Wilder is a conglomeration of great talent from other bands, it’s kind of like a super group, well not kind of like…it is. They have come together to create refreshing songs in the vain of country, but with rock, and folky roots as well. Kelly Thomas has been a staple in the local music scene here in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for many years. With various projects under her belt and a wealth of knowledge she presents her latest venture, Wilder.
Wilder is a combination of various talents of whom Kelly has met through the years, Randy Steffen (vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica), Zac Roe (vocals, and electric guitar), John Schmidt (bass), Kevin Hogle (drums), and Chris Alley (drums). The mixture of these talents makes for quite an amazing show to see.
I had the honor and pleasure of having a conversation with Kelly and Randy, and their music seems to be a reflection of them as people, honest and fun. Here is the conversation.
Moose: Where did y’all meet and what gave you the idea to start a band?
Randy Steffen: We met initially at the Fort Thomas Pub. The Sleepin’ Dogs (Randy’s other band) were playing with The Kentucky Struts.
Kelly had collaborated with The Sleepin’ Dogs for her Sacred Harp Sessions. She and I wrote a tune for that album. It went so well, that when the Dogs & Pickups (Kelly Thomas & The Fabulous Pickups) disbanded we started to write more music together. Zach (Roe) always sang well with us…we felt we were handcuffing him with an acoustic guitar because he’s so good on electric. So, we decided to add percussion…(and) it grew from that.
Moose: A lot of emotion is in these songs, which is a testament to a good country song, but there’s a sense of hope as well, that, all is not lost. These songs seem to come from a wealth of experience and knowledge, but at the same time still trying to figure things and life out. Was there intent in this or something entirely different?
Kelly Thomas: We try to write songs based on a story line, with Randy and I playing the main characters. Some of these stories are based on real life personal experiences and some are based on family stories and some we just make up and fill in the emotions and images we imagine going with the story line. I love writing this way and it’s different for me. A lot of my writing in the past was solely from personal stories and that can be good, but what do you write about when you aren’t in a crisis or in pain? That’s always scared me as a writer and with Randy, I love our ability to put ourselves into a scenario and then write what we think we’d feel if we were the characters.
Moose: Rounding a lot of the song out are Zach Rowe (from Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound) on lead guitar and harmonies, John Schmidt on bass, and the dueling drummers of Kevin Hogle and Chris Alley (from Jeremy Pinnell and the 55’s) where did you find these fellas, and where did the idea of dueling drummers come from especially in this style and form of music?
KT: We wanted to have two drummers that were “official” band members. We knew we wanted Kevin Hogle and Chris Alley, and we understood that because they are so damn talented, they’re also booked a lot. We wanted official bandmates, not subs. The double drumming literally came about on its own, when they decided they wanted to play as a many shows as possible together. It’s been awesome and they weave around each other in a really cool way!
Moose: Where was the album recorded at, and how did the process go?
RS: We recorded live at the Southgate House Revival in the Revival Room (upstairs). Then we did some additional work at New Fidelity Studios.
KT: We wanted to capture the natural reverb and bounce of that upstairs room at SGHR. You can definitely hear “the room” on the recordings and we love that!
RS: Elton Clifton and Brian Jester recorded us live. Elton did the follow up work, including mixing. It was really cool recording live! It definitely has the energy we were looking for.
Moose: Your song “Perfect Storm”, speaking of the album, was the intent all along to have both you and Randy sing on this one, in keeping with the theme of the song?
KT: This song was inspired by my Aunt Viola and her husband, Curly. I remember her as being this sweet little old lady with a constant sparkle in her eye. My granny told me a story about her younger days that was absolutely hilarious (and shocking to me)! Curly used to like to sneak off and go drinking and gambling and Viola would get pissed! One time he disappeared down the street, so she is fired up! Her and my Granny go down the street to find him. Viola is certain he’s at the local VFW, problem was, at that time, they didn’t let women into the VFW’s. So she is outside, fit to be tied, and getting madder by the minute! She and my granny go to the side of the building and my sweet Aunt Viola, spots a transom window about 15 feet up, she proceeds to climb the drain pipe and then is screaming at Curly through that open window. The story not only cracked me up, it made me understand a lot about myself and my temper. I knew I wanted write a song with Curly and Viola as our muse, so it called for a duet, with me playing Viola and Randy playing Curly. We had so much fun writing that one! P.S. They were married their whole lives. Sometimes a little turmoil keeps a relationship rolling.
Moose: What is next for Wilder? With the album done and set to release what is on the horizon?
RS: Mini tours, new songs, and keeping busy.
KT: What he said. We actually will be playing 4 new songs that aren’t on the EP, so that’s exciting. We’re getting some great gig offers and hope that trend continues!
Moose: And lastly, something I like to ask any musician or artist I talk to or interview is, why music? There are plenty of other interests and pursuits, but why music?
RS: I do it for the money and fame and fortune and heartburn from too many cigarettes and beer and gagging or dry heaving while preparing for a show.
KT: I’m in it for the groupies.
This new EP from Wilder is refreshing. The writing is sound both lyrically and melodically. You wouldn’t know by hearing them that have been together for just about year or so. That is a testament to their talent as musician’s and writers. Wilder’s new self-titled EP will be released at Southgate House Revival on Saturday May 2nd , which coincidentally, is also Derby Day! These Wilder folks have put together some great tunes, and the show will promise to be fun as well. Their songs will pull and tug and shake and roll, and there is no shortage of a good time at one of their live shows. Wilder, doing big things in a small city.