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“We’re Our Biggest Fans, and You Can Too”
A Conversation With Wooden Satellites
By Ben Larson
Fort Wayne Reader
Since releasing their EP Why Can’t I Be Enough? last year, local band Wooden Satellites has undergone some major changes, most notably going from a primarily acoustic alt-country/Americana group to a electronic rock act with highly overdriven guitars, a fog machine, and light show to round out their live performances.
I wanted to find out what’s been going on with the group, so I sat down with members C.Ray and Andrea Harvey, and Andy Plank (drummer Eric Frank, the other half of Frank-and-Plank, was absent for the interview), to see what’s been going on that has lead to such a drastic change in the group. Also, Plank asked me to note that he was holding an adorable puppy for the duration of the interview.
Citing influences as wide ranging as Built to Spill, Lady Gaga, and hardcore punk, these days Wooden Satellites has more in common sonically with Omaha’s The Faint than they do with the more Wilco-esque sound of their previous EP. As to how this came about, C.Ray said “We kinda wanted to do something different, but we didn’t know what that was. We tried getting rid of all the electronic elements in the band and just having a piano player play keyboard parts with us. Totally didn’t work.” After that, the band decided to take a break, and then-guitar player Jon Keller left the group. “Really the only reason we got back together was I needed someone to open for the BLK JKS show [at the Brass Rail],” this past September.
That performance turned out to be a red-letter day for the band, culminating with a blistering cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” At that point, W.S. had decided, instead of toning down the electronic elements of the music, to amp them up to the point where they became part of the forefront of the group’s sound. Guitarist Andy Plank had not yet joined the group at this point, and C.Ray said “Originally it was going to be a drum-and-bass electronic band, and then we decided really fast that we should have a guitar player.
Enter Andy, who had seen C.Ray play under the name “Scotty Briggs,” which Harvey describes as “a karaoke show in that I prerecorded everything and just sang along to it in a suit,” to which Andrea added “and it was just as ridiculous as you’re probably imagining it was.” Anyway, after seeing Scotty Briggs, Plank said “I just went up to him and said ‘hey, if you’re ever wanting to do something musical and need a guitar player, I’d be happy to do it.’ So after bugging him a few times we ended up getting together.” And that’s how the current lineup of Wooden Satellites came to be.
As to why they decided to make this change in sound, Andrea noted that the sound they had on their previous EP “lacked the intensity we were looking for.” “We’re still playing a lot of [those songs] but just drastically different in terms of sound,” added C.Ray. He said he had previously been hesitant to rely too much on electronics for fear that they would “suck the authenticity” from the music. However, this fear dissipated, and C.Ray said “nowadays, I just don’t think I care.” Not that he doesn’t care about the music the group puts out, but that he isn’t spending his time worrying about whether or not electronics are “pure” enough. Andrea put it best when she said “the fact of the matter is, when you strip away all of the electronics, C.Ray writes really good songs. They’re songs of substance, so I feel like they can still be taken seriously even with all the crazy stuff around.” (at this point, I may have actually seen C.Ray Harvey blush a little, which is a rare sight) Also in regards to the songwriting itself, “I remember seeing Wooden Satellites a lot before I was in the band,” said Plank. “It really drew me into thinking ‘I wanna play music like that.’”
Nowadays, C.Ray describes the band’s sound as being a cross between Modest Mouse and Lady Gaga, “In that I really admire Isaac Brock’s songwriting, but at the same time we love it when people dance, we want to put on a crazy show, and we like some of the glitter and sheen that comes with that.” If you’ve seen Wooden Satellites lately, you’ll understand the second half of that statement, as the band has recently incorporated a giant fog machine and a constantly evolving light show constructed by Frank, the band’s drummer.
Currently, Wooden Satellites is working on recording and releasing a limited series of 3 small EPs, instead of a full album. Each one will consist of 3 or so songs, and will be limited to 20 hand packaged copies apiece. “We have one completely done,” according to Andrea, which will be released very soon, and are in the midst of recording and mixing the second in the series. Never fear, though; after all the copies are sold, the band will make all of the songs available as free downloads. They also have their live plate full as it were, and are playing pretty much every weekend for the next few months.
So, if you haven’t seen Wooden Satellites in a while, and are in the mood for a bit of some post-modern pop, keep an eye out for their live act, and make sure you grab a physical copy of one of their new EPs (or just wait for it free online, whichever you prefer).