Interview: LA’s Country Punks Wild Wing Keep It DIY

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From left: Max, Theo, David, and Zach

We recently met up with Wild Wing at their South LA hangout to chat about their humble beginnings, DIY work ethic, and upcoming releases.

Made up of of life-long friends, Wild Wing play a brazen kind of country punk, one that’s grounded in The Gun Club, Dead Kennedys, and Country Teasers, but owing just as much to Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Their live shows are always a riot, each one more energetic than the last.

Wild Wing chooses to do things on their own, self releasing and forging relationships with younger labels, strategically distancing themselves from the Burger/Lolipop explosion. They’re one of the hardest working DIY bands out in LA right now, whether it’s recording new songs, directing music videos, designing their own Americana-inspired merch, or organizing shows with their friends. They’ve also banded together with local punks SadGirl, The Paranoyds, and Greaser, to start up their own imprint, Hard Feelings, as a way to put out their friends’ releases as well as their first 7″ with a full length to follow.

After an impromptu beer run, I sat down with David Gantz, Zach Miller, Theo Cohn, and Max Garland of Wild Wing to talk about where they’ve been and where they’re going.

To get started, let’s pretend as if nobody has ever heard of Wild Wing before.

David (guitar/vocals): They probably haven’t. [laughing]

On that note, so how did y’all meet? Tell us about the band’s humble beginnings.

David: Well, we’ve all known each other basically our whole lives. We’d always play music together, but in different lineups.

Theo (bass): We learned our instruments together, it was funny. We were taking this punk rock class back when we were kids. I never wanted to play bass actually, I wanted to be a drummer.

David: Me and Theo have known each other our whole lives. And I met Zack in first grade. And Theo met Max in fourth grade, and I met him in ninth grade. We met at Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl. Max did not like me.

Max (guitar/vocals): I wouldn’t say that. First introductions are rough.

Zach (drums): Basically, Max went to college at San Francisco State, and he started recordings songs and sending them to me and David. And when he’d come back, we would play shows in Theo’s garage. We didn’t really get serious until Theo joined the band in 2014. And after that we started playing a lot more and became a real thing.

So Theo wasn’t part of the original lineup?

Theo: Well, at the time I had a band called Baby Fleas. My band and Wild Wing would always play shows together. And when that band ended I was like ‘fuck, everything is over.’

Zach: At the time, we just played two guitars and drums, we had no bass. It sounded upper register.

David: Pretty brutal on the ears. And so we were like ‘let’s swoop the best bass player we know—and roommate.’

Zach: Also, homeboy for life.

Theo: Yeah, I remember we were at a USC party when you guys asked me. I was stoked because I was so bummed that my band was over. I felt like that was it, I’m never going to play music again. I guess it was meant to be.

Seems like it made sense.

David: Yeah, we just played music together. We were trying to make songs, and it took a while to figure out what the sound was like. We would ask ourselves, would the Dead Kennedys like this? Yes or no. That’s kind of how we decided if a song was good.

That’s a good measure. Is that something you still ask yourselves now?

Max: I think the answer now is starting to become no, but we’re getting OK with that. You know what, maybe Jello doesn’t know everything.

Theo: Now, it’s like we ask the Country Teasers, one of the best bands ever.

Max: They’re like the country version of the Fall. They’re just raunchy as fuck. So would they like the songs we write?

Theo: The answer would still be no. So I guess we’re failing everywhere.

Max: It’s Ok for your idols to hate you.

Aside from punk, you are also influenced by country, too.  In what ways has that shaped the band?

David: That’s what we wanted to do initially, be a country punk band. We still have a lot of songs like that, but we don’t try to limit ourselves to that necessarily.

Theo: Gotta bring some country back. No one’s really doing that you know, so it’s cool to do.

Max: I always feel like Dylan is a big inspiration. But he’s not really country, he’s like folk and also, the basis of rock ‘n’ roll. We listen to the old stuff. Like the old Woodie Gurthrie, Bob Dylan, a bunch of Seger.

Theo: Bob Seger, dude! Bob Seger, huge influence.

Max: All the Segers really, I think it bleeds through.

Your last release had those elements, but I also felt like it was tapping into the Gun Club.

Theo: The Gun Club, yeah, we get that sometimes. The Gun Club is a big influence as well.

Max: Yeah, and The Cramps do it. They’ll do straight up Hasil Adkins covers. Charlie Feathers, too. The good stuff.

Zach: We kind of got an unmarketable niche that we’re headlining. Speaking of The Gun Club, we just wrote a Gun Club song.

Like a cover? or a song inspired/about Gun Club?

David: Zach, don’t give away our secrets away!

Max: We were asked to write a song for our friends The Mull Brothers, who do The Worble, for a video of theirs. They said ‘We want to use a Gun Club song, but if you guys could write a song in that style?’ And we were like ‘Sure! We could do that’ (pause) and we didn’t. We wrote a completely different song. And they liked it, so that’s cool.

Zach: We recorded it a few days ago at the Roach Motel, which is no longer a thing.

Max: Last song ever recorded there.

Theo: We did it with Greg Hartunian. He’s recorded everyone. He did the Walter album. He did all the new SadGirl stuff. He’s tight.

 

“It was windy outside and we were fucked up. And I said to David, ‘that’s a wild wind.’ And he said ‘Wild Wing?’ And I said ‘No, but that’s the next band name.’ And that’s how it happened.”

 

So who came up with the name Wild Wing? 

David: Everyone asks that question, and I don’t know. I think me and Max were jamming, and—

Max: No, no, no. I remember!

David: You remember this differently!

Max: I remember it like it was yesterday!!

David: It’s not the way it went down.

Max: Well, from my memory, from my memoir—

Theo: ‘The Wing and I.’

Max: [laughing] Yes, ‘The Wing and I.’

David: That’s the title of the next album, for sure.

Max: Definitely. Well, we were at Julian Aichholz’ house. It was windy outside and we were fucked up. And I said to David, ‘that’s a wild wind.’ And he said ‘Wild Wing?’ And I said ‘No, but that’s the next band name.’ And that’s how it happened.

Amazing.

Zach: Also, before they started playing music, they would throw up the wild wing sign before it was even a thing. It was two 3’s and they would talk about it all the time. And it was so fucking frustrating to hear it all the time.

Theo: Because there was no music, it was just like the guys reppin’ Wild Wing before it was anything.

Zach: Eventually I got so tired of it, I said ‘I’ll join.’

Max: See, I would say we hyped it and Zach bought the hype–like a fool. A sucker is born every minute, and Zach was born one of those minutes.

So the wings came first. Did you guys start making the graphics and artwork before you had the band too?

Max: Yeah, definitely.

David: The Wild Wing lighters. We just wrote Wild Wing on them. It’s like a lighter just with our name written on it in sharpie.

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And then you have the release coming out soon.

David: It’s for the ‘Underground Heaven/Green Reaper’ 7″—it’s two songs off of the full length album that’s hopefully going to come out in March.

Theo: So we’re doing red vinyl and black vinyl as well. The 7″ comes out on the 31st. We’re finally doing vinyl, which is so tight because one of the main things is that we wanted wax of our band.

David: And we printed some limited edition red posters that will be with the red vinyl…if you buy ’em from us.

Zach: It’s being co-released on Danger Collective and Hard Feelings Records, which is kind of a collective of us, SadGirl, The Paranoyds, and Greaser.

Theo: We’re releasing it at Pehrspace with Casinos, Sadgirl, and White Fang so it should be tight.

I’ve seen some of the Hard Feelings visuals and thought you guys had to be behind it. I’d want to talk more about Hard Feelings, but I feel like that could be a separate interview altogether.

Zach: There’s actually not to much to talk about.

Theo: Well, we just wanted a place where we could have all of our homie bands together.

David: We’re all just trying to release music on it so that it becomes its own thing, just from the bands and releases on it.

Max: We think its high quality stuff, we’d like to keep it like that. It’s just the homies putting out our own stuff and we’re splitting it with smaller labels so we’re not trying to front the whole thing.

Zach: We’re actually doing a compilation soon with all the Hard Feelings bands.

You guys tend to play with a lot of your friends, at least you put that vibe out there.  It’s a different approach to bands who need to get booked, or asked to be put on a bill, in order to play. It’s also rare that you see a handful of bands who continuously get together and put on shows and support each other like a family. Very DIY.

Theo: I feel like that’s how you have to do it now. To gather around the homie bands and stick together. Help each other out.

Max: It makes it fun.

Theo: That’s why those warehouse shows were the fucking best. Because we literally just put all of our homies on it. Like that one that you went to, that was the last last one.

Yea, that was a crazy party. What happened to that place?

Zach: It’s gone now. RIP.

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Bummer. Well, it sounds like you guys wanting to build up your own community is coming out of a realistic and honest place. That’s a very different attitude versus the mindset of ‘We’re going to make a band, we’re going to signed, and we’re going to blow up.’

David: We all try to make it happen on our own, I guess DIY is the name for it. Because we have no real support from any label or manager, we have to do things to support the bands. Like me and Theo, we made a video for Sadgirl, and then SadGirl’s been helping us print merch. So it’s all very much just us trying to help each other with whatever strengths and resources we have for each other.

Theo: Anytime one of us get a show, we’d be like ‘Hey, you should hit up so and so’ and then they would hit them up, and then we’d have a homie bill somewhere else. We’d say hit up Vaguess, hit up Buttertones, hit up Rexx, hit up Tongues.

I was introduced to Tongues by just walking into that Danger Collective residency show at The Bootleg for Rexx. I was like ‘cool, these guys are rad.’ And then the next couple times I saw them was with you guys. 

Zach: I used to play in Tongues.

So ex-Tongues?

Zach: Yeah, ex-Tongues. We don’t talk about that.

Theo: It’s ok. We’ve been homies with Tongues for a while, they used to come over to our place and challenge us to FIFA ’12 and we would just destroy them.

Zach: We would destroy them! Even our roommate Ben destroyed them. They never won once.

Theo: They’ll deny it. But I have photo evidence that we destroyed them every single time. It’s right around when World Cup was going on.

Max: It’s funny because they hardcore deny it.

Theo: We just didn’t give ’em a chance, it was dark times for them.

 

“Every year is the year of The Wing.”

 

Damn. So what’s your plan for 2016?

David: We just want to play shows and make music.

Zach: We’d like to tour more. We have the release coming up and just play more shows outside of LA.

Theo: Just get out more. This last year, we didn’t release anything because we were just prepping and playing an ungodly amount of shows. Hopefully, 2016 will be the year of The Wing.

David: Every year is the year of The Wing.

Wild Wing’s next show will be their record release party with SadGirl, White Fang, and Casinos, on January 31 at Pehrspace.

The new 7″ release will be available for order online at wildwing.bigcartel.com and wildwing.bandcamp.com.

All images copyright © James Juarez