20 Questions with Wand
Ganglion Reef, the debut album of L.A.-hailing band Wand released in late August, begins with a couple of lone, lengthy howls of a guitar. Bold, unrelenting, and satisfying, they set the attitude for the rest of the foursome’s 10-track record, which is filled with thunderous and gritty psychedelic sounds. It’s a thrilling ride right until the shimmering notes of closer “Generator Larping” fade out, moving you through some truly standout, sizzling tracks rife with heavy jam sessions.
Released via Ty Segall’s GOD? imprint on Drag City, Ganglion Reef is certainly one for fans of Ty and his garage rock—in fact, the band just finished supporting him on tour. While they were in Seattle, we caught up with frontman Cory Hanson over the phone and went through a round of 20 questions with him. Below, we discuss the record, life on the road, video games, and the band’s pseudo-mascot: Hanson’s Shepherd/Corgi mix.
1) What does Wand sound like, in five words or less?
Loud, pretty, bones—like a bunch of bones being thrown around in a bag—clear, and gross.
2) What’s the story behind the band’s name?
My girlfriend actually thought of the name. We wanted a name that was kind of empty, like a wand is more of an idea, like a magical tool…it’s a means, a vessel to execute a superhuman thing.
3) To you, the best environment in which to listen Ganglion Reef would be…
The records I really like are the ones that change the quality of the room…it sort of re-territorializes the space in a way… Maybe if it was playing at a Whole Foods or an Urban Outfitters it would just fit in with the rest of the playlist, but I like to think it has certain qualities that would make it hard to do that. There are a lot of harsh sounds in it that don’t transfer well in those environments.
4) What aspect of the album are you most excited about?
The thing we really worked hard on is the guitar tones. The tones are really specific, and when I was writing the riffs I felt like they sounded kind of hokey when they were played on a guitar, so we changed the quality and ran them through a bunch of synthesizers and different effects to give them a nastier kind of unnatural quality that I’m proud of.
5) Do you remember how you celebrated when the album was done?
I kind of just put it in the back of my mind, and then when the album came out, seeing how people were responding to it..that signifies that the record is really complete and a done deal. I don’t really celebrate, I guess. The best thing about completing something to me is that you get to start something else.
6) What’s your favorite song to play live and why?
They’re all really fun, but “Generator Larping.” We really changed all the live songs, and they became their own thing on this tour. Nothing’s worse than playing the same songs exactly the same over and over again in a really structured way. So we ditched that. I’m really not a fan of when bands take on the burden of recreating their recorded experiences live, because then you’re setting yourself up for a huge failure because you can’t replicate that sound. Secondly, if you’re going to do that you might as well play the record for people. So we like to take the other route, and we just play all the songs really loud and bring a lot of amplifiers on tour so it’s inescapably loud, and you can hear the music in a totally different way.
7) You mentioned “Generator Larping”—are you guys into LARPing?
In some way or another we’ve all participated in some form of LARPing throughout our lives. We’re all a bunch of nerds. Lee—he plays bass—he runs a DND group we all play in, and I guess in terms of the way it seeped into our band dynamic where we have this fantasy proggy rock band, it seemed appropriate to include that…it’s like a childhood thing where you grow up and see these fantasies, these heroes.
8) So what’s your ideal character?
Well my DND character is a drunken master Dwarf monk named Nogrod, which I’m pretty sure is a dwarf cave. I just like the name. The character’s special ability is the more he drinks, the more perks he gets in combat. It’s not the ideal archetypal character, but that’s not what any of us want anymore now we’re not kids. We just want funny characters that will exist together. He has really low charisma, and he’s really ugly. He’s an ugly, drunk dwarf.
9) Back to the album…what’s the story behind the cover art?
My girlfriend Meghan Tryon is a visual artist, and we came up with this idea of a demon hand holding a painting of a cave…And the inside artwork, we were both using source material from the Final Fantasy games—specifically Final Fantasy VI—but it just came together.
10) What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened on tour?
We stayed over at this house in Miami, and there was this girl coming off of something, and she was talking about David Foster Wallace being dead and started crying really hard. It kind of resonated in a weird way…like she was coming off a drug, she was really upset… It was a weird group experience.
11) What do you miss most about L.A.?
I miss my girlfriend. And my dog, Charles, she’s on the back cover of the record. We try to include her in everything because she’s our little guiding force that brings us out of this fantasy realm and into reality again. She rules. And I miss my house.
12) What do you have on heavy rotation recently?
We’ve been going through a lot of different phases in the van, and that’s pretty much the only music I’m listening to. We’ve honestly been listening to a lot of records from the early 2000s that we were listening to when we were 16 or 17, and just going through and rating them. It’s sort of embarrassing, but we listened to the first two Broken Social Scene records, to Neutral Milk Hotel. Those records are excellent. I’ve also been listening to Ty a lot; the new record rules. I was listening to a lot of Pink Floyd before I left, specifically Dark Side and Animals. My mom just moved out of her house, and I just got my whole collection of old CDs so it’s like all Beatles and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
13) What’s it like touring with Ty Segall?
It was great, it was a little bit crazy for us because we’ve never toured before. And the turnout—it was just a lot of people, and we were all surprised by how warmly received, how receptive everyone was to hearing us play because no one had ever heard us before. And Ty’s super fun to tour with. We didn’t really get any off time, which is a bummer. We made a lot of plans, like Emily from Ty band and Evan from Wand…we have a bridge team, but we didn’t have anytime to play bridge, which was unfortunate.
14) Who would Wand like to collaborate with?
It would be really cool to collaborate with Dieter Moebius or Hans Roedelius, some of the Kluster dudes. Or Tangerine Dream, that would be a cool collaboration. It’s really spacey and scary.
15) Name a couple of your favorite guitarists.
I really like Robert Fripp, and especially the Frippertronics records with Eno and the early King Crimson as well. Like (No Pussyfooting) and Evening Star. And Adrian Belew…he’s a really weird guitarist. I think Frank Zappa discovered him playing at some bar in the late ’70s in Nashville and took him on a couple of tours. And he hopped into David Bowie’s band during the Heroes tour, which I think is my favorite Bowie band because it was the first sober Bowie tour, and he looks really good and sings beautifully. And then he joined King Crimson and was also in Laurie Anderson’s band. He’s definitely a huge inspiration to me. And Mick Ronson, the Bowie guitarist. And Neil Young’s guitar work and Brian Eno’s guitar work. He would never call himself a guitarist, but I think the stuff on his records is really interesting.
16) If you were stranded on an island, what are three albums you would like to have with you?
I’d have to have The White Album by the Beatles because it’s my favorite record ever. I’d probably do all doubles so I could have some kind of crazy variety. Then I would do a Brian Eno—Another Green World, because that would be a great one to have on an island. And I’d probably have Joy of a Toy by Kevin Ayers because that would hopefully keep me sane.
17) If you could time travel, where would you go?
I’d probably go to the beginning of time just to see what the hell was going on.
18) If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I would probably just do digital art, which is kind of what I do anyway. Probably be a painter. I’d probably paint dinosaurs. I mostly draw T. Rexes and Brontosauruses. I guess a lot of Jurassic Park dinosaurs. That’s really my source material.
19) What’s next for Wand?
We’re basically just coming back from tour, and we’ve all been writing and recording a lot so we have a lot of material to distribute in one way or another. But we’ll see where it goes because we’re hitting the road again in March.
20) Lastly, what is your WILD Wish?
To fly would be a really crazy experience. That would be really extreme.
Photos by Justin Tenney