For the Record: Kinship by The Wanda Junes

wanja junes 01by Carly Schorman
Senior Editor

The Wanda Junes journeyed up from Tucson to record a new album at Fivethirteen Recording in Tempe and the band carried the feel of that dusty desert divide they traversed straight into the studio. Kinship, much like its title suggests, has a familial, kitchen-table atmosphere. The album sounds like a bunch of old friends (of really talented, musician-type friends) hanging out while hashing out some tunes.

The singing (and songwriting) duties get passed around the table which only adds to the communal feel of this recording. One person tells a story and then the next recounts a tale. From the rambling ballad “Green Pastures” to the wry look at acceptance offered on the album’s closer, “I’m Home”, Kinship offers listeners a storybook of Americana.

I find I’m rather taken with the bittersweet sound of “For Now”, but Kinship glows with an interior warmth from beginning to end. There are moments of humor and sorrow and joy to be uncovered in the homespun stories of The Wanda Junes.

The album was released through Baby Tooth Records on limited edition cassette tape last month.

I’m just starting to wonder… do you have to play an instrument to hang out with The Wanda Junes’ crew? I mean, can you just bring some snacks to share and take it all in? I suppose I’m willing to take the next best thing: hanging out at my own damn kitchen table with the music of The Wanda Junes. You can do the same. There are still some copies of that limited edition cassette available so head here to score your copy.

I had the opportunity to ask Bobby Carlson of The Wanda Junes about the new album, communal songwriting, and what this Tucson band has in the works next. Check out our chat below. But, first, take a gander at the new album, Kinship. 

YabYum: Quite a cast of players you’ve gathered. How did The Wanda Junes join forces for the greater musical good?

Bobby Carlson: It hasn’t been the smoothest process. And not the most exciting tale.

I moved from Flagstaff to Tucson in June of 2012 to start the Wanda Junes with Steve Soloway. We had already begun sending recordings to each other and when Steve recruited Jesus Robles, we had a set of songs and he fit right in. A year later, we had our first album Factory Plaza finished, Jesus had bailed, and Steve set off to Maine to start his family.

The band actually played a “last” show and had every intention of breaking up. By then, we’d picked up Thom Plasse and Jeff Henderson, and, at some point, the three of us decided to just keep going, or to try, at least. We played one show as an acoustic-ish trio, but by then Adam Frumhoff, an old friend from Flagstaff had joined, and we had recruited Karima Walker soon after as well. That was just to play banjo. How little we knew!

We recorded half of Hi Fi Record Album and then Allison McGillivray joined and she helped us finish it (she actually introduced us to Karima). Later, Karima quit, and we got Nathan Fenoglio. We recorded Kinship and Allison quit to go save the world from nuclear annihilation, and Nathan quit to save his world. My old roommate, Tony Ballz moved in with me, and naturally into the band. When Allison and Nathan left, we were demoralized and unsure of what was going to happen. We got writing and things currently feel solid, like a car commercial with a Bob Seger soundtrack…

I noticed that the band makes the trek to Tempe to record over at Fivethirteen. We love that studio but I’d like to know what keeps you coming back?

Well, we love it too. I was introduced to Catherine through Abe Gil and Owen Evans, separately and together, when I still lived in Flagstaff, and it’s been my go-to spot ever since. I get the impression that they like working with us. I wish we had the budget to just have a standing weekend with them every other month or something. The recordings that I’ve done there, if I’m unhappy with anything, it’s either with my songwriting or the performances. It’s always on my end. At this point, it’s really comfortable, which when you’re recording, is pretty important. I’m perfectly happy making this entire interview a testimonial for Fivethirteen.

Songwriting and vocal duties seem to be shared amongst the band members. I would imagine that lends to the sense of camaraderie. Is that the result? Does the band feel more like a gathering of friends than perhaps other bands you might have played with?

It is a gathering of friends, which is the only way I’ve ever done it.(Somehow it’s still stressful at times.) I’m not a good enough player to do it any other way. The result, we all hope, is a better record, and a better live show. Nothing more exciting than white dudes playing guitars, am I right?

Can you tell me a little about how the band approaches songwriting? Does it vary per person?

It does vary. Adam and I are the two main songwriters right now, and the process is a little bit different with each song. But the songs are arranged by the band, and it’s pretty rare for there to be a lot of notes from the songwriter when we’re all writing our parts. The strongest songs, or our favorites at least, have been ones with the heaviest collaboration, which is good news for all those co-ops and communists out there.

What’s next for the band? Writing new songs? Shows? Tour? Music video? Please tell us all the things.

We’re playing some shows around Arizona, trying to put this Kinship album on all the top ten lists. We’d love to release the album on more formats. We’re recording at Midtown Island [in Tucson] at the end of April. (We still love you, Catherine!) We’re thinking that will be the beginning of our next thing–either as a single or several [singles], and/or the beginning of the new album. We just stay focused on songwriting and we hope the rest takes care of itself.

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Girls Rock! Ready to Shake Up Phoenix

Girls Rock! - YabYum Music & Artsby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

The newly founded Phoenix chapter of Girls Rock! is hosting their first public event this weekend to help raise both funds and awareness about this exciting edition to the community. Girls Rock!, a national organization aimed at helping girls build self-esteem through music education and performance, supports summer camp programs around the globe wherein young women learn an instrument, form a band, write a song, and then perform at a showcase. An empowering experience for a young artist if ever there was one.

I asked Sarah Ventre, President of Girls Rock! Phoenix, what campers can expect of a week spent with Girls Rock!

Ventre replied, “Campers can expect the best week of their lives!! They will come in on the first day not necessarily knowing how to play an instrument or even having any kind of musical experience. By the end of the week they will have learned an instrument, formed a band, written a song, and played a showcase. They’ll also be attending workshops on topics like body image or self defense, and learning in the DIY tradition through activities like zine making and screen printing. And the entire week, they’ll see and hear women as role models — teaching them instruments, performing for them, teaching workshops, and running the technical side of things. By seeing women in roles that are often given to men, it gives girls an opportunity to see themselves filling those roles from a very young age. It also reinforces the idea that they can do anything they want to, and they don’t need a guy to give them approval to do it. And it creates a space where women and girls are lifting each other up — seeing one another as collaborators instead of competitors.”

Ventre first became involved with Girls Rock! while she was living in Washington D.C. when a friend of hers volunteered for a Girls Rock! camp in New York. She then decided to volunteer as well for a camp in the D.C. area.

I asked Sarah what made her decide bring the organization to Phoenix when she returned to her home turf.

“So many things!!! The music world is really male dominated, and Phoenix is no exception. I kept thinking about growing up in Tempe, and feeling like I didn’t have access to our local music community until I turned 21. Then when I did turn 21, I only saw a handful of local bands with any women in them at all,” she began.

“I also thought about what it feels like when you’re growing up as a girl…it’s hard to feel confident or empowered about anything. Our society constantly tells girls that we’re not enough and we’re not worthy. We’re taught to apologize for being who we are, and when we try to do new things and find outlets for our creativity and self-expression, we get put down a lot. I used to think I had to wait to perform until I was “really good” at playing my instrument. But through volunteering at rock camps and really beginning to understand the riot grrrl tradition, I learned that you don’t need anyone’s permission to form a band and make music. And if I had been taught that at a young age, it would have made a world of difference in my teenage years and through to my adulthood. Now it’s time to grow this kind of an empowering, supportive community of women and make it accessible to young girls in the Valley.”

Already, the Phoenix edition of Girls Rock! has some notable volunteers involved in the program which plans on hosting its first Phoenix summer camp in 2016. According to Ventre, “Several local musicians (including Grace Bolyard from The Darling Sounds, Amy Young from French Girls, Jenny Weintraub from Sister Lip, Amanda Schukle from Steel Cranes, Alexis Ronstadt from Larkspurs) are part of our organizing team, as well as women who work at local venues/art spaces like Andrea Pederson from Nile Theater and Laura Dragon from {9} The Gallery, and a bunch of other women who volunteer in lots of different ways. We’ve also received sponsorship for our upcoming fundraiser from Kimber Lanning, and from Charlie Levy, owner of Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar. Plus we’ll be working with Catherine Vericolli, owner of 513 Recording Studios to introduce girls to audio engineering.”

There’s still room for more volunteers for those interest in getting involved.

“For folks who want to volunteer at camp, we’re looking for women-identified, trans, and genderqueer or gendernonconforming folks who have an interest — no musical experience is necessary! We’ll need people to do everything from coaching and managing bands, to teaching instruments, to running workshops, to being roadies and moving gear, to helping with administrative tasks and organizing camp lunches! There’s a place for anyone who’d like to be there!!” Ventre stated in a message.

This coming Sunday, Girls Rock! Phoenix will be down at the Newton for a screening of Girls Rock! The Movie for folks interested in getting involved, showing their support, or just learning more about this worthy organization. Live music and a raffle are also included in the mix so don’t miss out! Tickets for the screening can be purchased here. Or, to learn more about the event, you can head here.

YabYum Music & Arts

YabYum Seven: Catherine Vericolli

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All photos courtesy of Catherine Vericolli

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Catherine Vericolli and the short answer is I’m a recordmaker.

The long answer is I’m the owner and builder of 513 Analog Recording Studios in Tempe, AZ, a rouge solderer, sonic councilor, tone translator, record collector, and under-paid musician’s therapist. Sometimes I’m an adult babysitter and accidental producer. I also co-edit a brainy non-gear-centric online audio mag called Pink Noise. Occasionally I take a crack at writing industry related essays, and am a biyearly panelist at pro audio conferences and nerd gatherings locally and in Nashville, TN. Mentally, I’m spend most of my time working out ways to capture as accurately as possible what people are hearing in their heads, while simultaneously searching for the most kind, productive, and tactful of ways to be brutally honest. Sometimes I fail at the latter.. although in my failure I tend to land closer to the humorous than the hurtful. At least I hope.

I also believe that my staff and close friends can probably explain what I do much better than I can.

5132. How did you get your start?

You could say I got my start as soon as I was old enough to contemplate why and how music sounded the way it did. It was obvious early on that by inclination I was far from a musician, so naturally I spent most of my life around people who could play instruments. About the time when adulthood and purpose became a priority (post a fancy liberal arts college attempt), I went to school for audio engineering since music was still the only thing I really cared about. I did a few internships, but I knew that I should probably make records when I did a throw-together recording project for Kimber Lanning while working at Modified Arts in Downtown Phx, and she was really into it. At the time, if Kimber was into it, it was probably good.

This is still true.

I was also lucky enough at the time to have a songwriter as a best friend, so I recorded her first record in the various rooms of my awkward West Phoenix house in 2004. It was mixed at Wavelab in Tucson, and signed to a small record label in Spain. We were pretty excited. From there, I was hooked. I started acquiring better gear and better spaces to record, and found more and more ways to be involved in the local music scene – mostly to make her records sound better. Her name was Lonna Kelley. We made a few really great records. Occasionally we still do. I moved to Tempe in 2005 and built 513. I didn’t think people would take much notice, but we had some really great local projects right off the bat. Those first few sessions were Colorstore’s “Bonefish” and The Sweetbleeders “Lighting Bug Luau”. They also came with their own guest engineer. His name is Mike Hissong. That was in 2006. He never left.

CV 023. What inspires you?

The ability to capture a moment in time. Witnessing those moments. Tones that are honest. Tones that are accidental. Other people’s passions. Humor. Collaboration. Risk. Difficulties.

4. What do you like about AZ?

It continues to try, regardless of the continued likelihood that it will fail. There are many “better” places, but I don’t feel at home anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place to see the sky.

5. Where can we see (hear) your work?

The best way to see my (our) work, is to visit me (us) at 513. We love giving studio walkthroughs and chatting with folks about all things sonic. For the shyer types, all the happenings of the studio can be seen on our website and across the social networks: 513analog.com, Facebook, Twitter. For the truest representation, my personal/studio Instagram is probably the best bet.

The best way to hear my (our) work, is to go digging in the ‘Local’ section of your neighborhood AZ record store. We also have a SoundCloud, where we occasionally upload the latest projects. You can also Google or Bandcamp search: Colorstore, Sweetbleeders, Treasure Mammal, or Kevin Daly and you’ll hear 513. We’ve been tracking, mixing, drinking, and crying with bands in the local scene since 2006. My personal work is almost always scattered in with the work of my staff, which is how I prefer things. We are a collaborative bunch of engineers. Nationals that have stopped in physically or virtually include Howe Gelb, Califone, CHVRCHES, and The Jon Rauhouse Orchestra. But again, the best way to hear us is to get in touch and stop by. We will play things for you.

513 026. What would you like to accomplish before you die?

I would like to figure out how to live a life in which I have little concern for what I want to accomplish before I die. I’m not sure if this is possible.

7. What is your mantra?

“The business of record making is a people business.”

~

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