What can I say about this next band? They were unexpectedly rad in a terrible sounding venue. They’re one of those bands that as soon as they start playing, you whip your head toward the stage and stay silent (and frantically whoop/clap at the end of songs or stomp along with them) until the end of their set. They’re THAT band. Badass Band 78 is Will and the Won’ts.
I was told by a fellow show frequenter and friend of mine, Derek, about Will and the Won’ts. I happened to see them when they ended up on a lineup with The Absolute. I am not going to mention the name of the odd, awful sounding Hollywood venue we were at because what really matters is that against those odds Will and the Won’ts kicked serious ass. What you get from this band live is crazy fun energy, and songs ranging from Beatles/Dylan-esqe rock n roll to rootsy blues to old school Southern country. I might even go as far as to say think early Stones albums. No matter what, they draw the crowd to them and get people fired up, and that’s what LA crowds desperately need.
Their album, ‘The Traveler’, features nine amazing tracks, the first track being one of my favorites, ‘Dead and Gone’. This tune is a bit more on the country side, heavy on keys and extra twangy guitar. It showcases lyrics like, “You flow through my mind/you’re making me sick/I’m thinking maybe I should get over it/and just to top it all off/your love for me is dead and gone…” who can’t relate to obsessing about a former love who has since moved on? Other favorites include ‘What’s in Your Mind’, a stomp worthy track, heavy on drums and bass. Will sings his heart out about what can be a dark subject, not fitting the mold of exactly what someone wants, as much as you truly want to. This is exemplified by the lyrics of the chorus, “Oh well I want to love you bad/oh but darlin’ it’s a drag/because I can never be what’s in your mind…”. This one has a killer guitar solo at the climax that releases the anger you can truly feel resonating behind these lyrics. The third track I’ll mention is, ‘Empty As I Can Be’. Harmonica eases you into this mellower, lighter track. “Get out of my thoughts/I don’t want you no more/I’m blaming you for all that’s gone wrong/But that’s not who I am/I try to be a nice man/But I’ll be evil before too long…” This track, though again a grim subject, is put together in a way that allows you to appreciate the release of the feelings behind it in a pleasing way. These guys do extremely well at using their instruments to really drive home the force of the emotional content of their lyrics, not all bands are truly skilled in that aspect. This makes experiencing their songs absolutely cathartic both live and on their album.
Will, Andrew, Gui and Matt took a few minutes to chat with BBB before a show at Silverlake Lounge not too long ago. Read on to find out how they met, why their songs don’t require a lot of musical polish, and why they believe the populous needs to appreciate music more.
When and why did you start playing music?
Will: I was about 10 and I saw this Beatles documentary that I was captivated by. So, I wanted to play bass. A little bit before that I was playing drums but that was because I wanted to be as cool as my friend. But I really got into it when I was about 10, and I played a lot in New Mexico where I am from. I moved here and met these guys.
Andrew: Basically my neighbor got a drum set and taught me a beat. I fell in love.
Matt: With your neighbor?
Andrew: Yeah. And the rest is history.
Gui: Well, my sister started to play piano when she was seven so I just followed her. But then I could not keep up with the whole practice thing so I ended up…
Will: Now you’re the only one in the band who practices.
Gui: Seven years later I ended up on the bass and fell in love it with it. I guess the rest is history.
Matt: I started when I was really young. I got a little kid guitar when I was probably about four for Christmas. I didn’t really use it, but then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughn. I didn’t know those things could be done on a guitar. So I started as a guitar player. Recently, I picked up the keys with these guys.
Will: And lap steel.
Andrew: Yeah, he learns how to play everything. He learns in like a day. I think he learned to play harmonica in what, three days?
Matt: Yeah, it was about three.
Will: Be fair, harmonica doesn’t really have any wrong notes. He is very talented though.
Andrew: Yeah, he joined the band playing bass.
Matt: Yeah, I was starting a band and I wanted Will to play guitar in my band. I was like, “Oh I need a drummer.” And Will says, “Oh, I know this guy Andrew.” We had maybe met once. So we started rehearsing as the three of us and it was fun. Then Will had a gig and Gui was back in Brazil and they needed a bass player so I said, “I’ll figure it out.” So I played bass. I think we played about ten shows before Gui got back. When Gui got back I was like, “I gotta learn something quick to stay in this band!” So I picked up keys.
When people ask you what your music sounds like, how do you describe it?
Will: This is my least favorite question because it’s tough. We have my influences, which are Beatles, Dylan, The White Stripes and all of Jack White’s projects. I grew up in this sort of Alt Country scene that was heavily influenced by older folk music, I really like Delta Blues music, like Robert Johnson and Lead Belly. So we try to have an element of that. I try to keep everything rooted in roots music because I think that is important to keep around and in people’s awareness. It’s forgotten easily.
How does your creative process typically work?
Will: I write songs pretty fast usually. I have a little moment of an idea or whatever or I’ll pick up a guitar. I usually sort of get a rough rhythmic thing to write all the words. I find if it takes me more than about ten minutes to write the words to a song, it’s usually not a good idea. I believe creativity comes from the subconscious and if you overthink it too much it loses that magic. I’ll spit that out then later refine it. It usually doesn’t take a lot of time but it can be months later when I revisit it. Matt and I just wrote a song together so that was interesting. We both did it separately in a way, he had a verse and a chorus idea and I sort of wrote that rhythm and we tried to find something that worked. We don’t really spend a lot of time on complex arrangements; we do what feels right.
Matt: We just run through it a couple times and it comes together.
Will: The songs are simple and they speak to what needs to be done already. I try to write things that don’t require a whole lot of musical polish because I think the song should speak for itself so the parts naturally evolve.
What do you guys have coming up the rest of this year?
Will: We just got news we are going to Nashville in October for a showcase so we are gonna try to figure our a little tour. Maybe stop in Santa Fe. Maybe some other stuff along the way. We’ve never done that. We are looking to do some more recording in the future.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Will: I wouldn’t necessarily change the music industry, but I would like the populous to like and appreciate music more.
Andrew: That was my answer.
Will: Yeah, the industry is like any industry; the concept sucks. But if people would appreciate it more and not take whatever is fed to them that would create the market for better music. Right now the market is whatever they shove at people and no one questions it or cares. There needs to be more involved feedback from the public, everybody has that responsibility. Get on it!
One song you never get tired of.
Will: I get tired of my songs a lot faster than I get tired of anyone else’s.
Matt: That’s why every time we play its different.
Andrew: ‘What’s in Your Mind’ that one never gets old, its fast and loud.
Matt: ‘Dead and Gone’ is always pretty solid too.
Will: They’re all the same to me.
Best live show you have ever gone to.
Gui: There is this band that plays every Monday at Hotel Café, Jason Joseph & The Spectacular. They are all amazing musicians, it’s a must see.
Matt: LCD Sound System at the Hollywood Bowl was pretty rad, I used to know someone who worked there so I got hooked up with tickets in the Orchestra Pit. The lights are insane and the energy was fun. Before I was in Will and the Won’ts watching Will play was pretty cool.
Will: I saw Dylan in 2009, that was pretty awesome. I wasn’t huge super into them for a while, but I also liked seeing The Black Keys. My first concert was actually Eminem. I haven’t been to a whole lot of concerts.
Andrew: I have two and they couldn’t be more different. The Big Four Fest was one with Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeath. I’m a big ol’ metal head. That was a whole day of just holy shit. The other is this band called Honey, Honey. Will and I went and saw them at The Roxy and it was great.
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Will: I watch a lot of documentaries.
Gui: I cook.
Andrew: YES, so well!
Will: He cooks directly into my mouth.
Matt: Baseball. I played college baseball and then I got hurt. That was my thing for a long time.
Andrew: I don’t play any sports. I watch a lot of movies and played a lot of video games until my TV broke. I am obsessed with collecting records now, not sure if that counts. Put me down for video games for 400!
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what are some bands you would feature?
Serif, Andy Babb and the big ol’ band, Jason Joseph and The Spectacular, and Seven Boys (Gui’s Brazilian Cover Band).
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