Trio tries to make sense of the nonsensical on debut EP
If you happen to come upon Bryce Wood in his car, holding a phone in each hand and mumbling gibberish, don't be concerned. It's all part of Wheelbarrel's creative process.
On one phone, singer/guitarist Wood plays back an instrumental guitar track, and on the other phone he records himself conjuring a melody consisting of a slurred mix of words and non-words to go with the guitar.
“It's complete nonsense,” Wood said recently at a Clintonville coffee shop, joined by his two Wheelbarrel bandmates, bassist Chad Welling and drummer Adam Harshberger.
“In his defense, the nonsense is normally pretty cool,” Harshberger said.
“I'll try to decode the nonsense and make it real words that I have no intention of keeping — words that don't make sense,” Wood said. “Like, ‘It sounds like I said “ocean line” here.' Then Adam, he's good at editing and making it all work together. He takes it from ‘ocean line' to ‘frozen time.'”
Even though the songs begin incoherently, by the end, the tracks on Wheelbarrel's debut four-song EP, Feast on Sand, share loose lyrical connections. On leadoff track “Traced,” a nervy, post-punk sing-along with snaking guitar lines, Wood sings about passing time — a topic that resurfaces on “Mandatory” as a clock keeps time, and again on “Sacred Things” when Wood sings, “Time moves in rhythms I don't understand.”
“The songs are about time and people and other things we can't quite grasp,” Wood said.
The EP's title track, which starts out in the vein of vintage alt-rock and then pivots to melodic slowcore, began in a less impressionistic, more didactic manner. “Initially it was this really heavy-handed thing about social media,” Harshberger said. “Eventually it got to be like, ‘I don't wanna do that. I don't wanna make some definitive statement about something.' A lot of the lyrics are pondering and ruminating, attaching symbols to things to make sense of them.”
The trio will celebrate the release of Feast on Sand with a show at Cafe Bourbon St. on Friday, June 8. Even though the three bandmates have only been playing together for a year, Wood and Harshberger have known each other since their early days as neighbors and high school classmates in Norwalk, Ohio. The two met Welling after moving to Columbus several years ago for college.
“I would always hear them playing music next door, and that's how I met them,” Welling said. “I would just go over there, like the bat signal was up.”
The three friends played in various bands together, and after launching Wheelbarrel, they headed to Relay Recording to work with Jon Fintel last August. The band didn't have a specific sound in mind, instead letting Fintel's instincts and expertise guide them through the process.
“We were able to be like, ‘Jon, can we make it sound creamier?' And Jon would do it,” Wood said.
Making Feast on Sand also helped Wheelbarrel realize how it works best as a creative unit — even if it meant starting with nonsense.