Local Band The Wilderness Releases Debut LP Amidst Pandemic

 In Culture, Interviews

In the height of the coronavirus pandemic, local band The Wilderness has just released is first full-length album, “Real Rock Radio.”

With performances at past events such as the Open Highway Music Festival and Whiskey War Festival, The Wilderness has been a fixture of the local music scene since releasing its first four-song demo in 2015. Its new album—guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form—was written over the course of nearly four years. Needless to say, a lot of heart went into the making of the 12-song album.

The Wilderness is Dan Johanning (guitar/vocals), Bobby Stevens (guitar/vocals), Gabe Usery (drums) and Justin “Pooky” Haltmar (bass). Stevens and Johanning got the band together based on their love of Americana rock influences such as Drive By Truckers and Tom Petty. “As some time went on, we looked more to our punk influences: The Replacements, Hot Water Music, The Clash,” Stevens says. “I think we found a pretty good mix of it all,” he continues. “It just took us a minute to find it. But whatever was coming out, we wanted to be raw, something that could be felt.” 

The latest release, recorded at Encapsulated Studios in Maplewood, was mixed and engineered by Usery, the band’s drummer.  Usery has worked with a handful of local acts such as Fister, Brasky, ClusterPluck and Breakmouth Annie. “He’s one of the best,” says Stevens.

Having a full-time engineer in the band makes in-studio writing more accessible. “Being in the studio with a band is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s like being on tour or camping with your friends. Even better, we had no deadline or time crunch,” says Stevens.

Local Band The Wilderness Releases Debut LP Amidst Pandemic

There’s no doubt about it, musicians like The Wilderness are taking a huge hit due to COVID-19. Releasing an album takes months of prep work, and usually the release date is picked out far in advance. 

“We were already planning a digital release and follow it up shortly with a live release, but COVID-19 changed the plan,” says Stevens.

As live shows seem to be cancelled indefinitely, artists are finding new avenues to share the live show experience with fans. “We talked about filming a nice concert from the studio, but we are all taking this seriously, so I don’t think that will be happening. Now it’s the waiting game. One day at a time,” says Stevens. “Ultimately, we were just ready for it to be out there and hope it can bring a little joy. Maybe a little distraction and maybe a little fuel to the discussion about the current state we’re all living in.” 

When the waiting game comes to an end, The Wilderness plans to do a special co-release show with The Disappeared, which has its own new EP called “Science & Reason. “Until then, we will woodshed ideas, talk about tours and shows, keep wishing safe thoughts for everyone and hope people find some relief in what we’ve done,” says Stevens.

 Like acclaimed writer George Saunders says, we place our lives on the back of a sleeping tiger. It’s impossible to know when he will wake and change the plans you thought you had. Times like these remind us to stay creative and malleable in our endeavors.

Listening may be the most important. I think a lot of people are scared and feeling an income crunch. So just to keep listening and encouraging and sharing,” says Stevens. “Maybe we’ll all be booming when we come out of this.”

Listen to “Real Rock Radio” here.

Featured image courtesy of JT Ibanez.

Recommended Posts
Poem: 'This Is The Moment' by Jay EricksonA Conversation with Julia Leenig, Co-Owner of Descendant and Future Ancestor