Wedding Dress are a fresh, country, folk and pop leaning band surprisingly comprised of members of Maps and Atlases, Suns, Joan of Arc, Gypsyblood and other widely-recognized midwest indie staples. With plans to release their Desperate Glow LP via Lovitt Records on November 18, the band, who have played a string of high profile gigs with Sebadoh, Man Man, O’Death, Jenny Hval and Owl John, are just wrapping up their first proper tour and are chomping at the bit to be heard.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with primary songwriter Erin Elders to discuss the band, which defies easy categorization. He told us about their origins, their recent Fun Fun Fun Fest gig, and about the utility of an unregistered Panera Bread card.
Are you from Chicago or are you a transplant?
I’m a transplant. I grew up in Hawaii and then my family moved to the Milwaukee area when I was about 10. I ended up in Chicago to go to college and have been there since.
And how did Wedding Dress come together?
I had been working on some song ideas for awhile and when I finally decided I needed show them to someone, I played them for Mike Russell (guitar/vox in Wedding Dress), a longtime friend. He was immediately on board to try and turn them into something so we started playing music together.
At first it was a much more minimal, acoustic based thing, just guitar and voice, but slowly we started acquiring people. Matt Lemke from Mike’s other band, Suns, started playing keyboards and I asked Bobby from Love of Everything/Joan of Arc to play bass. The lineup was complete when Christian from Tinkerbelles/Gypsyblood joined.
Has it been strange for you to take on a different role in this band than the one you play in Maps and Atlases?
It’s been an exciting challenge to step away from the guitar. I usually approach music as a guitar player but it’s not really needed in this band, Mike is an amazing player and I would just be cluttering things up so I play very little guitar live, just some minimal chord changes throughout the songs. Sometimes I’ll sneak a weird rhythmic part in or lead or something though.
Do you think people who have seen your previous bands will be receptive to Wedding Dress’ artistic direction?
I think Wedding Dress is very different than all of our previous bands and maybe not what people would expect from us, but I hope people don’t just want it to sound like those bands anyway. I’ve always loved when an artist I like takes a wild turn and I hope people will take this turn with us. I also think that if you listen close enough, you can definitely hear each of our musical pasts in Wedding Dress.
Has anyone mistaken this new direction as you losing your edge?
Maybe. But I think Desperate Glow has its fair share of musical experimentation. There are some songs, like “Frail Flakes,” where we definitely step out of our comfort zone. For a long time we thought that song was too weird and that we should cut it from the record but now it’s one of my favorites of ours. Although the record has a lot of quiet, delicate moments, I think there can be edginess in delicacy. Sometimes a whisper is more potent than a scream.
Where does your country and western influence come from?
My parents raised me on classic rock and I’ve listened to artists like Neil Young, Dylan, The Band, etc… for a lot of my life. When I started writing songs for Wedding Dress those artists were my starting point. Country/folk seemed like a place where the lyrics I was writing needed to exist. When we started fleshing out the songs we shed the country/folk vibe a little, but that’s usually where things start.
When did you begin writing for the record and what were you drawing on for inspiration?
I began working on these songs a couple of years ago. I had been writing a lot of lyrical/poem stuff and I felt like the only way to give that writing life was to turn them into songs and sing them myself. It was a lot of stuff I had just jotted down from moments in my everyday life and then abstracted. I like to try and think about the sort of magical qualities of everyday life. I think there is something really powerful in the routine of living.
Where did you record the record and how did you come to choose that environment?
The record was kind of recorded all over the place. We started recording in Mike’s house. I’d usually break in during the day with an un-registered Panera Bread card because I didn’t have a key and then track stuff all day. Then usually someone else in the band would show up and they’d lay down ideas. Once we had a mountain of sounds we took the record to our friend Jason Richards who had a studio space and he helped us make sense of everything. We began mixing the songs and re-recording a bunch of things. We didn’t really have a plan going into the record, we just knew we were going to make it then with whatever we could. I think just making that decision was really empowering and kept us going even though there were a lot of moments where we didn’t know how to fix certain things or didn’t know how to make something happen.
How did you become acquainted with Lovitt Records, which was always sort of an east coast centric label?
I had met Brian at Lovitt a couple years ago at a Maps show and I’ve always loved their approach to putting out music. I sent him a few of the tracks and he really responded to them so it seemed like an organic thing that made sense. There is feeling of community at Lovitt and all the bands/artists on the label treat each other like musical siblings. It’s really awesome to feel a part of something nowadays instead of just a fleck of internet dust, drifting.
Your fall tour takes you out west. Is this Wedding Dress’ first proper tour?
We did a short east coast tour in September but we didn’t have a record out or anything. We basically just went out and played some shows to kind of exist as a band. So yeah, this is kind of our first proper tour. We’re still figuring a lot of the songs out live so it’s been fun to be at the beginning of that process.
One of the shows is at Fun Fun Fun Fest with The Jazz June, Mineral and Knapsack. Were you fans of any of those bands?
I like those bands but wasn’t a huge fan or anything. I think only because I wasn’t exposed to them really. They just weren’t on my radar although I did have a compilation that had Mineral and Knapsack songs on it, which really shaped my musical world so I was really excited to be a part of the FFF Fest show. We ended up hanging out with The Jazz June guys after the show and they were super nice.
Are there any other big tours on the books in support of the record?
We don’t really have anything figured out at the moment. We’re trying to plan a west coast tour for the spring and also working on some new songs.
Christian Dawson and I actually went to the same college, although years apart. Any chance we can expect to see you visiting Southern Ohio?
Absolutely. Hopefully sooner than later.
(Catch the band live here:
11/15: Philadelphia, PA – Bourbon & Branch
11/16: Pittsburg, PA – Brillobox
11/17: Kalamazoo, MI – Satellite Records
11/18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Spolk Folks
11/21- Chicago, Il @ Township (Record Release Show))