and by virtue, saturated their own circle of friends -- but they’re only slightly infecting a larger sphere of people. They’re hoping just that little extra thing, whatever it might be, will translate into a world-takeover thing. But it doesn’t. There’s always a point where people will see your band only has 600 likes and then that will determine what kind of value you have as a band. That sounds twisted to us.”
Of course, he’s right. A band should be represented by their art, not by how many likes they have on Facebook. And that’s precisely what Wand is doing (in Hanson's words: "We've done OK"). In August 2014, Hanson’s friend and God? Records head Ty Segall (who you might have heard is finally coming to town on Jan. 13) released the band’s debut full-length, entitled “Ganglion Reef” – a thick slab of rumbling, psychedelic-flavored sludge rock.
The wheels started turning on the Wand machine; they hit the road and whispers started following their performances. Lo and behold, good ol’ word of mouth is still king. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Segall is a fan, or that Hanson’s played at one time or another in fellow psych-rock bands Together Pangea and Meatbodies. But right around the time when folks started tuning in and turning on to “Ganglion Reef” -- boom -- just like that, only seven months after their debut release, they dropped their sophomore album, “Golem." Whatever whimsical shreds of playful sonic trickery they had hinted at on their debut was promptly obliterated by the face-smashing heaviness of its follow up.
Toeing the line (wherever it may be) between the Melvins, Black Sabbath and Tame Impala may seem like a difficult thing to pull off, but Hanson & Co. do it daftly, whether they know it or not.
But hey, why stop at two if you can complete a trilogy? On Sept. 25, Wand (who you can catch at Soda Bar on Nov. 25) released their wondrously epic “1,000 Days” -- their third studio album of all-new material in one year. That’s simply unheard of in today’s industry album/tour cycle. Beholden to none, their frontman tells me it’s just how they operate.
“I guess when we started the band, something connected within the configuration of Lee, Evan and I,” he explains. “We felt like the musical relationship we were developing could easily give us enough confidence over time that we would feel comfortable producing music at that kind of pace … We don’t want to spend entire band practices talking about social media. We want to focus on making good records and playing good shows. I feel like it makes me crazy to think that being in a band would be about that," Hanson adds with a laugh. "You’re supposed to make records, and a lot of bands don’t focus on that. For me, if you’re trying to communicate with an audience or with an immediate community, the best way to do that is to make records.”
Wand's third release might just be their best effort yet, and in any case, it’s their most varied. Their churning, fuzz-covered Sabbath-esque riffs are delivered next to oddball acoustic odes and interludes of left-field, poly-rhythmic sonic experimentation. When I ask how it came together, Hanson breaks it down:
“I think we really felt at home in the studio and performing. We were confident about the way that we perform together, and it made a huge leap for us … The performances were really key. With ‘1,000 Days,’ we were making so many changes in the studio: performing [the songs] live, talking about them, changing them, taking turns and altering compositions at every stage -- we were trying to do as much as we could to disrupt whatever pathways we were building, whether it be with our songwriting or melody styles.”
So now that they’ve released three records in a year, what’s next? More of the same? Can we really expect the band to keep producing material at this kind of clip?
“We’re going to do what we have been doing,” Hanson told me. “After a tour is done, we’ll give it a moment to recollect and then start working again. We don’t have a real trajectory or goal or real deadlines. Everybody has other projects that they’ve been neglecting because they’ve been fueling this psycho Wand machine -- and it’d be nice to have a little time to fulfill those dreams and finish those records and those projects before going back on the road. And one of those things is working on a new Wand record. There’s no timeline -- and I’m stoked about that.”