Eight (and a half) Questions with WANDA PERKINS from The Escape Artist, The Meer, and Maulrat
1 TNF TV: How do you write songs for each band you’re in? How do you make distinctions about what is appropriate for each setting?
WANDA: When I started writing music I would always write alone. The Escape Artist was the first band I really got the hang of writing collaboratively with and making things up on the spot through the energy we built together. With The Meer and Maulrat, sometimes I write songs outside of practice and other band members do the same. We have also written some songs collaboratively and those tend to be my favorites.
Each band has its own energy. They are always evolving and sometimes they overlap a little, but generally it’s pretty easy to feel which song belongs where. The Meer has a sort of dreamy, dark shoegaze vibe. The Meer is a bit more direct and stripped down, and Maulrat is heavier with the most metal influence.
2 TNF TV: The Meer album “Dew Drops” seems very delicate and ethereal. Was that a departure for The Meer or was that side of the band always there?
WANDA: We made “Dew Drops” as a split with Owl Like Creature. For “Geraniums” and “Names of the People Who Love you,” Jeff wrote the skeletons and I filled in the lyrics and melodies and added guitar texture. They sort of call back to our acoustic albums, “Branches” and “Starlings,” and I’d say at least my part of them also gives a nod to The Escape Artist album we had been recording.
3 TNF TV: The Escape Artist has a very FULL and washy sound which really drew me in as a listener. How has this band been honing and developing its sound?
WANDA: Fred and Ross are guitar tone experts who have been honing and developing their sound since before I joined. I tend to play melodically. I think that’s because I was a singer first and that’s how my musical imagination works. Luckily there was so much space for me even as a third guitarist. I try to do my best to respect that space and not just completely fill it. We all try to listen to each other and be as tasteful as possible.
4 TNF TV: Where do you draw inspiration from for songwriting and is songwriting a challenge?
WANDA: I think I draw the most inspiration from other people, especially from watching my musician friends playing original music. I also get a lot of inspiration from the woods and from nature. There are times when I feel writing is a challenge, and times when songs or parts just appear. I think the best songs come from just being open to expressing the energy that is coming through. Sitting alone in nature is a good way to connect to that source. Listening to local shows is another good way.
5 TNF TV: Any thoughts about the subject of art vs. commerce?
WANDA: Commerce has been the center of a lot of people’s worlds for a long time. Making commercial art is often one of the only ways for artists to get paid. I want to think people realize the value of art, or that they are beginning to. Marketers understand the power of good design, including sound design, but in their world it only matters as long as it can sell something.
For artists working independently, we have to decide the reason behind our art. Some artists may center their work around pleasing crowds and making money. I think to some degree it is important for anyone to consider their audience (if they want to have one), but I wouldn’t ever want to make something inauthentic. I write because I want to create pure expression. It is a great feeling when I can give or communicate something to other people through my art too, but even that is secondary. I wish society would take better care of artists. Maybe it’s time to tear down capitalism.
6 TNF TV: Have you ever attended a show that you didn’t have high expectations for and then it turned out to impress you or blow you away?
WANDA: When I was in my teens and twenties, I used to go to local shows with my friends just to hang out. I had no expectations for those shows, but I was continually blown away by the music I saw. I started paying attention to who the bands were, buying records and merch and following them on social media. One of the bands I saw at a couple of small house shows was Screaming Females. They blew my mind and ended up (deservedly) getting a lot of recognition. There are so many gems out there to find for people who are willing to take a chance and see bands they’ve never heard of.
7 TNF TV: Can you compare the feeling of writing and recording music versus the performance of music in front of a crowd? What feels most natural?
WANDA: For me, the most natural feeling music happens in the writing process. Recording can go so many ways, but there is usually a little more stress involved. It’s so great to get the end result from recording because you can make the music sound exactly how you mean for it to sound. If writing is natural, performing is supernatural. Playing in front of a crowd creates this whole greater experience because there is so much combined energy. When the crowd is there with you it is a magical experience. But a crowd is a double-edged sword.
8 TNF TV: What musical advice would you give to your younger self?
WANDA: I would tell me to put myself out there more. I always doubted myself because there were so many musicians, singers and writers who were better than me. But now I know that really doesn’t matter because each person’s artistic expression is unique and important. I would tell myself to start collaborating a lot earlier and stop doubting myself. Maybe I would have found a mentor, or several.
8.5 TNF TV: How would you rate the Iast restaurant meal you ate prior to social distancing restrictions that mandated our collective separation? Would you return there?
WANDA: I had an Ethiopian veggie platter. It was awesome and I am getting hungry just thinking about it. I will go back one day...