Trio's haunting tracks project beauty from afar but grow more menacing as listeners draw near
From a distance, wyd tracks tend to be lush and beautiful, layers of gauzy, pulsating keyboards, delicate guitar and minimalist drums creating a haunting musical cocoon for singer Carly Fratianne. Move a bit closer, though, and the barbs in Fratianne’s words can pack a lethal sting. “I think that I have lost the will to live,” she sings ominously on seductive unreleased track “After.”
“It’s almost like wrapping a porcupine in a nice, felt box,” Fratianne said of the band’s ability to transform these dark utterances into something beautiful. “Like, ‘Here you go. This will look great on your mantle. Don’t open it.’”
Fratianne, who also sings and plays guitar in 2018 Band to Watch Souther, initially formed wyd as a duo alongside multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Maddy Ciampa in late 2017 (the group now records and performs as a trio with drummer Courtney Hall). Coming into the project, the two had zero expectations. For months, wyd existed less as a fully functioning band than as a friendly bedroom collaboration, the pair constructing debut track “wyd” casually over the course of three or four months.
“We didn’t have a plan to make this a band,” Fratianne said. “We were just fixated on this one song. … But then we liked it so much and had such a good working chemistry that we just kept going.”
Even now, the studio remains key to wyd’s existence, the bandmates logging countless hours layering their dense tracks with electronic textures, unexpected instrumental flourishes and even found sounds — one unreleased song includes a tornado siren Ciampa and Fratianne recorded in unison on their cell phones in the midst of a thunderstorm.
“We have a lot of tracks on every song — even if it doesn’t sound like it,” Ciampa said. “Sometimes, if a song needs more high end, or more air to it, which is hard to describe from a producer’s point of view, I’ll add a weird static to it. … It’s not anything that anyone else would notice is there, but when it’s out, I can tell something is missing.”
This intuitive approach mirrors the genesis of the songs, which often start with something as simple as a loose guitar riff or keyboard line and a vague feeling or conceptual idea the musicians hope to communicate. Starting work on “wya,” for instance, Fratianne described to her bandmates a desire to have the song replicate “a dirty snow globe,” and throughout recording Ciampa envisioned a raging storm, which is mirrored in a guitar riff on the bridge that crackles like heat lightning.
“For the first three songs, Carly had these visions. Sometimes she would tell me textures, or visual things like colors,” Ciampa said. “What I think makes a good mixing engineer is when you mix with your eyes closed. And so when I was mixing those first three songs, every time I closed my eyes, I could picture the full scenery of the song.”
While wyd generally takes a meticulous approach to recording, the three are also open to the accidental, particularly in the writing process, which can introduce more natural tension into the music.
“I never want to create things that sound purely accidental, but I always love the accidental quality of music as an art form,” Fratianne said. “The way I write songs is super-organic and very impulsive, and I want to lean into that. But I also don’t want to release things that sound like I just sang them into a microphone. I mean, I want you to know I just did that, but I don’t want to actually have just done that, if that makes sense.”
In concert, however, these more conceptual ideas are set aside, with Hall, who came up drumming in punk bands, helping reshape the songs into leaner, louder versions of the recorded takes.
“The studio can feel a little tedious, at times — in a good way, like in a way you can feel your brain muscles growing,” Fratianne said. “But it’s such a great release to then take these tracks and play them loudly for people, and to all together go on that adventure.”