The Wild Reeds
The Wild Reeds can be defined by one word: Harmony. However, the music is nearly indefinable. The sound from this LA based band fronted by Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva dips in and out of multiple genres - some etherial folk, a hint of country twang and some rock and roll rhythm (from Nick Jones and Nick Phakpiseth), but it all comes back to the root of this band's power: the fact that Lee, Howe and Silva harmonize like triplets separated at birth.
In the past year, the Los Angeles based band supported such acts as Noah Gundersen, Langhorne Slim, Della Mae, Spirit Family Reunion and Israel Nash and they've made appearances at Way Over Yonder Festival, The Bluegrass Situation Festival at the Greek in LA, Outside Lands, Echo Park Rising, Claremont Folk Festival, and Lightning in a Bottle.
The Wild Reeds released their formal debut album "Blind and Brave," in August 2014 at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. The album, produced by Raymond Richards at Red Rockets Glare Studios (Local Natives, Parson Redheads, Honey Honey, Dustbowl Revival), expounds on loss, love, growing up, and the experience of artists and workers alike pursuing their dreams.
The start of 2016 finds The Wild Reeds crafting new material for their second release in Los Angeles, resting after full US tours in the fall with stops at the AMA Festival in Nashville in September, The Bluegrass Situation Festival at the Greek Theater in LA and the CMJ festival in New York in October, and gearing up for a busy year on the road.
". . .that's the power of the L.A. band, whose songs are clear and memorable, potent and sometimes delicate. . . Next year ought to be a big year for The Wild Reeds, and this Tiny Desk Concert will show you what I mean." - Bob Boilen, NPR MUSIC
"I've been watching this over and over." - Paul Krugman, The New York Times
"The Wild Reeds sent bolts of lightening through the Basement bar, making new fans of smiling audience members hanging on every harmonized note." - Annie Galvin, Popmatters
"From the L.A. roots scene come The Wild Reeds, who make folk-pop that is rich in three-part harmonies and camaraderie." - NPR All Songs Considered
"It's a snapshot of transition, of worldview formation, of deciding which questions to try to answer, and which ones to leave alone." That's Grant Gustafson (guitar/vocals), theorizing about the genesis of Blank Range's new EP, Vista Bent.
Blank Range was born in Nashville in 2012, by accident. Jonathon Childers (guitar/vocals) and Matt Novotny (drums/vocals) were touring the Southeast with their college band, and through an acquaintance, stayed at Grant's on their way through Nashville. The last stop on the tour after Nashville was a Memphis house show that was canceled, leaving Childers and Novotny in Nashville for a few more days than originally planned. The seeds of the band-to-be were planted during those days and within six months, Childers and Novotny moved to Nashville. Blank Range was formed shortly thereafter as two separate creative conversations fused into a conversation between two front men and two songwriters.
After making the decision to end an eight-year relationship in favor of forging ahead with a then young creative partnership, Childers slipped into emotional disarray, finding discrete and temporary refuge in the bottoms of bottles. The recording process of Vista Bent forced Childers to reckon with his past face-to-face, unearthing a sober purpose and previously buried optimism. The concluding optimistic outlook of "Gardens" and "Circumstances," Childers' two contributions to Vista Bent, are his statements of intent.
Jonathon Childers' songs are raw, they read like attacks on himself and his circumstances. His voice bears the imprint of more years living than he has been alive, getting gritty when he reaches: "Just take me back," he pleads, in vain, as "Circumstances" approaches its refrains."
Gustafson's questions of intent are communicated partially through a lens that was developed during his music studies at North Central College in Chicago, particularly improvisational jazz. "Jeff Parker was the guy. I took a guitar lesson with him - he was involved with everybody. People didn't have regular bands at North Central. One guy would get a gig, and invite a bunch of friends to play. It was all improvised."
Gustafson plays a baritone guitar, custom built by his brother, Alex Gustafson at Chicago Fret Works. An obsession with 1960's Italian Spaghetti Westerns and soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone led Grant and Alex to collaborate on a baritone guitar that would become part of the foundation of the Blank Range sound. Alex rounded out the Blank Range six string customizations with a recent build for Childers.
Will Brown (keyboards) and Matt Novotny also studied music in college. Novotny gravitated toward the complexity of Latin rhythms. "Matt had a lot of ideas for subtle percussion additions that had been floating around in his head," Childers indicates. "Seeing him get to realize some of those on Vista Bent was a real joy." Taylor Zachry's (bass/vocals) persistence for pursuing The Byrds' four-part harmonies and Brown's draw to Duke Ellington's composition style, round out the Blank Range sound that is ever evolving.
Their shared study of music gives Blank Range a wide sonic palette to draw from, and therefore, the ability to craft more refined portraits of feeling. The execution of communicating those feelings in a live setting has been crafted, in part, by members' performances on tours playing with Jessica Lea Mayfield, Michael Nau (of Cotton Jones), Quiet Life, Jonny Fritz, and Rayland Baxter.
Blank Range spent the last three years touring North America, supporting national tours for Benjamin Booker, The Mountain Goats, The Cave Singers, and Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. On an enigma of a weekend, they opened for Alice In Chains in a few Midwestern casinos. Blank Range's live performance has blossomed, in part due to the education witnessed while sharing the stage with Spoon, Drive-By Truckers, Houndmouth, Strand of Oaks, Kevin Morby, The Wild Reeds, and Diarrhea Planet.
Vista Bent speaks straight to the heart of the transition into adulthood, where the emblems of youth live on as indelible parts of a full-fledged identity.