Wilder Maker are a Brooklyn-based quintet led by the songwriting of singer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Birnbaum. Their music, which drifts from motorik-psych-pop to dreamy alt-country, details the diverse characters and neighbourhoods of their native city, offering grimy, beautiful snapshots of lives in the process of being led. Gabriel has suggested their upcoming record, Zion, is an attempt to do for New York what James Joyce did for Dublin, the first chapter in a musical novel from which you could put the city back together, “brick-by-brick.”
At the heart of their sound is the musical interplay of Gabriel alongside long term collaborator, and critically acclaimed solo artist, Katie Von Schleicher. Lead vocals often shared between the two, as the expansive musical back-drops form dense atmospheres on which their vocals dance and entwine. The tracks on Zion are all in a way searching for a break in the brutality of city living, battling to make the fleeting glimpses of euphoria and success last longer than just a second. As Oscar Wilde put it, “we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are staring at the stars”, Wilder Maker are aiming for the heavens and on Zion they might just have taken the first step towards them.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Wilder Maker?
WM: We’re a band of people from various parts of the USA, living in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, NY. I’m Gabriel Birnbaum (Pisces), I write the songs, sing, play guitar and saxophone. Katie Von Schleicher (Sagittarius), who makes her own incredible solo music, plays keys, guitar, and sings lead as well. Nick Jost (Pisces) plays bass, he’s also in the metal band Baroness. He’s the kind of person that will do push-ups shirtless in jorts on camera if you just ask him to. Very selfless and sensitive, even though he’s currently off playing something called “Hellfest”. Sean Mullins (Aries) plays drums and is unbeatable at all games and irresistible to all animals – he’s the chill one. Adam Brisbin (Sagittarius) plays lead guitar when he’s not on tour with 100 other bands. He’s one of the most inventive guitarists I know, just freakishly good. We’re all neurotic but in a really fun way.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show together?
WM: I’m going to have to split this up by band member – everyone joined at different times. It will be long.
Katie – I was making a record a long time ago at a great studio in Medford, MA called The Soul Shop. I grew up playing jazz and experimental saxophone and this was the first time since i’d started making bedroom songs on guitar that I actually set out to make a “real” record. I needed female singers for a few songs and Elio DeLuca, who runs the studio, called Katie in. She did an amazing job and we became friends immediately. Our bands played together a lot after that. Our first show with her as a “member” rather than a guest was in Northampton, MA, I think, and we all played so poorly that we spent the whole next day practicing so it would never happen again, if I remember correctly.
Sean – We were heading out on a completely stupid 3 month DIY US tour (never do this) and no one we currently played with would go, so we were casting around for drummers who were looking to make a change in their lives. Sean was a friend of the bass player who was coming on the tour, and he was working at a Trader Joe’s at the time. We met him for 5 minutes at Union Pool. He was quiet, seemed okay, so we invited him to live out of a van with us. We didn’t even hear him play, I don’t think. He turned out to be one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with and best dudes I know. Total dumb luck, god bless the universe.
Nick – Sean brought Nick into the fold and he immediately clicked – learned the music super fast, wasn’t afraid to step in and take creative risks with his parts, great human. It’s not a show, but on one of the first tours he did I remember staying with the band And The Kids in Northampton and Meghan and Nick for some reason decided to have an impromptu fashion show while we all chanted a made up song built around the words “hat fashion.” Just very silly, blowing off steam.
Adam joined more recently, but since we met him he quickly became our first call for guitar magic that none of us can provide. I think his first live sets with us may have been on bass in late 2015, after I saw him sub on bass for Big Thief at our EP release show and discovered his secret – he’s also a sick bass player. I also remember Nick ordering an uber from the studio to rush Adam over for guitar overdubs when the other 4 of us got creatively stuck in a recording session, like a paramedic.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
WM: I’ve messed around with other forms and I do work in them for fun or just to learn (I take film photos and make linocut prints and am trying to make a sound installation piece at the moment), but there are two main reasons I make this music. First is that live music has a special transcendent quality because of its impermanence and interactivity. Films or books can be rich and transportive, but the way live music is a participatory event, an art that includes you just by your presence there watching – that’s really unique to me, and nothing else I’ve ever done brings me joy in the same way. The second reason is sort of the opposite. In the object of the album, I have a space where I can carefully craft a personal, intimate artwork that could never exist the same way in real time. With this kind of music, you can create art that is somehow both a curated, perfected object AND an improvisational, ephemeral, experience. Best of both worlds.
FTR: What can people expect from the Wilder Maker live show?
This is hard – I think (and am told) that our live show is really strong, but I don’t know what to say about it. We don’t do ornate, Spinal Tap type stage tricks. No crazy props or costumes. This is a weird thing to brag about, but we have a ton of fun onstage – we love playing music and we’re not trying to hide it. I think that energy is infectious. The band are also all very good at their instruments, which isn’t important to everyone, but for people who are into that it rules. Also occasionally Katie will say something very funny into the mic.
For dudes who are really into coming up front to scope out pedals – I definitely recommend looking at Katie’s and not mine, she has way cooler ones.
FTR: What’s next for Wilder Maker?
Well, our album Zion comes out July 13 on Northern Spy Records, and we’ll be touring behind it this summer and fall. Please buy it, and also come see us live. Also – we love food and good coffee, so if anyone sees this and has recommendations about where to eat good and cheap or get the best coffee in the following cities, please email the band at wildermaker at gmail. I am serious.
They Listen To…
Parquet Courts – Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience
I admire this band so much – most contemporary guitar rock is totally lifeless, and they are decidedly not. They’re restless and inventive and they don’t confine themselves lyrically. They try new things all the time. They trade in adult feelings. That’s the way I want my band to grow.
Ava Luna – Deli Run
Another band I love dearly. They always surprise me, and like PQ they have a “sound” but every record has its own feeling – they don’t repeat themselves and they always push.
Star Rover – Byron Bay
Listening to these guys always makes me want to write songs. I’ve known Will Graefe forever, he in fact used to be in WM years ago, and him and Jeremy have this amazing locked-in quality as a duo. The music is dense but never cluttered, and in fact always has this weird glass-like clarity to it that I really admire.
Marisa Anderson – Cloud Corner
Beautiful, effortless, makes such depth out of a simple harmonic idea. I tend to overcomplicate when I feel like I’m low on ideas and listening to things like this make me realize that muddying the water isn’t going to help me. This song is almost like a color to me, the feeling of it is so clear.
The Jones Girls – Nights Over Egypt
Found this song recently, but have been obsessed. I spend a lot of time thinking about this bassline and melody and the way they overlap.
Zion is out July 13th via Northern Spy Records. Click HERE for more information on Wilder Maker.