Because we’ll be talking about reusing and recasting material this week, and to save some time, I’m going to recycle my earlier description of Greenville’s Wasted Wine quintet, who will play at Moe Joe Coffee in Greenville this Saturday: “Imagine that someone built a creepy old-school funhouse, then placed it in the bowels of a 19th-century ship crewed by travelling gypsy musicians in the middle of a massive storm.”
That’s more or less what Wasted Wine sounds like. Alternately frenzied and beguiling, melodic and dissonant, and about as far from the average rock band as you can get.
They’re also a group that obsesses over their recorded output. There is no sound on a Wasted Wine album that’s there by chance, and it’s exactly the way that Adam Murphy and Robert Gowan, the singers and multi-instrumentalists behind the band, envisioned it. They’re currently in the throes of recording their seventh release, called “Wasted Wine Killed in Bizarre Accident,” and I wanted to get a look into the process of recording this strange, haunting music that they create.
“What we like to do is get everything recorded with the band, and then Adam and I will go in and add layers of stuff,” Gowan says. “Historically, the band learns songs more slowly than we write them, so we end up having an enormous backlog of stuff. So a lot of times we’ll pick the best of the unused material and we’ll layer that over the existing songs.”
So in other words, if they’ve got a killer solo or instrumental section from a song that didn’t make the record, and it fits over another song, it gets thrown in the mix and built upon.
Gowan is quick to point out, however, that the basic tracks with the full band are a vital part of the process. “Part of it is having a product that fits with what people are going to see live,” he says. “The band deserves collectively to have a snapshot of what was going on.”
Murphy and Gowan work as a creative team during the recording process, with Gowan serving as the linear-minded half, engineering the recording and constructing a narrative flow, and Murphy being more intuition-driven. “I guess one of the ways I think about recording is similar to the process of creating a collage,” Murphy says. “When you’re doing collage work, you combine one thing with something else and occasionally things click in a way that you might not have seen before. Playing two or three things against each other creates something really provocative. I think that’s the method we use until we have an over-arching concept.”
And in the case of their new album, which is about halfway done, it helped that the title was already in place. “We came up with the title pretty early on,” Murphy says. “So while we were writing and recording songs, that was looming over it all.”
As for the actual finished product, Murphy says he’s already moved on. “Once we finish something, I’ve never gone back and listened to it,” he says. “It’s very much about the process. I’m already playing around with ideas for the next album. When this one’s done and off our plates, that’s immediately where my mind is going to go. I like being in the moment and putting things together.”