Writing and recording music together since 2015, Wilderado has racked up an impressive stockpile of streams, surpassing numbers that even some of the most mainstream of artists would hope to achieve. That’s why it’s surprising to learn that even with over 90 million digital listens, the Tulsa band has yet to release a full-length album – that is, until now.
The long-awaited self-titled debut is finally here, set to drop on Friday via Bright Antenna Records.
I recently sat down with lead singer and guitarist Maxim Rainer to discuss conversations with himself, creative pride, and why we all need a little affirmation from time to time.
Americana Highways: It’s only a few days away now until your self-titled album drops. Does it feel like you’re in the calm before the storm, because this is something you have been building to for awhile now?
Maxim Rainer: Yeah. If I’m being honest, it’s a very strange combination of feelings. I’m not entirely sure how to feel. I mostly feel excited, I think, but it’s just odd to have it been coming for this long. Also, we’re aware, at this point, that nothing happens in a day. A record or a song comes out, and I think there’s this expectation for it to do something then, but I think we all are pretty practiced at being sober about the fact that it takes a little bit. So you have your release day and you allow yourself to be celebratory, but it’s still just going to be a Friday. Hopefully, the record sits in, and people settle with it, and it’s something they come to love.
But yeah, this week, man, it’s just about us being grateful. We’re going to all be together, which is great. And yeah, we’re just celebrating it.
AH: The band has been together since 2015. When it comes to a full album, why these songs, and why now?
MR: I think they just came now. We never set out to do anything specific, other than continue to be a band, and continuing to make music. The way this started was by putting out music in a way that let us tour. We found ourselves being able to finish a record with great songs on it, and songs that we felt told a story, and had a thread, and it’s not something we forced. It was just something that we always were diligent in waiting on, and it came, so now’s the time.
AH: How does the album best represent who the band is today? How do the songs differ from the earliest days of the band?
MR: Yeah, that’s a good question. It probably requires a more thorough answer than I may rattle off here. (Laughter) But I think, one thing we’ve always tried to do, is just allow ourselves to write whatever song we may want to write. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to cultivate this eclectic writing style, because it’s led us to being able to create a record that really didn’t need a sound. All we really wanted to do was just write something that we felt was a solid and congruent body of work. We’ve just always written music with trying to figure out what that day was, and what we were working on, and who we were with, and where we were. We just did what we’ve always done, and had time to put more of them together. Like I said, if we were going to put out a record, I wanted it to be a record, not just a song that went on a playlist.
AH: So does having this one feel different to you in terms of life accomplishments?
MR: It does. Yeah. I think I’ve worked around whether or not I should feel that way, but I’ve come to a point where it does feel better than anything we’ve ever released. Part of that is just because I’m allowing myself to be proud of it, and realize that we came to a point in the band where we thought it was time to put out a record, and that’s what we set out to do. That’s just what we’ve done, and we are proud out of it, and yeah, there’s a good sense of accomplishment tied to that. Now, as it comes out, and we wait for people to have opinions on it, those things seem less weighty, because we’re just kind of happy with it in and of ourselves.
AH: Well, and that’s the beauty of music, is that you create something out of nothing, and here’s this something that didn’t exist a year ago, and now you’re putting it out into the universe.
MR: Yeah, man, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m grateful to have it be something I was allowed to do.
AH: What would someone learn about you in sitting down to listen to the album front to back?
MR: I think we’re all growing more and are more aware of the understanding that we’ll never have any idea what someone may think, or how someone will respond to something. It would be impossible for me to maybe guess at how someone will react, or what it may make them think about me or understand about me. What I hope that they understand is that I just was observing things, and was allowing myself to try and have conversations with myself. None of these songs are about me trying to teach anybody anything, because truly, they’re just about me observing myself. I hope that’s what someone else is able to do while listening to it.
AH: When you’re sitting there and observing yourself, that’s an eye-opening experience on it’s own, never mind sharing that with the world. Doing that is not always easy.
MR: Yeah, great point. I think you’re very, very, very, very spot on. It doesn’t come without its moments of displeasure, that’s for sure.
AH: Well, with that in mind, for us, the listeners, the songs are always the most memorable. But again, you guys have this whole experience involved with it. What is going to be the thing that you’re going to remember about putting this album together and take with you, 10, 20 years down the road?
MR: We were just in a dark place. Not just me, but I think everyone. The band as an entity itself was in a dark place, and coming from a dark place, and we were feeling low. That’s the mood at which we were in, and at the period of time that we finished the record, the world shut down, and we were just left in this low place with, all of a sudden, time at home. I think we just always remembered that period, those last couple weeks of starting to find a lot of satisfaction, and this kind of sense of being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel on something we had struggled with for a long time.
AH: Did you find yourself listening to music during that period just as much as you were writing it?
MR: I was not at that time. I was finding it hard to listen to other people and not compare myself to it. It honestly was a time of working on this record, and when I wasn’t working on this record, I wasn’t listening to anything, to tell you the truth.
AH: It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people and projects, especially in the age of social media where you’re constantly seeing the perceived successes of everyone else.
MR: It’s so true. It’s the ultimate resistance. It’s so accurate and pertinent, and it’s just exactly what we all don’t need. It’s a crazy thing to really figure out how to navigate, because it’s just always present, especially with something like this.
AH: There are so many great Tulsa area artists doing their thing these days. John Calvin Abney is a personal favorite of mine, for example. But for those who are not there day-to-day, what is the scene like, and how does it impact a band like Wilderado?
MR: Yeah, it is. I’m in a fun place right now, because I wasn’t ever in Tulsa, being involved with music. I grew up here, but I left in 2007, and was in Texas, and then California for 10 years, and started playing music in those two places. So I didn’t really grow up with this Tulsa sound heritage, to be honest. It’s something I kind of learned about from far away. Having a band that was traveling and making music, it was interesting coming to town, and it’s been an interesting thing to try and figure out, where do we fit in here? Then the pandemic happened – the lockdown – and we were with the rock and a hard place of finally being here, and able to go see shows and actually hang out in town, and then not being able to do that at the same time. Now, while we’re still in town, and people are starting to play again, and I’m not having to travel, and I’m not such a head case as I was when I first moved here, it’s been cool going and seeing shows, and finally meeting musicians, and hanging out where people play. It’s been so rad to finally get to see it because I saw more of that in LA than I did here. But LA just has this, I’m not sure what the vibe is…
AH: Well, there’s just so much of everything there, right? Each scene is like its own city in a way.
MR: Yeah, it’s true. And it’s hard not to have the preconception that everybody there is trying to get somewhere. It’s just been so easy here, to relate to the fact that people are just playing music to play music, and to see where it takes them, and to express themselves. No matter what you do with it, I think that’s the most important thing, and the most important way to get better. I’ve really been inspired by that – the people here. Gosh, the musicality is just insane.
AH: Yeah. And what I love about the scene is that it really has that community vibe to it.
MR: Just two weeks ago, there was a guy that shot us a message on Instagram and just said, “Hey, I’m hosting a dinner to basically just give back to musicians. Would you guys be down to come?” Another friend of mine said they were going, so I popped over there just by myself, and didn’t know anyone but my friend May. And it was wild. First of all, this guy just met me in his front yard, like he knew who I am, and gave me a hug. He was like, “Man, it makes me feel so good you came, come grab a drink,” and took me into his backyard. There was 35 people back there, and it was this long table, and he and his uncle had curated and made this amazing dinner. They gave this speech about this seeming like a time when artists really could use that affirmation, and being told they were appreciated, which kind of kicked it off. I met all these different bands that were in town, different players. It was a really special night for me, just because it was such a pure look at, “These people know each other, they support each other. Everybody’s playing in everyone’s bands. It’s just a beautiful place.”
AH: Well, and we live in a day and age where we’re constantly berated with the bad of what’s happening in the world, and we forget that there’s still so much good.
MR: There’s so much good. You’re exactly right.
AH: Finally, the band amassed 90 million streams long before the album would reach the masses. I’m curious, what do these streams mean to you?
MR: I think it’s a very interesting place to be, because on one side of it, that’s so many streams. I think it always requires some perspective, just because it’s a special thing to have your music streaming that much. It means a lot. I find some affirmation in it. We’re always talking about being open to the moment at which this is something we should no longer do, and not forcing something to be. So we find a lot of affirmation in that, and it’s a good feeling. I’m a believer in us all needing affirmation, and it being a good thing.
To pre-order the album, visit www.wilderado.co.
Check out more interviews on our website, for example start here: Key to the Highway: Bloodkin (Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter)