By Brian Ossip, DC Music Live
Wes Tucker & The Skillets will be releasing their new album Afterlens tomorrow night with a show at IOTA. We had a chance to speak to their lead singer Wes Tucker about the new album, their influences, and their thoughts on the D.C. music scene.
Tell me about the recording of the album. Where did you record it? How long did it take to record?
Well, we tracked everything in 6 days at 4 different studios in 3 weekends. The first weekend we tracked everybody live together at Cue Recording in Falls Church, VA. Then I went to New York City and tracked all the vocals and acoustic guitars at Tainted Blue Studios.
And we spent a final weekend adding finishing touches like piano, pedal steel, additional guitars, percussion, trumpet and backing vocals, one day at The Brink in Springfield, VA and one day at our rehearsal space, District Entertainment Recording in Alexandria. Sounds kinda disjointed, but our producer Matt Shane is responsible for the continuity, as well as the mixing and mastering and all around great sounds.
What were some of the influences that helped shape not only the album, but also the band in general?
I’ve always got a lot of different influences rattling around in my head. Artists I’ve been listening to a lot over the last couple years: Ben Harper, Mason Jennings are constants, Sean Hayes, Blind Pilot, Drive By Truckers, Cory Chisel here lately, Jenny Lewis, Lucinda Williams. The biggest influence on how the record sounds though is obviously the band. I bring in a sketch of a song and they build it from there, sometimes tear it apart and build it again. The best songs are the ones that I’m like “Is this something?” and the band is like “Yea, it’s something, but we’re gonna play it totally different than what you imagined.” and it’s great. The song “The Line” happened like that. I remember playing a verse and a chorus and then everyone came in together first try and it was pretty much done the first time we played it. Obviously that’s rare, but when it happens it’s magic and it keeps us coming back to write more songs together.
I think everyone kinda brings their own style to the songs and it’s been great. And they’re all pretty versatile. We can say, “Who should play bass or guitar on this song?” or “Does this need piano here or organ here?” It works and I think we’ve gotten better at it over the years.
You have the release show coming up. Do you have any plans to tour after that or anything specific for promoting the
Basically just trying to get the album to as many ears as possible. We’ll probably schedule some shows in North Carolina and New York City for the beginning of next year and we’ll be playing locally of course.
Where can people get the album?
Going back a little bit, how long has the band been around, and how did you get started?
I moved to Virginia from North Carolina in 2003. Bryan Washam, our guitar player, who I’ve known since like 7th grade, had an empty room in his house, so I moved in with him and we had a pretty great basement studio/practice space. We met Dave Rutkowski, our drummer, through a mutual friend and started playing out as a trio right away. We didn’t have a bass player, so Bryan and I would take turns playing bass, sometimes both playing guitar. We would announce from stage at shows that we were in need of a bass player. It was pretty obvious. Arch Alcantara was playing with a band Lianna, who we opened for, and he offered to play bass. We said “hell yes.” He and Bryan still take turns on bass and guitar. Mark Bower plays piano and many other things in a band called The Walkaways. We asked him to sit in with us maybe two years ago and to play piano on a handful of songs for this new record. He ended up on 11 of them. I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to play with these guys this long.
What are some of your favorite venues in the area to play?
IOTA is always great! We’ve had a couple really fun shows at The Velvet Lounge lately. I credit Aristotle who runs the sound there. We really like Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray. It’s a great neighborhood spot we’ve played at a lot over the years. We played at Arlene’s Grocery in New York City once last year and we liked it enough to release the show as a live album (also free at www.westucker.bandcamp.com). I played at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Chinatown recently for The 9 songwriter series that Justin Trawick puts on and that place is really cool too.
What do you think of the D.C. music scene?
I like it. D.C. is kind of a transient place, meaning young people come here out of college for a few years and then leave and go somewhere else. But I feel like the local music scene has been growing a lot in the past few years. I think social media has really seemed to help keep everyone in touch and aware of each others shows and projects. The sense of community has really increased lately, but maybe I’m just really trying to go out and see a lot of shows. The amount of talent in this area is staggering and you can literally go to a great show every night of the week. I don’t really have any other scenes to compare it to, but I think it’s healthy and the more musicians and music lovers support each other, the better off everyone is.
What are some of your favorite local groups?
Oh man, there are many! The Reserves (who are playing with us Saturday), The Walkaways, The Weathervanes, Norman Rockwell, Round About, June Star. Then there are the singer-songwriters like Drew Gibson (also playing with us Saturday), Taylor Carson, Tom McBride, Scott Kurt of Memphis 59, Laura Tsaggaris, Andy Zipf, Derek Evry, Timothy Bracken, Adrian Krygowski. I could go on and on.
Make sure to check out Wes Tucker & The Skillets tomorrow night at IOTA, and head over to their website to pick up a copy of Afterlens.