Interview: New York Alt-Folk Band Damn The Kid Talks Debut EP ‘Never Wild’

Emerging alt-folk band Damn the Kid is making their presence known with their debut EP, Never Wild, which officially hit streaming platforms on March 18th.

The band, hailing from both Upstate and Brooklyn, New York, recorded the EP at Business District Recording in Binghamton, New York, and it was produced by Hunter Davidsohn. (Frankie Cosmos, Porches). 

The five-song record is a genre-bending collection of coming-of-age stories – mostly women’s stories – told from the perspective of lead vocalist and songwriter Amber Winestock. The band is also composed of members Raphael Tombasco (bass, percussion, harmonica), Luke Brown (bass, guitar, piano), and Nate Brown (drums). 

The lyrically-driven songs on Never Wild tell powerful stories, and also features a most unique Townes Van Zandt classic. With the release of their debut EP, this only marks the beginning of Damn The Kid’s journey. 

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The band answered a few questions concerning the new record, their journey, and what the future looks like.

So what’s the origins and humble beginnings of Damn The Kid?

We were initially going to go with our lead singer’s name and be “Amber and the…” (insert plural noun), but a band name seemed more original to us. We didn’t come up with the name until after our first recording session in early 2021. Amber will be going for a Masters in Children’s Literature this fall, so if anything, the name “Damn the Kid” offers empathy for the younger generations and is opposed to a system that keeps a growing person from self-actualizing.

Our humble beginning, hmm… our bassist, Raphael (“Raph”), and Amber met at a serving job in Binghamton, New York, of all things! Once a musical partnership was underway, Raph then got longtime friends, Nate and Luke Brown, on the project to play drums and lead guitar. We all got so attached to the songs that we couldn’t help but see the project through, and now here we are! I think it really all started with believing in the songs.

You just released your debut EP, Never Wild. What makes this collection of five songs so special to you? 

Not only is this our first extended project, but it’s a project where the art was not compromised. These songs tell coming of age stories of people who seem to be on the down and out, and those are the stories that are perhaps the most compelling. A song on the EP, “The Lamb,” draws inspiration from the William Blake poem, “The Tyger.” Overall, Amber Winestock, lyricist and vocalist of the group, incorporates a singer-songwriter/troubadour sensibility, a powerful, yet dark femininity, and raw vocals, making Never Wild a passion project and literary journey. We’re told that some of the songs are just straight-up catchy too.

Can you talk about the writing and recording process behind it? Are there any common themes or motifs throughout?

The songs tell mostly women’s stories, which we’ll get more into later. “Never Wild” is the song that got us started, recorded on old smartphones. There was a spark, an initial magic in that recording, and we wanted to preserve that, so we kept that original recording for the EP. We gave it to a friend, Ian Harris, at Futureappletree Studio 2 in Illinois to give it some solid analog treatment. The rest of the songs were recorded at Business District Recording Studio in Binghamton, New York, as live band recordings. I think that live energy helped capture more of the emotions of the songs. 

I see you have a Townes Van Zandt classic on there in “St. John The Gambler.” What made you choose this particular song from his vast collection?

I’m so happy you asked this question- I figured Townes fans would wonder about that! First off, it’s a ballad, and it tells the story not of “St. John the Gambler,” but of a particular woman whose life he impacted, so I think it’s important it be sung by a woman. Moreover, it tells the story of a once impressionable, now abandoned woman, the kind of story in other songs on the EP: “Capo” and “Ava’s Town.” It just so happened that this got released during Women’s History Month; it tells a history, perhaps not a pleasant one, but a true one for too many women that go unaccounted for.

How did you get hooked up with Hunter Davidsohn and how was that experience of having him mix and record the EP? 

It was a very quick and natural thing— that’s the beauty of being in a smaller city like Binghamton. We met through a friend in the Binghamton community. We began recording very much during a rough time in the pandemic, and we wanted to support local business. Hunter gives artists the time they need in the studio without us having to worry about the clock. Newbies to studio recording, it was comforting to work with someone who guided us and took our work seriously.

Did you find it difficult to order the songs? What made you choose “Capo,” and “Never Wild” as bookends?

It wasn’t too hard. We wanted the project to start out with a bang— with a lot of energy. “Capo” is a fun song, but it’s also serious and lyrically dense; it felt like a good way to rope the listener in for the songs to come. There is a hopefulness in “Never Wild,” a call to “get back in the saddle again,” as Blaze Foley might put it, which seemed like a good note to end on.

What does the band’s songwriting process typically look like?

So far, the music has served the stories of the songs. Amber writes the lyrics and melodies with a basic chord progression, and then the band takes it from there. We are looking forward to diversifying the process as we go, and already we are starting to jam and come up with things that way, but this has been a good way to put our first foot forward and get started. 

Do your New York roots play into the sound and style of your music?

Absolutely! New York is a kind of character that appears throughout our songs. “Never Wild” was written when Amber returned to her home city of New York after some travels abroad. Our debut single “Give Up the Mountain” features the line, “Give up the mountain for your New York state.” We have songs in the works that are more explicitly about New York that we’re really excited to release. Many of our songs are about homecoming, wanderlust, and an ambivalence about home, in this case, New York, which many who have been through the thick of the city can understand. 

What does a dream gig look like for the band?

A (folk) festival would be amazing! Intimate spaces are nice too because we feel that’s where the lyrics can really be heard.

What else might Damn The Kid have in store post-EP release?

Well, now it’s time to get to work on upcoming singles and the album! In the meantime, we’ll be playing shows in NYC and Central/Upstate New York.

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