It's been a long time coming, but one of my very own personal hotly anticipated albums has arrived - and oh it's arrived in style. The album I am preaching about is the Los Angeles duo Wild & Free's Shapes on Shapes via Discotexas.
It's a lush album with heartfelt lyrics, deeply human vocals, synthwork on par with synth pop masters Classixx or Holy Ghost!, and top notch instrumentation that can play withe best of them. If you love to dance, if you love to boogie, or if you just love music that will rain down positive vibes to brighten any day, Wild & Free is the band that's going to get the job done with tasteful execution,.
Prepare your senses, stretch out those limbs, and maybe pour yourself a groove enhancing beverage or two, it's time we all dive right into the sonic hot tub that Wild & Free have heated up for us on this album. So, now that we got the introduction out of the way, let's pop into the question and answer with George & Drew of Wild & Free!
Wild & Free, you boys are set to do something quite special with Shapes on Shapes. How does it feel to finally share this work with the world?
George: It’s a real joy to get this out there for folks to hear. You hear the term “labor of love” thrown around a lot, but this truly feels like that—we gave this record an awful lot of love, so it’s great that now we can share all of that with everyone.
Drew: It feels pretty amazing to make something that feels like a complete piece of art, a complete piece of ourselves and represents the music that we love. I think we both have an eager excitement to see what people think of it. We are definitely grateful to have the opportunity through our new label Discotexas.
What is Shapes on Shapes all about, from a creator's perspective?
Drew: The album represents the intersection of live musicianship and dance through the lens of electronic music. We put this album together like a puzzle until it felt like it made a complete picture and everything fits. Each song represents a journey to an idea or a mood that feels real to us. Shapes overlap, shapes fit together, a shape can become a beautiful mess and so on. The concept of “Shapes On Shapes” is a phrase we kicked around when we were trying to figure out a name that would encapsulate all the tracks together. We also liked that the concept for the name was abstract.
George: The name also relates to our process of making music, I think. We start each tune by improvising as many good ideas as we can, and by the end we’ve got three times as many parts as we can possibly use. Then we’re just sort of playing audio lego, finding the places where parts feel at home. The end result feels a little like a musical collage—shape on top of shape.
How do you hope this is received? Where would you recommend people partake in this fine work of groove and sophistication?
George: Hmm… Maybe while chilling next to a wood stove in a moonlit cabin? Or in headphones on a hike in the forest—that sounds right to me. What do you think, Drew?
Drew: Well I think we already told y’all it was going to be a classy affair and you should spill a beer on the dancefloor to it or drink some pinot noir in the desert to it or drive down an empty highway to it. We hope people just live with it.
I've been watching the trajectory of Wild & Free for quite some time, and it's meteoric, to say the least. Where does this album sit contextually with your other works?
Drew: You were honestly one of the first people who picked up on what we were doing in the sea of music that gets released daily. We like to think that the album fits it quite nicely with the rest of the music that we’ve released. There are some songs that we would have probably never had the courage to make if we weren’t making an album. Hiding Behind The Sun is definitely one of those. It starts with a beachy electronic reggae vibe and ends in a spastic double-time jungle influenced drum pattern. We always talk about trying new things and that tune is the slowest and fastest record on the album at the same time. So in that way, it kind of brought our music further than where we’ve been before.
George: Yeah, for sure. We’ve long been focused on that “single” feeling with each release—the big vocals, the immediacy of the idea, and so on. We love pop songcraft, and stuff like that is really great when you’re trying to cut through and find more listeners. But for this, we suddenly had an hour to play around in, and a very supportive label who wanted us swinging for the fences. It freed us up to head to some creative corners we’d previously worried were too uncommercial or too off-brand. And that whole reggae-jungle flip came about ‘cos Drew came in one day going, “Yo, we should do a reggae track, or a drum-and-bass track… Or BOTH AT ONCE!” He’s always looking for ways we can expand our thing but still keep it feeling like us.
Drew: I think we are always looking to challenge ourselves too. We certainly don’t take any shortcuts in the studio. The idea of making a reggae song seemed fun but we always ask ourselves “how can we make this different and special?” Plus I had been watching a bunch of videos of Goldie and was like “man I want to try that” but it wouldn’t make sense for us to just straight up make a jungle track so we weaved in the reggae feel to ease people into the record. George knocked out a cool drum sample and then we just tore that thing apart and then put it back together lol. We ended up in a place that was very different from where we started which seemed natural when you want to take people somewhere.
How do you simply and succinctly describe the essence of Wild & Free? Or better yet, who are the myths, the men, the legends behind this project?
George: Wild & Free are actually our real first names (though we won’t reveal who is who).
Drew: We’re just two wacky guys who love making music and want to have fun with it. This group has just had a series of fun things happen in a row, ‘til we got to the point that it made sense to make an album because it sounded like fun. I think we are also a product of where we grew up. George is from Santa Cruz and I am from Philly. He cut his teeth in warehouse parties and bands. I earned my chops playing jam sessions at The Roots studio when I was becoming a producer and session player. Shout out to Philadelphia.
What drives this album? Is it a flavor of the different shades of talent you gentleman are capable of, or is there a coherent narrative that flows throughout?
Drew: Authenticity and a homecooked feel drives this album. Every sound on Shapes On Shapes is live and analog which means we really needed to work and earn the sound palette that ended up being on the records. We are sound and instrument junkies. We love live instruments, weird instruments, ethnic instruments, funky sounds and synthesizers of all shapes and sizes. We both have a few things in our studios where people are like “How the heck do you play that” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Truth be told we are both actually former guitar and bass session players. We don’t always use a guitar or a live bass on the track but those are definitely woven into the fabric that makes this album. Hell we put a freakin' bass solo on "Ferns and Stuff." George played that one and I love it so much. Big luv to Discotexas for letting us put out a record with a bass solo on it.
George: Hell, I wanna thank Drew for not vetoing that, too. *laughs* Not to get all gooshy, but what drove this album, to me, was the interplay D and I have, and the freedom it grants us to each reach beyond what we’re individually capable of. He’ll humor my crazy idea, and I’ll humor his, and we’ll really give each other the time and resources we need to get to the end we want. He can listen to me messing with a guitar idea, and he’ll replay it in a cooler way and make it work all the better, and he’ll get a bass line in his head then hand me a bass and say “Like that, but funkier.” It’s not super common that musicians have a relationship that lets them make decisions based on what’s best, not who owns what or who gets to shine in each moment. So yeah, the record sounds, to me, like two people with a lot of ideas that really get along nice.
In no uncertain terms, how did this album come together?
George: I think it took at least seventeen gallons of superglue.
Drew: We could say it was a lot of hard work and dedication but in reality, it was a lot of iced coffee and small batch beef jerky and weird percussion instruments that certainly helped us get where we wanted to be lol. I think we made some of our catchy ideas like "River Of Nile" and "The Moonhowler" earlier in the album recording process. Some of our deeper cuts ended up providing the glue to fill out the sound of the record, like "Ferns and Stuff," which is why we wanted people to hear that as a single right before the release.