I’m pretty sure if you lined up every indie band member in Los Angeles and made them join hands, you’d create a low-slung hipster equator belt visible from orbit. Sufficed to say, it’s rare the phrase “new indie band from Los Angeles” captures my attention.
The Wild Reeds, a folk group that falls into the aforementioned category, managed to penetrate my steely wall of prejudgments and make a lasting impression. They reminded me that before Urban Outfitters catalogues hijacked the word, indie was simply a shortened version of independent, meaning that the artist in question didn’t belong to any major labels. This definition still holds true for The Wild Reeds, who were lucky enough to have their long-awaited album Blind & Brave produced by Raymond Richards, who also engineered quickly rising Los Angeles band Local Natives’ 2013 album Hummingbird.
Formed in 2010, The Wild Reeds began as a three-part harmony girl group and released three self-produced albums together, Songs for the Morning, Afternoon and Evening (2010), Even When the Strong Winds Blow (2011) and A Merry Little Christmas (2011). In early 2013, The Wild Reeds switched things up, adding new members and instruments to the group. Presently, the band is comprised of three front-women, Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe, as well as Nick Jones, who contributes drums and percussions, and Nick Phakpiseth, who can be found on bass guitar and upright bass. The young women are skilled vocalists and multi-instrumentalists, incorporating guitar, harmonium, banjo, and auto harp into many of their performances.
I saw The Wild Reeds perform during their recent holiday residency at cozy Silverlake venue The Satellite. If you’ve spent any time around up-and-coming bands, you may be familiar with, or even expect, a self-righteous “fake it till you make it” attitude some have adopted in effort to distinguish themselves from competition. I was pleased to see the band address their crowd congenially with dimpled, glowing smiles.
“I worked until 4pm today,” Kinsey gushed, “And I am so happy to spend the rest of my night here with all of you.”
It’s this humility that I believe helped the band raise over $8,000 through an Indiegogo campaign and ultimately allowed them to hire Raymond Richards and complete their first studio album. The Wild Reeds is approachable both in sound and attitude, reminding me more of a band I’d see locals two-stepping to in a Nashville dive than performing in front of a self-conscious Los Angeles crowd (God forbid someone sees you enjoying the music!). Somehow, their folksy, down-home spirit permeated the dance floor, inspiring more than a few do-see-dos and even a random limbo line.
The Wild Reeds were gracious enough to answer a few questions for me after the show and expounded on recent changes within the band, plans for 2014 and why their holiday residency is almost a kismet opportunity.
How has adding more instruments & members (in particular, male members) changed the dynamic of the band?
TWR: We often contemplated how adding guys to the band would shift the dynamic. We decided that we ultimately wanted the best members for the band, regardless of gender. Having two guys is really great because it gives everyone a greater perspective, and the guys have each other to lean on as well. Adding the rhythm section in general has helped our songs rise to a greater potential. Our sound has become more well-rounded, and we’ve simply been able to gain volume! We still perform as a three-piece at times, and we’ll never abandon that, but it feels great rising to a new, different level.
Tell me about Blind & Brave. How did you come up with the name? What were your inspirations for the album? When can fans expect it to be released?
TWR: Blind and Brave is definitely the anthem for the album. I wrote it about a friend of mine who had just moved to Los Angeles, and was getting his start in the music industry. Being new to the area, he wasn’t aware of difficulty of breaking into the industry, as well as the typical dangers of living in a big city. He had a determination and positivity that was contagious, and I was really inspired by him. The song is for people struggling to fulfill their dreams, to empower them to get through the gritty stuff, because the outcome will be worth it.
Sharon: Our inspirations for the album all came from different places. My personal inspirations were from past loves, and the feminist perspective. Others of us were inspired by family, past loves, and simply each other.
TWR: We’re hoping to release the album in early 2014. We have been trying to find just the right time to get it out there, after all, our IndieGoGo supporters should get it sooner than later!
You have a holiday residency at The Satellite & you’ve released Christmas songs in the past. What is it about Christmas music that appeals to you?
Kinsey: Technically, our first unofficial gig as The Wild Reeds was a Christmas fundraiser show. After that night, we were encouraged to keep going with the project. I guess Christmas essentially brought us together, even though (funny enough) we don’t all enjoy it. A lot of Christmas songs that we’ve chosen to perform and record are more mellow, and have more of a calming nature with the three-part harmonies and acoustic instruments.
The Wild Reeds could not be a more fitting name for the band that has slowly sprouted on our Los Angeles shores and continues to weather rip tides, proving that it is our roots which ground us and foster growth. The melodic harmonies and skilled acoustics on their forthcoming album Blind & Brave are sure to change the minds of any skeptics and earn fans across genres. Keep an eye out for The Wild Reeds on the upcoming festival circuit, I think 2014 is going to be their year.
Click here for The Wild Reeds touring information and to hear their latest releases.