Editor’s Note: Originally published January 2019
One of the most beautiful things about music are the infinite possibilities, and the ability to execute in a distinguished way. The Way Down Wanderers are no stranger to this notion, and blaze a path all their own.
The Way Down Wanderers first and foremost are songwriters. Their music is bluegrass-centric, but their not pidgeon-holed into following traditional rules when it comes to the limitations of a musical genre. Any fan of bluegrass music will tell you how timeless the classic sound of a banjo, fiddle, upright bass, and acoustic guitar mesh together. The band takes those classic roots, and pour in their own energy and originality. Their unique sound is a blend of raw acoustic instrumentation and thoughtfully crafted vocal harmonies, with a taste of electric fire and percussive drive. With their upcoming album fast approaching, the guys are testing the limits of creativity and possibility now more than ever.
Based in Chicago, these five friends put out their first EP, “Path To Follow”, in 2014. Since then, they’ve hit the ground running, releasing multiple singles, a full length self-titled album in 2016, and playing live shows all over the country. Now, three years later, the band is set to release their sophomore album “Illusions” on February 22nd.
Here at Music Mecca we had the pleasure of talking with the band’s drummer, John Merikoski, to find out a little more about the band’s new album, and how they got to where they are today. Take it away John!
Music Mecca: So your sophomore album “Illusions” comes out February 22nd. How did the process or influence differ between this one and the first one? Do you feel the music went in a different direction this time around?
John Merikoski: With this one there was a lot more comfort and trust in the studio. Our collaboration of trying new things with our sound. There’s that classic instrumentation that people think of with the banjo, mandolin, and upright bass, but we were more willing to experiment with keys, and electric guitar. It was all about what the song needed.
MM: Where did you guys record the album?
JM: We recorded most of it at Sargent Studios over in LA, and then we came back over to Chicago and finished some stuff up at Shirk Studios.
MM: Do you guys have a tour lined up to promote it? If so, where are you headed and when?
JM: We have a handful of shows coming up. Not necessarily a huge album release tour yet, but we have a few shows in Colorado and around the Midwest. We’ll be at a handful of festivals all over the the country. We’re really excited because in April we’ll be at the Bender Jamboree in Vegas which should be a bunch of fun. I think what the plan is, once this record is out, is that we’ll be touring pretty hard for the next few months.
MM: Do you have a show lined up you guys look forward to most in 2019? Can we expect to see you guys play a show here in Nashville any time soon?
JM: Well I know we’re super stoked to be playing our album release show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Chicago is home for me, so it’ll be really great playing a hometown show. I’m not sure if we have anything lined up yet for the Nashville area, but we definitely want to get down there. I know we have some stuff going on in the North Carolina area for sure.
MM: What artists would you say were most influential to this album?
JM: Well our band comes from a whole bunch of different backgrounds, and every one has their own favorite thing, but some of the ones we all love is Jason Isbell, Father John Misty, and we’ve even learned a lot from Dylan’s electric stuff. Definitely The Band, too.
MM: What are your top three songs off the new album that you are most excited for your fans to hear?
JM: One song that I’m really excited for is the single that we’ve put out just a few days ago for the album. It’s called All My Words. I really love that song because, while some songs sound more like our typical roots style, All My Words does a really good job of fusing acoustic music with some synthesizers, spoken word, reggae, and then all that wrapped up with a barn-burning banjo sound. I love this other track Crooked Pines, which is a really pretty song that we’ve been playing live and having been getting really good reception. That was a song that we demo’d that didn’t make it to the album, but we wound up revisiting. And then I’m really excited about the last song on the record, Old Ford. I think it’s a really cool way to wrap up the album. I love that song and I feel lucky be a part of it.
MM: What would you say are some common themes throughout?
JM: I would say the main theme of this album has kind of been the raw enthusiasm it portrays for life. The theme of the songs kind of follows that idea, along with illustrating the sobering reality of how quickly time passes.
MM: How did the Way Down Wanderers come together?
JM: So the two lead singers are from the same town, and they were both in two different bands. They kind of knew of each other. I think they wound up being in a band together, and neither of them was the singer. I think the two of them ended up breaking off and we just kind of connected from the music scene at that time. Then we met our banjo player at a festival up in Michigan. He was playing in a family band and we kind of just stole him from the family band!
MM: Who are your top three favorite artists going into 2019?
JM: Rainbow Kitten Surprise for sure. We think those guys are just incredible. They’re killing it. We love the Infamous Stringdusters too, and we’re gonna be doing some shows with Lindsey Lou coming up . She’s the real deal and an awesome singer, so we’re really excited about that!
To learn more about The Way Down Wanderers and pre-order “Illusions”, visit their website HERE. And be sure to check out their single, “All My Words,” out now on all streaming platforms.