Interview ~ Phill Vilenski of Wayland

Today, talentless people are made rich and famous overnight via reality shows and music stars are created with the aid of “talent” shows. A band like Wayland comes along with a double middle finger salute to all of that BS and decides to do things the old school. They decide to battle it out in the musical trenches and earn it through their hard work, sacrifices, dedication and real talent. These guys have been practically living on the road since shortly after forming in 2010. These guys bring a quite a lot to the table in this day and age of manufactured fluff that seems to dominate the radio. They don’t follow a formula, they don’t do what’s considered cool and they don’t believe in going through the motions. They play from the heart, they play with emotion, they play real instruments and they’re a real and genuine as it gets.

The band is comprised of Mitch Arnold on lead vocals, Phill Vilenski on guitar, Dean Pizzazz on bass and Nigel Dupree on drums. The guys are about to drop their debut full length album Rinse & Repeat on September 22 via Mighty Loud/InGrooves. It’s a truly unique mix of music that’s has more diversity on it than the Top Ten on any chart. You may have heard the first two samples from it in “Through the Fire” which reached the Top 40 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart. The guys also recently released a video for “Shopping for a Savior” which will definitely get your attention both musically and visually. We recently sat down with guitarist Phill Vilenski recently and talked about life on the road, the new album and rock and roll not being dangerous these days.

You guys aren’t playing tonight, but do you ever really get a day off?

Phill Vilenski/Wayland: No, not really; there’s always some type of catastrophe that happens or something breaks. Seriously though, we do feel so lucky to have this job and to be together. As hard as it is and as taxing as it is, we love it with all of our hearts.

Fans tend to think that it’s so glamorous to travel around all the time, but you guys don’t get much of a chance to slow down and enjoy each city.

You’re right; you get to the city, you do radio, you go to soundcheck, then a meet and greet, then the show, then a meet and greet afterward, have couple of drinks and then you’re off to the next town.

It seems like everybody wants a piece of you.

It’s fun though and we feel so lucky that people want to hear our music and hear us; it’s been a great couple of years.

I know you guys released a bunch of singles, but what took so long to get this album out?

There’s a lot that went into that; we started out by doing those singles basically just to build out fanbase. I think who the fuck would have bought our album if we had put it out four years ago? We’re an independent band who started out from absolutely nothing but a van five years ago and we just started touring. Labels used to develop bands and they used to sign them to development deals, but that doesn’t happen anymore. We didn’t want to sit around and bitch about the problem; we wanted to be part of the solution. We got in our van and started touring and playing anywhere and everywhere that we could. We left home in January of 2012 and never went home for the purpose of developing our band. That was on the advice from Jude Cole and Kiefer Sutherland with Iron Works Label and Jesse James Dupree from Jackyll; they’ve been our mentors. We’d write a bunch of songs and take them in to Jesse and he’d say go write more. With this record, we went in with over twenty songs to record and I think there are thirteen or fourteen that ended up on the record.

I noticed on our advance copy of the album that there were two bonus tracks.

Yes, those will be on the physical CD and digital download, but not the vinyl that we are releasing. The reason that they are bonus tracks and not a part of the album’s sequence is because those are songs that we have previously recorded and released on our previous EP. We re-recorded them because we felt that those two specific songs needed a chance to be heard. We had been playing them on the road for a few years and they developed into a different animal.

There is a lot of diversity on this album; too many bands paint with only one color when they create but you guys really sample a lot of colors on that musical palette.

You’re right and I think that there is just so much pressure for artists once you put out a radio single to deliver an album that sounds like that radio single and that’s just not who our band is. We look up to bands like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and to a time when music was an art. You can have a song like “Going to California” on the same record with a song like “Immigrant Song” and it makes sense. It’s the same band, but it’s a different feeling; it’s a song coming from a different place. All of the songs on this album are very personal and written from our own personal experiences over the last four or five years on the road and becoming a band. We didn’t want to put ourselves in a box; we have a song like “Follow” that’s  not going to sound like “Through the Fire,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not Wayland playing it.

Do you guys demo everything out before hitting the studio or is there room there for improvisation?

We don’t have any limitations; a lot of times we do demo them out with the producer right in the studio and we do a scratch just to get the song out. The producer Justin Rimer co-wrote most of the record with us. We didn’t put any limitations on things; if someone hears a melody on a xylophone we recorded it. Then we took it to Jeff who mixed it and it was really cool. There were things that I expected Jeff to put on there that he didn’t and there were things that I thought wouldn’t make the record that ended becoming very important parts of songs. We were just close to the songs after writing and recording them that it was nice to get someone else’s take on them.

What can you share with us about the instrumental “Ode to 37,” did that start out to be a song and ended up an instrumental?

We had this old, really shitty transport van like you’d see at the airport that picks people up and takes them to the hotel. We decked it out with bunks and stuff and it was breaking down all the time. We had it for a couple of years and fans would follow us on Facebook as we were posting videos of it breaking down all the time. That thing became part of the legend of the band’s adventures over the years. We wanted to have a little interlude on the album and that song was recorded with just the four of us in a room together just playing it. We played it three times and were like ‘there it is.’ Nigel started playing that jungle type drum beat, I came in with a Wawa peddle and we just made some music. We wanted moments like that on the record that weren’t over thought.

Now that I know the story, I can see a video montage of shenanigans revolving around that van in my head with this song playing in the background.

That’s a great idea!

“Follow” is one of my favorites and I love the strings on it and especially the mandolin.

Yeah, there’s a mandolin and fiddle on there; I love mandolin and I was raised on bluegrass music. I love how Aerosmith has used the mandolin; the Eagles have used it a lot as well. We met Tommy Murrows in Memphis and he plays both fiddle and mandolin on the record.

Rabbit River Blues/From the Otherside is another interesting piece that I keep going back to.

It’s an original piece that I wrote on the guitar the day that I recorded it. It started out with a basic lick from my childhood that my dad used to play which is a bastardized version of a Moody Blues song. My dad plays bluegrass and I started playing electric guitar, so every time my dad would pick up my guitar, which was the only rock and roll riff that he knew. That lick has always stayed with me and that moment on the record was kind of a tribute to all of the time that he spent playing music with me and being such a big influence on my music. Rabbit River is a river that runs through my hometown of Wayland, Michigan and it’s where my friends and I used to go after school every day. We’d run across the train tracks, down to the river where we hid our cigarettes and talk about boobs.

You have a big release party going down on September 30.

It’s a hometown venue called The Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We call it our hometown venue because before we were even touring, the radio station here WGRD was the very first radio station that ever played us here in Grand Rapids. They got behind a song and we came to play here and it was an overwhelming audience. It all kind of took off from there and Grand Rapids has helped us to be able to tour the rest of the country because of the support here which is insane. DeadSet Society (formerly Never Say Die) will be playing with us, plus two local bands that are friends of ours The Autumnatic and Product of Society.

You know, it’s a shame that you guys can’t get pretty girls to appear in your videos.

Yeah, we do have a problem with that.

I will admit that I did not see the “uncut” part of the title on your latest video “Shopping for a Savior.” I had to shrink the screen pretty damn quickly at work!

Rock and roll is supposed to be sexy, edgy and something that makes your parents mad that you’re listening to it. It’s supposed to have an element of danger to it and I think that there’s a good chunk of rock music right now that is not only not sexy, but it’s safe and boring to us. I don’t want to be part of the heard.

I think my earliest music memory relating to that was how people said that Elvis was so dangerous back when he began.

Absolutely! I’m a huge Elvis fan and that’s what I always go back to or the Beatles and their long, dangerous hair.

Where did the idea for the video come from?

The director did and Video Rahim is his name; he’s from Atlanta. We rented that church from the bass player of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the got the makeup and effects artist from The Walking Dead to make up the girls. It was a really fun two days of shooting; actually they were two sixteen to twenty hour days. Jesse Dupree has a cameo in it as well.

I know you’re living on the road right now, the album drops on September 22 and the release party is September 30. Is there anything that we missed?

We’re going to be touring across the country over the next few months in support of this new record. We’re going to be playing quite a few songs from the new record that we’ve never played live before. If you’ve never seen Wayland then you need to come check us out and if you have seen us, this is going to be a different show that you haven’t seen before. We’re revamping our VIP package so people can come early and get a bag of really cool stuff for the Wayland Warriors.

I have to tell before we wrap this up, that I have told quite a few of our readers that this album is one of those that you don’t want to listen to on your laptop or with your earbuds.

Oh hell no!

This is one of those albums that deserves to be heard loud through some big-ass speakers.

This album has a lot of texture to it and you are absolutely right; it needs to be turned up loud.

Order your copy of Rinse & Repeat HERE

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