The Wrecks embrace happy accidents.
The Los Angeles pop-rock outfit has risen in popularity, in part, by embracing everything that life brings their way. The band’s songs cover alternative pop, rock and electronica—all while being, undeniably, The Wrecks. They just released sophomore LP Sonder, and are on tour supporting it, including a stop at the Cargo Concert Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
During a recent phone interview, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and producer Nick Anderson explained the difference between Sonder and their debut album, 2020’s Infinitely Ordinary.
“The first record was kind of made over the course of a couple of years, and the songs were gathered over years of writing,” Anderson said. “It’s almost like a compilation of a bunch of different timelines of what we were writing. This new record was all done in a few months. Most of it was written on the tail end of a breakup, and I was just kind of processing that, and writing about it, and purging the songs all within a two-to-three-month deadline. It was done mostly in isolation, too, because of what I was going through. I just needed to do it on my own and get those ideas out.”
The Wrecks’ music, Sonder especially, often features a distressed Anderson pouring his heart out through emotional lyrics. The song “Normal” features these lines: “I’m losing weight ’cause I can’t sleep / I tell my friends that I’m fasting / I’m not in shape; I’m unhappy / I’m getting used to your silence / It can’t hurt me like I can / I don’t hate you but goddamn / You didn’t make it easy.”
Anderson explained that, in some aspects, he appreciated the quick and isolated period in which he wrote Sonder.
“It was really cool to be able to just anchor down, shut everybody out a little bit, and explore some ideas without anyone hearing it,” he said. “All of it stemmed from a personal thing I was going through, so there was fuel to it. Sonder was born out of necessity; we had to put out a record, so I had to find 11 songs, and I just kind of found them.”
In other aspects, the process of writing Sonder was very stressful, he said.
“There was a ton of pressure for the deadline, because we had the tour coming up that summer, and the album was set to release the day the tour started,” Anderson said. “I also had to prepare for the actual tour itself—like our new live set and our longest headline show to date. There was a lot of pressure on that deadline, and I remember the last few weeks of getting it done were really difficult. There wasn’t a lot of sleep going on; I hadn’t even written all the songs yet, so it was definitely pretty difficult. I don’t love that kind of deadline, and it was a little unrealistic, but it happened, and I ended up producing a record.”
Being a producer for one’s own band is rare. I was curious if the two separate approaches to music ever bleed into each other.
“I think that they probably do in a subconscious way, but those are the kinds of things that someone would have to tell me,” Anderson said. “… A producer’s job is just to keep it on record, and make the studio recording, (but) maybe part of me thinks it’s not dynamic enough … because I know I’m going to be performing it. It’s never on my mind when I’m making a song, but it’s probably in the back of my mind. I think that there’ve got to be some implicit biases about even the volume of a vocal in a mix or things like that. If I’m the singer, and I’m writing the songs, and I’m producing it, I’m going to probably accidentally favor certain things over others.”
Anderson has gotten used to being both the musician with the crazy ideas, and the producer trying to make each song sound good.
“That’s why The Wrecks, I think, have such an eclectic sound, because every new song I make is such a mystery to me … because I just never want to make the same song twice,” Anderson said. “I’m typically never using the same drum samples, or I’m never using the same guitar tones, and every song presents itself to me as though it’s individual itself and a brand-new thing. That’s really frustrating, though, and I’ve been telling myself lately that it wouldn’t hurt to write what I know, but I’m constantly pushing that part of myself. Part of me wants to change up every song and use sounds I’ve never used. … I’m always on YouTube looking up tutorials for this production stuff that I haven’t done before, and instead of just doing the million things that I do know how to do, I’m spending everyday learning thousands of things. That’s a frustrating thing, but I’m glad that there’s part of me who wants to do that, because that’s why I’ve learned as much as I have with production.”
Anderson became The Wrecks’ producer after a rough experience with another producer.
“I’ve always made my own music, because if I didn’t have, there would be nowhere for me to record,” said Anderson. “… When we finally signed and were able to go to a producer, we did it for an EP, but we didn’t love how it turned out. That was a wakeup call for me, and I developed trust issues, and I didn’t know if I could trust myself to work with a producer. When we did that record, I was putting so much trust in the producer, even to the point of what I liked and what I was saying yes to was being influenced by the fact that I’m trusting this person. It was so exciting—but then our manager didn’t like it, and the minute they’re like, ‘Oh, we don’t love this,’ I heard the whole thing differently.”
After two albums as producer, Anderson said he’s grateful he took on the role.
“I didn’t consider myself a producer until maybe Infinitely Ordinary,” he said. “I was just making what I thought were demos, but I just kept at it, and I’ve got a band who trusts me with that, and put a lot of faith in me and supported me and made me feel like I could do it. At every turn, I’ve never felt like the guys in my band were, ‘Maybe we should go to this person to do it.’ Having the confidence of my band, and then also having someone to prove it to, was nice.
“Our old management was like, ‘Now we should probably go to a producer,’ and the label was like, ‘Who do you guys want to work with?’ I was like, ‘No, we’re going to do it.’ … We went and did it, and we’ve been doing it. I’ve been able to produce our records ever since, and, yeah, I’m glad that those situations happened the way they did. I’m really glad that the EP didn’t go super-well when we went to someone else.”
The Wrecks will perform with Carr at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Cargo Concert Hall at the Whitney Peak Hotel, 255 N. Virginia St., in Reno. Tickets are $20, and the show is all-ages. For more information, visit www.cargoreno.com.