Interview: Wanderer

It feels right. I think we’re at the point in the life of the band where a full length was necessary to show what we’re capable of after 7+ years of playing, writing, and touring.

With their new album Liberation From A Brutalist Existence, Minneapolis band Wanderer meld together grindcore and hardcore with plenty of D-beat grit to create a caustic aural assault that is as exhilarating as it is venomous. In a great interview, Gavin Brown caught up with all four members of Wanderer, vocalist Dan Lee, drummer Mano Holgin, bassist Jack Carlson and guitarist Brent Ericson to hear all about Liberation From A Brutalist Existence and what went into its creation as well as discussing their evolution as a band, influences, the extreme music scene in Minneapolis, standout gigs and their eagerness to hit the road again.

Ahead of the albums release on Friday 18th June, Echoes and Dust is also proud to present an exclusive premiere of Liberation From A Brutalist Existence for you to indulge in the brutal Wanderer experience in full.

E&D: Your debut album Liberation From A Brutalist Existence is out soon. Are you excited to get this album out there?

BE: We are extremely excited to release this record. We recorded in the late summer of 2019 and it feels amazing to finally release it out into the world almost two years later. It also feels incredible to be interviewed about the record for Echoes and Dust, as they were one of the first websites I sent my very first metal band’s EP to when we released it almost 10 years ago when I was in high school.

E&D: After releasing a few EPs, how does it feel to be releasing your first full length record?

BE: It feels right. I think we’re at the point in the life of the band where a full length was necessary to show what we’re capable of after 7+ years of playing, writing, and touring. It sort of feels like we’re a “real band” now.  

E&D: How did the creation and recording of the album go?

BE: The writing began very soon after we wrapped the touring for the Abandoned EP, while our ex-vocalist Brandon was still in the band. Brandon initially wrote their own version of the song ‘Contented’ before leaving the band, which is why they are featured on that song with a guest spot. Dan joining changed the trajectory of our sound, as his background is in the metal scene and his vocals are more reminiscent of death metal. The subsequent songs took us on a different path than we’d been down before, and we are all very proud with the outcome. We recorded with our good friend Adam Tucker at his Signaturetone studio here in Minneapolis, who we worked with for ‘Gloom Daze’ and who mixed and mastered the Abandoned EP. He made us sound huge, we highly recommend his audio services to literally anyone looking to work with a true professional and have their music sound amazing.

E&D: Did the pandemic hinder you at all when you were making the album or did you just get on with it and work round it?

BE: The pandemic didn’t hinder the making of the album, but it definitely delayed the release process. We had almost everything ready for release by February of 2020, but then the world shut down. We decided to take it easy through the early months of the pandemic and get a better grip on the situation. Eventually, we just got tired of waiting and decided to release it regardless of the state of the world in October 2020, and began the release process with Entelodon Records for vinyl and Bad Mouth Records for cassettes. Thankfully our timing now has been great, and with the June 18th release date, we may be able to play a real release show by the end of the year.

E&D: What subjects do the songs on the album deal with?

DL: Most of the songs on the album are about escapism in one way or another, whether that be escape from toxicity, escape from reality, or escape from life. Also when I wrote the lyrics for this album I was thinking a lot about sci-fi movies and ideas about artificial intelligence. So what came out in the lyrics in the end was this hybrid of very personal and traumatic themes mixed with science fiction tropes.

E&D: Liberation From A Brutalist Existence has a very claustrophobic and caustic vibe to it. Was this always your intention with the album?

BE: It wasn’t necessarily the intention, but ultimately I think that’s how our music ends up coming out. We all really appreciate the sense of urgency and immediacy some bands bring, and that kind of feel is influential to us.

JC: Our sound has definitely been evolving over the years towards a “harder” style. I think a big factor with this record is that we’ve tuned down to A for half of the songs. Our music has always been frantic and heavy, but I think we’re getting closer to our niche with this batch of songs.

E&D: What has the feedback to your new material been like so far?

BE: The feedback has been great so far! Finally showing everyone what we sound like now, with songs that we’re all excited about, has been like a weight off of our shoulders. We’d been sitting on the recorded material for so long that it was hard to have to guess what people’s reaction to it would be, and we’re so glad it’s been as positive as it’s been so far.  

E&D: Can you tell us about the artwork for Liberation From A Brutalist Existence and what it represents?

BE: The front cover artwork is a painting by artist Azeta Azadpour. Azeta was actually our vocalist Dan’s roommate at the time we were looking for artwork, and her work stuck out to us with the starkness and colour palette. We basically came up with a prompt that was an amalgamation of lyrical themes and colour choices. We also gave a similar prompt to Caleb Butcher, who did the back cover artwork. Because of that, I think the artworks do a fantastic job of representing the album as a whole.  

E&D: It’s been three years since your last release, the Abandoned EP. How have Wanderer evolved as a band in that time?

BE: Since Abandoned, we’ve changed quite a bit. Dan replaced our ex-vocalist Brandon, which ushered in a stylistic change as Dan’s vocals are more guttural than Brandon’s mid-range screaming. We started writing in different tunings and approaching different compositional ideas as well.

E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Wanderer and how you got started as a band?

JC: Mano and some of our former members were playing music under a different name prior to Wanderer, and they needed a bass player when they decided to adopt a more aggressive sound. We recorded our first EP in February of 2014. The band had 4 songs written and I only knew 2 of them when I showed up to record my parts. From there, we started playing a lot more shows in the DIY community in Minneapolis, and did our first tour that summer. Ever since then we’ve been really motivated to maintain a local presence and tour as much as possible. We’ve had a few member changes over the years like Brent mentioned, but our priority has always been writing songs that we would want to listen to.

E&D: Who are the biggest influences on the music of Wanderer?

BE: We have a wide range of influences that come together to create an interesting web of ideas that we reference. Bands like Trap Them, Converge, Baptists, Black Breath, and Cursed are probably my biggest personal influences, as well as lots of west coast power violence and some of the new wave of OSDM bands. I also take a lot of influence from non-metal/punk artists like Portishead, Gravediggaz, and Tears For Fears.

MH: I’d have to agree with Brent on Black Breath and Converge, I definitely look to those bands for inspiration on the drums. Also Metallica is always a huge influence to me since they were probably the first metal band I dove into.

E&D: Are you planning to tour the album as soon as you can?

BE: Absolutely! We absolutely cannot wait to get back out on the road after not playing for over a year at this point. We are trying to hit most of the US, maybe Canada and Mexico, and (hopefully) across the pond for UK/EU to support this album.

E&D: What have been some of the best shows that Wanderer have ever played?

BE: That’s a hard question as we’ve played so many memorable shows. Personally, opening for Power Trip (RIP Riley Gale) at the Triple Rock Social Club in 2017 has been the most memorable as it’s still one of the biggest we’ve played. We will forever have the memory of playing with Riley and I will never forget that.

JC: I’ll never forget booking a show in my Mom’s garage for my high school grad party. Wanderer played in this packed garage and I was watching every single one of my friends beating the hell out of each other and I was smiling like an idiot all night. We left for our first out of state show the next day. I definitely hold that time real close to my heart.

MH: I think one that always comes to mind is when we came back from one of our early tours with a band called Growing Cold (RIP) from Iowa. It was just a nice “welcome home” gig and we also got footage of it for a video somewhere on YouTube. This was before Brent was in the band so you can see him moshing with the crowd and I just always think it’s cool to look back on.

E&D: What was the first show you ever attended and what effect did it have on you?

BE: My first real rock show was Sick Puppies at First Ave in Minneapolis when I was 15. I won the tickets from the local rock radio station and convinced my parents to let my 26 year old neighbour take me because they didn’t want to go. The show itself was alright, but being there in a  live music venue and my excitement solidified in my mind that I wanted to be in that environment as much as possible.

MH: I went and saw Seether and Finger Eleven at the Taste of Minnesota in like 2008. It was free so my friend and I decided to see what’s up. The energy was off the charts and I’d never been a part of anything like it before that day and I just had a blast the whole time even though I didn’t really know any of the music. I definitely became a Seether fan that day and it just launched me into this love for live shows that I still have today.

E&D: What’s the best show you have ever seen?

BE: That’s a really tough question! If I had to nail it down to a single show, it would say 71Grind Fest IV in Colorado Springs, where I got to see Despise You, Stapled Shut, and Infest back-to-back-to-back.

JC: The Chariot at Triple Rock Social Club (RIP). That set changed the trajectory of my life and fuelled my desire to write insane, unique music that was difficult to compare to anything else. It also cemented the importance of being a memorable live band.

MH: Tough for me to pick one show but I think the show I had the most fun ever at was Basement/Turnstile/Defeater at The Garage in Burnsville. It was nonstop movement and mic grabs. It was just a fun time and all the homies were there and it was just awesome.

E&D: Wanderer are from Minneapolis, Is there a tight knit scene of extreme music there?

BE: There’s a wide variety of extreme music here. Minneapolis has historically been famous for noise rock since the 90s and the Amphetamine Reptile scene, and that influence is definitely still apparent with bands like Gay Witch Abortion, Tongue Party, and New Primals. Since I’ve joined Wanderer, I’ve made it my goal to bring more bands that sound like us up here and get people interested in starting bands in this style. So far, the last 6 years of trying to realise that goal has slowly been paying off with bigger tours coming through and more bands getting started.  

JC: Definitely a great metal scene in Minneapolis! The hardcore scene is also thriving with a ton of young bands which is really great to see.

E&D: What bands from your Minneapolis hometown could you recommend for us to check out?

BE: My favourite Minneapolis bands at the moment are Optimal Crime, Twin Tombs, While God Sleeps, Sunless, New Primals, Nothingness, Tulip, Rot, and Hive.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time with Wanderer so far?

BE: Honestly, my biggest highlight of being in Wanderer has been writing kick ass riffs with my best friends and being able to commission artwork for merch and releases.

JC: It’s really easy to get sentimental about 7 years of great memories, but the best part is that we’re more motivated now than ever before and I can’t wait to get back to playing and attending shows.

Photo by Andy Wilcox

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