Brooklyn-based Texas duo releases first album
by Andrew Shilling
Apr 19, 2013 | 3684 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Shanda Woods, 29, and Ryan Manchester, 28, came to Bushwick from Amarillo, Texas, four years ago to pursue the fast-paced life of New York City.

It wasn’t until 2011 when they finally decided that what they really needed was already there in front of them.

Two years ago, they formed the two-person indie-rock band We Are The Wilderness, and have been playing shows around the city ever since, formulating their sound and doing what they love.

Their debut album, "Descending From Paramount", is set for May 7 with an album release party at The Glasslands at 289 Kent Ave., on Wednesday, May 22, at 8:30 p.m.

Where did you meet?

Shanda: We were in High School, in our hometown in Amarillo, Texas.

How did you decide to come together and make music?

Ryan: I got a classical composition degree, so I was coming here (New York) to do classical music. So we always wanted to collaborate musically, but we just didn’t know how. I always played in bands, with like four or five people, and learning these fresh techniques helped us hone our skills to be able to create a nice full sound as just two people.

Shanda: While Ryan was doing the classical composition thing, I was going to Columbia University for the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology program. I took the GRE and was like, “I don’t ever want to do this ever again.” Music was just something that was leading up to everything in my life. I also teach yoga and spin classes, and that is a very musically driven thing. I’ve been in musicals and choirs my whole life, so I was just like, you know we’re here, this is New York, this is the place to live and actually do what you want to in life because it’s such a non-traditional place to be.

What instruments do you play?

Ryan: I play guitar and I picked up piano while I was in college, but I am more classically trained on the guitar. We both sort of co-produce the tracks and we self-edit what we’re doing and edit each other’s stuff as well.

Shanda: Starting in elementary school, in middle school and in high school, I was in one of the best choirs in Texas. At Tascosa High School in Texas, I was in the acapella choir in my senior year. I also studied voice at University of North Texas for a little bit.

Your music is very involved. When you play a show, how do the two of you re-create that?

Shanda: We have a live drummer now, so that has added a nice full component to it. We run some of the extra production stuff, we run it through some backing tracks.

Ryan: Through a laptop and the house monitors.

Shanda: We’re also looking to add in analog synth for more of the soundscape.

Ryan: As we add more live elements, we will get away from some of the backing tracks on the computer.

How do you describe the style of music you are playing now?

Shanda: I feel like it is an authentic expression of what we love about music. For the genre, I guess it’s like indie, electronic or pop; that kind of thing. A friend of ours called it Gloom Pop the other day (Ryan laughs) and I thought that was kind of accurate because it’s beautiful, but it’s also kind of visceral in a way and I think that the beauty comes from Ryan’s classical background.

I also have a classical singing background, so we manage to form a melody in a certain way. It is also very accessible. It’s not so artsy or esoteric, even though it is artistic. It’s detailed but not overly so much, because I think a lot of indie music can be slightly pretentious.

Who are your biggest influences?

Ryan: Really my biggest influence musically and otherwise was Phillip Glass, the classical composer. Really I just like the way he’s done it. He came up in a way in the classical world that rejected his music, and he didn’t care. He didn’t compromise anything and did it his own way. He drove a cab until he was 40 and now he’s making money on his music solely, but just that sort of drive and uncompromising passion is what inspired me.

Shanda: I would honestly have to say Radiohead, because that was the first, with my money, I bought OK Computer, not with the help of my parent’s pocket. I remember going and getting it and just that they had been consistently weaving in and out of my life. Now that I am older and creating music, and learning the detail of their songs and just how complex it is, there’s always something new. I can go back and listen to albums from years ago like Kid A and hear different stuff constantly.

What makes Brooklyn the place to be right now for music?

Ryan: Live music culture is changing here drastically. You all have these have clubs in the Lower East Side, in Manhattan, that are closing down that used to be the place to check out live music. I feel like now people are kind of scrambling to find it.

Shanda: We’ve been playing shows here, and I feel like its resurging.

Ryan: I feel like Brooklyn is bringing that vibe back. CBGB’s is closed down and I feel like the club owners are taking the responsibility to bring the music scene to Brooklyn.

How do you come this far this fast?

Ryan: I feel with a clear vision of what we want to do musically, I feel like it has just been this fast track.

Shanda: It’s the clarity of what we want our aesthetic to look like and sound like. We have a very clear vision of it, and it’s the hustle and the work. We’re not getting any younger and I feel like I don’t have the time to trudge up this hill of whether we are going to do it or not.

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