Coming off of The Wrecks’ latest album Sonder, which was followed by a whirlwind tour this past summer and fall and a Deluxe album release, Nick Anderson says he keeps forgetting 2022 existed. But, that doesn’t mean the singer-songwriter would take any of it back. The Wrecks’ Better Than Ever Tour saw them playing some of their biggest venues yet.
The alternative rock band is comprised of Anderson, Nick Schmidt on guitar, Aaron Kelley playing bass and Billy Nally on the drums. They began their rise to fame with the 2017 hit “Favorite Liar.” Then, The Wrecks solidified their success with 2020 debut album Infinitely Ordinary.
After dropping their sophomore album, Anderson says though he definitely sees growth in Sonder, “Each release of ours takes us in a different direction.” The 11-track album (and 18-track Deluxe album) captures Anderson’s raw, and sometimes even petty, feelings following a breakup. With the emotional lyrics, he said that during shows, as fans sing along, he gets to, “watch people get their own shit off their chests.”
Ahead of their September Riot Fest set, Anderson spoke to us about everything that went into Sonder, his favorite songs to play live and some of the bands he’s most excited to watch at Riot Fest.
- I Love This Part
- Where Are You Now?
- Don’t Be Scared
- No Place I’d Rather Be
- Ugly Side
The Wrecks @ Riot Fest 2023
Foo Fighters, Turnstile & More
Friday, September 15th
To start off with Sonder, your latest release, and the deluxe version, what was your vision behind the album?
I had just gone through a pretty bad breakup. So, it was one of those records that was born out of necessity and for closure, for coping and for a bit of self therapy. I had a really short deadline, looking back at it now. Usually our releases come together by me writing songs for like a year, year and a half, and I just kind of put together my favorite 10 or whatever. For Sonder, it was like, “Okay Nick, you’ve got two and a half months to write and record and produce and edit the whole record and then send it off to mix.”
Basically, anything I wrote is what went on the record. There were no extra songs. There was no extra anything. I didn’t really have time to second guess, and I kind of miss that. It was really hard, but now, I kind of miss that intense deadline because writing without a deadline has been pretty frustrating. I think I really thrived in that environment of stress. I’m kind of welcoming back some of that in my life. I keep telling my management, “Give me a fake deadline. Give me a date to finish something by because I keep starting new things.” It was just kind out of necessity personally, in my own life, and, apparently, for our band as a business and a t-shirt selling company.
Is there a cathartic side to writing music, and how does drawing from your personal life for inspiration influence the music you make?
I have a tough time writing about a situation while I’m in it, but usually a few months later, or half a year later, I can look back at it with a bit of perspective. It does become a pretty cathartic process. Writing helps me sort through what I did wrong or how I could have been better. It helps me sort through why I might have feelings of resentment or hold feelings of bitterness over a situation. With perspective comes the ability to realize if you were being petty, or if you were right in your feelings, or if the new person that you are six months later, a year later, doesn’t even see things the same way. But, you can still tap into who you were then with whatever information you had then. I like it because I’m able to revisit those situations.
It’s like playing Sims with my emotional tribulations. I’m like, “I’m not feeling as petty as I did, but right now I can write a lyric that comes off as petty but also makes me seem like the butt of the joke.” I have all the pettiness that I had back then, but now I realized that it was pettiness and not resentment. I can write from a perspective that is more well-informed and interesting to me, rather than just a two-dimensional, immediate thought.
A lot of Sonder was like that. It would be like, “Okay, I had the first initial thought and an emotion and reaction.” Then, months later when thinking about it, I had an epiphany while doing laundry or something, and I go, “Oh, this is actually a funnier way to look at it and a more interesting take on this emotion.” Then, I can flip the lyric around or make it kind of funny or make it, at least, poignant and interesting. It applies directly back to my actual personal life, in my own growth. In songwriting, you’re forced to confront those things and forced to look at them from a different perspective, or else you’re just gonna write really vapid, emotionally immediate songs, and some people do that. That doesn’t seem as fun for me. I like it to sound like it’s immediate, but there’s depth to it.
Comparing Sonder to previous albums, do you feel like it’s different, like you went in a new direction? Or, is it sort of a continuation or an evolution of other albums?
Each release of ours takes us in a different direction. Within the release, it’s going all different directions, like a tree, rather than following one branch. It’s not like, “Oh, this is the record where we did this.” Each record is like, “Oh, this is another record where we tried to reach for every corner.” The main difference was how isolated I was when I made it, so I didn’t really care what genre or what was going on with how I was getting these emotions across. I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
Musically, the fact that it went in a bunch of different directions is interesting to me because it was just following the trail of emotion for each of those songs. There was definitely some growth, and it allowed for a little bit of more full band stuff that we did more in our first few releases with the live elements, which is also what the newer music now is feeling like. That’s a hard question for me to answer. I don’t have a good perspective on the changes within our own sound. It’s all very confusing. I think I’m too in it.
We talked about drawing on your personal life for inspiration. Where else do you find inspiration with making music?
That’s pretty much it. The idea of making up a story or making up characters: I’m in awe of how people do it. I think it’s incredible. The people I’ve met and the situations I’ve been in have been plenty interesting. I don’t need to develop a fairy tale because I won’t write a more interesting one than the situations I’ve been in and know intimately. I’ve tried, and I just never felt connected to anything that felt like it was reaching for someone to relate to or it was someone else’s story. It doesn’t feel great for me to do that, so I guess it’s a pretty selfish process for me at the end of the day.
Since last June, you guys wrapped up the Better Than Ever tour. What was that like?
Crazy. It was by far our biggest tour yet. We weren’t sure how or why any of that happened. Most of the markets we tripled what we had played last time. The size of the venues kept upgrading. I keep forgetting that happened. I see clips on Instagram, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, we did that.” I was so goddamn tired from making the album. I finished it and then immediately started setting up all those songs for the live show and programmed the lights and all these things. As soon as that summer tour ended, I immediately started working on the deluxe version and then the fall tour happened. All of last year was just a blur of Sonder, with all the music videos and everything. I keep forgetting that 2022 existed. The tour was incredible, and I was very tired for most of it. I kept getting sick and losing my voice. It was amazing. It was so fun. It was a great time.
Do you have favorite songs from Sonder to play live?
“Sonder” itself, the title track, is super fun because we struggled to figure out the arrangement for it live for so long. We tried like four different versions, and we finally nailed it, so now it’s really rewarding to play. It’s one of those songs that I feel like I really connect with people when they’re singing the words.
Same thing with the song, “I Love This Part,” off the record. There’s so many lyrics in it, that I get to do the finger point and really connect with someone on because some of the lyrics are so pointed. It’s so fun to sing along with those and watch people get their own shit off their chests. It’s awesome. Those two are so fun off that record for solely that reason. “Unholy” is super cool just because it shows a little different energy. Every time those two songs come on, we start playing them, I’m stoked to get down into the barricade and grab someone’s hand and just starting screaming those words. It’s so fun.
With the title track, “Sonder,” can you talk about what went into the songwriting process?
Weirdly enough, it starts with this distorted 808 thing. It does a dotted rhythm, and I was joking around one night (This is what I do for fun. It’s obnoxious.) I was joking around and making a dance track, not for anyone else’s entertainment. It was a club beat, and it had this distorted 808. At one point, I pitched the notes around wrong, and I heard what then became the beginning of “Sonder.” What started as this distorted dance track, I suddenly heard a pop punk song over. I just started recording and was coming up with the lyrics of the verse on the spot. It was like, hit record and improv the words.
I left it there for a while, and then we went on tour with The Driver Era, so I had left it for like two months. I didn’t have a chorus yet, and I didn’t think it was supposed to have a chorus. Like a lot of ideas that I have, I’m like, “No, no, I don’t think it’s supposed to have a chorus. It’s gonna be four verses and done.” And then I ended up going, “Hey, try to write a chorus.” So, I had no chorus, and I was just gonna get stuff off my chest and have this artsy thing. Then, Aaron loved the song, and it floated around in our demos and was just two weird verses. I thought maybe the pre-chorus/bridge thing would be the chorus. Then, I got home, and I forced myself to try because I could only hear one way. I’d heard the demo for months, so I forced myself to cut out 16 bars in the middle and put a chorus in there. What the chorus is now is the first thing I came up with, and I was like, “Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t just leave this as verses.”
That was something very specific to that song that I thought was interesting, where it was a different version for longer than it was the version that it is now. It still feels new to me because I’m used to it not going to the chorus. Again, I didn’t have to put too much thought into writing a lot of the songs on Sonder because it was all thoughts that were just circling around in my head, so I was able to improvise a lot of lyrics on the record because I knew what I wanted to say. Sometimes I just had a Notes app pulled up of a bunch of different lines. I would write lyrics one line at a time, rap lyrics or something. It would just be a bar, a rhyme scheme. Sometimes when I’m improvising, I would have that up, and while the song is going, I’m scrolling down and singing and looking for things. I’m sure that happened at some point while I was writing “Sonder.”
Up next, you’ve got Riot Fest, and you guys are playing on the same day as Foo Fighters and a lot of other big rock bands. What bands in the lineup are you really looking forward to seeing?
This is what the other guys in the band are great for. They jump in and list every band you could ever imagine, bands you didn’t even know existed. They are all much bigger music fans than I am. I don’t listen to a lot of music, so I don’t even enjoy shows the same way they do.
Turnstile for sure. That’s unreal. Say anything, 1,000%. Who else do we got? The Breeders, no way! Hell yeah. I reference The Breeders so often in writing sessions and when I’m writing for other artists. I’m like, “I know you know Pixies, but let me put you on to The Breeders.” I’m just looking at the day we’re playing, Friday. It wouldn’t be fair. Tegan and Sara, fun. I’ll probably stop by. We got a good start going. I’ll watch Foo Fighters because it’s Foo Fighters. That’d be super fun. Dave Grohl is like everyone’s uncle that they never got to meet.
Do you often draw inspiration from other bands in your music?
Totally. I’ll reference The Breeders a ton. I reference GROUPLOVE a lot, I reference Cage The Elephant, The Killers. It’s not even knowing their full discography or listening to them a ton. For some bands that I bring up, it’s probably just two songs, or it’s a vocal technique or something. It’s like a checkpoint to go to: “Oh, what if this was like this band? How would this band write this part?” Sometimes it’s good to have an elementary knowledge of a bands discography, only knowing their biggest things, you’re only pulling from the stuff that really worked from a bunch of different bands. That’s always been a good trick for me.
I’m constantly using references because I write and produce for other artists a lot. Before we start a session, I’d like to know what they’ve been listening to or what music really makes them feel something, not just what they think is popping off or buzzing, what they really like. There’s just pieces in everything that you could pull from. Maybe that’s why I don’t listen to a lot of music. It’s such an analytical, involved process, so it’s kind of exhausting. The idea of getting in the car and putting on music: holy shit, no. No way. Podcast, YouTube, anything else. I will just fall asleep. I can only listen to music if it has a purpose, which is not how it’s always been, certainly not why I got into music. But, it’s where we are now.
Musically, what does the future look like for you and The Wrecks?
Musically, I’ve been trying to crack the code for seven months now, and I’ve gone a lot of different directions. I think what I’ve landed on, is that I really like our weird brand of quirky alt-rock for verses and then great big country folk choruses over alt-rock instrumentals and chords. I think that’s the new blend. I’m putting it all in a cauldron, and I’m going to develop some concoction that curses everybody… I don’t know why I used a witches thing. I think that is going to be the recipe for the next batch of songs. I keep getting closer to it. I haven’t written the song. I’ve been trying every day for seven months, but I’m close on so many.
Riot Fest 2023 Tickets + Lineup
Don’t miss The Wrecks live at Riot Fest 2023 on Friday, September 15th, along with some other legendary bands like Turnstile, Tegan and Sara, Say Anything, Foo Fighters and many more.
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