Artist Interviews

Q&A: Wye Oak

By | Published on Thursday 3 March 2011

Wye Oak

Baltimore duo Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack formed Wye Oak in 2006, naming themselves after the former emblem tree of their home state, Maryland. They released first album ‘If Children’ independently in 2007, before signing to Merge Records for sophomore record ‘The Knot’ in 2009.

New album ‘Civilian’, a humming blend of melancholic folk sentiment and shoegaze guitar work, is due out next week through City Slang. Having in the past toured with the likes of Cold War Kids, Wye Oak are currently winding their way through the US with Lower Dens on a non-stop run of live dates. Busy singer and guitarist Jenn paused to draw breath for just long enough to answer our Same Six.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
When I was a baby my mother would sing to me in the bathtub. When I was a child I took piano lessons. When I was a teenager I learned to play guitar. Soon after I started learning to play the guitar, I wrote my first song. Everything else in the world took a backseat immediately.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?

The year of my life that I was living while I was writing these songs. During that year I was often lonely, so there are songs about that. But, fortunately, I also had moments of great happiness, so hopefully the songs are laced with equal parts joy and melancholy.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
We enter the recording process with completed songs, but very little idea of what the arrangements will be like. I can’t help but arrive with ideas for a baseline, keyboard part, guitar solo, etc, but until we actually have the opportunity to hear how certain parts sit together, it’s impossible to know if they’ll work. Sometimes they work better than you ever imagined they could, and sometimes it’s a disaster. So there’s a lot of trial and error in our recording process, which makes it exciting. Occasionally, we are rewarded with happy accidents.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
I’m always inspired by the attitude and output of artists living and working in Baltimore, which is why I live here. Feeling moved by and connected to a piece of art is incredibly special. That feeling is even more powerful and exciting when it’s linked to a friend, someone you know and love. Regardless of what medium they choose to work in or what genre they adhere to, artists and musicians in Baltimore tend to be passionate, genuine, and unique. It’s a wonderful place to come home to.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
No, I’m not really that depressed.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?

All I want from life is to keep making music that I’m excited about, and surround myself with people I adore. If, sometimes, other people (who I may or may not know or adore) like that music, then I will consider myself a truly fortunate person.