Wiping Out Thousands talk new album and free music ahead of West Bank Music Festival
Local electro-rock duo Wiping Out Thousands went from being just a musical idea stored on a laptop to setting local stages on fire in just a matter of weeks earlier this year. Taylor Nelson and Alaine Dickman released their debut EP, Reaction Machine, in January, and a few weeks later they were thrilling a sold-out 7th Street Entry audience gathered to see YACHT. After effectively stealing the show from the headliners with a riveting performance, Wiping Out Thousands have steadily won over the Twin Cities music scene while also setting their sights on releasing their debut full-length.
Gimme Noise was able to catch up with Dickman and Nelson before their upcoming spot on the West Bank Music Festival on Saturday to ask them how the recording process is coming along, how all of the added local attention has affected them, and if they've ever played an outdoor show in the daylight before.
Gimme Noise: So, Twin Cities music fans are anxiously awaiting your forthcoming full-length this fall. How is the recording process going, and what can you share with us about the progress you are making on the album?
Taylor: I think we're just as anxious as you are! We didn't really expect Reaction Machine to take off as much as it did, so all of the attention it got really took us by surprise. Because of this, we're really combing over the new album to make sure it's what we want out there. Reaction Machine was a big test for us in seeing how we could work together and what we could create. This new album is definitely a more precise execution of our creativity. We are pretty close to finishing up production on the album and we have some exciting things planned.
Are you recording it locally? Are you handling the production on your own, or did you bring someone in to help out?
Taylor: Reaction Machine was recorded entirely under our own supervision and we didn't utilize a studio space for it. Alaine even recorded her vocals on her laptop's built-in microphone. It was entirely a home-brew project, and we were pleased with how it turned out. But going forward, we wanted to take certain aspects of the production to a higher level, so we decided to work closely with Adam Tucker of Signaturetone Recording.
I've personally worked with him in the past on other projects, and he had a big hand in helping us with our recent single Mass Nerve. He's a very talented engineer and I have great respect for his opinions on production. We've been using him for help with recording guitars and vocals, and will hand him the final mixes for mastering. As far as the electronic production, that is all being done by Alaine and myself.
Have you decided on a label for your release, or is that something you'll think about once the recording process is finished?
Taylor: At this time a label is a foreign word to us. We've loved the freedom of doing everything on our own. Our website, social media, music videos, it's all been controlled and created by the two of us. We've also been very blessed to work with Kent Horgan who has been managing us since the release of Reaction Machine. He has helped tremendously with getting us shows with so many amazing bands. If all of this leads to a label, that would be wonderful. But for the time being, we are having fun doing all the work.
Has the live experience of recreating your songs in front of an audience affected how you approach writing and recording your new songs?
Taylor:This is probably one of the most interesting parts of the past year for us. We released the Reaction Machine EP in January, and started playing shows immediately after (I think the YACHT show was a week later?). The actual songs from Reaction Machine had been sitting on a hard drive for about a year before we decided to release them to the public. So when it came time to start playing shows, we realized we needed more material. Not to say that we scrambled to create filler, but it forced us to start writing again very quickly. It turned out to be a pretty big boost for us because we immediately started creating material that would lead to our next release. A few songs off the new album ("Creation" and "Feed") have been part of our live show since that opening set for YACHT.
I don't necessarily think that our live performances have changed the way we approach writing. If anything, they have given us a better idea of what we can and like to do on stage. I've always had this grand vision of mixing live performance with what a DJ does to pre-recorded tracks and I think we pull it off pretty well.
There are so many unexpected sonic textures and riveting electronic flourishes in your music, which I think really keeps the listener engaged. How do you balance those textured layers while still letting Alaine's voice shine through the captivating din of your songs?
Alaine: Writing a song usually just takes two different routes for us. When I began writing, which was probably in 2010, I would open up GarageBand and just hit record. I'd sing a bass line. I'd sing some harmonies. I'd then make up lyrics on the spot. Actually, when Taylor first contacted with interest in working together, he asked if I had any songs that I could send him. I sent a GarageBand project titled, "Monster in the Closet". The song had no lyrics, just hisses and clicks, a "bass" line and a couple more layers and harmonies.He loved it and I've been writing like that ever since. I just ship those projects over to Taylor and he does the instrumentation. "Hypnotist" is one of our first finished projects that started that way.
When Taylor gets started on something, he doesn't like to stop until he has everything done, not including vocals. But he knows exactly where the vocals need to be, and really lays back on those parts, which really makes it easy for me to play my part!
Are the lyrics a reflection of the mood of the music itself, or do you approach them separately, fitting in lyrics where they are needed in the songs?
Alaine: Both. The moods usually create pretty vivid images in my head. Writing lyrics can be much like narrating a silent film for me, with the film rolling in my head. I have always had an intense imagination. When I need to approach my writing process separately, I try not to let structure invade the creative process... If I can just let my mind wander, like when I start singing to myself on the walk home from a bus stop, I can usually work out a melody and rhythm that fit. That's when the consonants, vowels and I will find our way.
So, you're playing the West Bank Block Party. Your music seems to be perfectly suited for a dark, intimate club--have you ever played outside in the daylight before? Any adjustments you have planned to make your music soar in the afternoon sun?
Taylor: Alaine and I play catch with a frisbee a lot outside. So I think we're prepared to play in the sun. I got a pretty wicked sunburn on a boat down in LaCrosse last weekend, so I think that will work as a nice primer. I'm thinking of sporting shades, but I have a narrow head so it doesn't look as cool as it sounds.
Is this going to be your biggest local gig to date (as far as attendance goes)?
Taylor: We've had the privilege of opening up a few sold-out shows at the 7th Street Entry (the Tanlines show having the most people I've ever seen in that room). As far as attendance, I don't know how this will compare. Honestly, I haven't been to the West Bank Music Festival before. I've heard great things, but I have no memories to pull from. We sure hope that people show up though! We have the honor of opening up the main stage, and if people come out that early, we will have an even greater respect for Minneapolis music lovers. August afternoons in Minnesota can get pretty messy.
How have you approached your rapid rise on the local scene? It seems like you really caught fire after your stellar opening set for YACHT, which was still pretty early on in your development, right? Does that building buzz even register on your radar?
Alaine: I'm new to the scene in general, and I still have a hard time comprehending the response that performance received. But I am so attracted to it! If there was anything I ever squeezed my eyes shut and wished for growing up, it was to be loved as a writer and performer, and to be original. Now that wish is coming to light, and I couldn't be more giddy about it. It's the perfect motivation to continue writing and performing, and to be almost constantly evolving from album to album.
Taylor, with the blossoming success of Wiping Out Thousands, how do you balance that while also focusing your attention on the New Monarchs as well?
Taylor: The release cycles for both acts have been staggered a bit, so there isn't too much of an overlap. This has been a huge benefit for both bands and something that I respect both Sean (my band mate in The New Monarchs) and Alaine for. They've been willing to work with me and respect my dedication to both projects. From the beginning, I made it a personal goal to keep the two as separate as possible, and I think it has worked out very well.
Please feel free and share anything else you want to be sure to mention about what you're up to these days and what you have planned in the future that I didn't touch on.
Wiping out Thousands: We believe in giving our music away for free. It's not a product, it's our art. And we don't like the idea of putting up a paywall between us and any potential new listeners. Reaction Machine was free, and the new album will be available for free as well. Listeners can get all of our music from our bandcamp site and keep up-to-date with us through our Facebook page.
We love Minneapolis and the amazing music it breeds.
Wiping Out Thousands kick-off the West Bank Music Festival on the Main Stage at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 18. All-day wristbands are $5.
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