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Their first ever ACL performance Sunday morning of weekend 1 lit up Zilker’s hills with their multi-genre approach to indie rock, getting the crowd dancing, even through the thick post-rain humidity. Rumbling bass and fast, heavy guitar riffs fade into folk jingles and sing-alongs, evidence of the band’s evolution since the release of their debut EP Misty Shrub in January of 2016.
The four piece includes Max Rainer (lead vocals, guitar) and Justin Kila (drummer) of Oklahoma and Tyler Wimpee (guitar, vocals) and Colton Dearing (bass, vocals) of Texas. These southern boys and former Baylor Bears (minus Justin) have now fully settled into life on California’s coast. They don’t miss the south as much as I hoped they would—Max says, “we love Austin. Maybe one day, we’ll vacation here more often.” “I miss my mom, breakfast tacos, Buccees, Whataburger, and Taco Cabana, but California has its perks,” Colton offers.
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Wilderado kicked off ACL weekend celebrating the store opening of friend Paige Mycoskie’s 70s inspired California clothing brand, Aviator Nation. The band blessed the South Congress store’s retro, vinyl-adorned stage with the first show Wednesday before weekend 1. “I’ve worked with [Paige] for four years,” Tyler says, “and she’s always, from day one, been a fan of us. She lets me leave for months at a time to chase our passion of playing music, so it was a treat to be in our home state, representing what she’s doing and representing what we’re doing.”
Though they reside on the west coast now, the band has basically been on tour since they released their first EP Misty Shrub in early 2016. “Touring is cool because it’s the only way to grasp the reality of the fact that real people are listening to your music, and real people are making everything possible,” Max says. “I think everything ends up being relational, so it’s always cool to see faces and hear voices and see eyes of the people that are allowing you to do what you do.” The deep human-level connection Wilderado establishes with their audience is exactly why they’ve been able to successfully tour for so long with other artists like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Ryan Bingham, who derive their sound from conveying the often painful, raw human experience.
Of touring with Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Max says he “admires how many people are coming out and supporting and listening to them earnestly—their incredible fan base mirrors their music and their character.” Similar to RKS, Wilderado’s deep, honest lyrics convey wisdom and understanding of the human struggle, which results in the bands attracting similar audiences. You can find solace in Wilderado’s songs, even in if you don’t identify in whatever version of reality they’re portraying.
In “Rubble to Rubble,” Max imparts sage wisdom “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future/show me your scars and I can help with the suture/ I can reap, must mean I can sow.” This track might surprise you, as the last verse brings the band together in an upbeat, folk chant “oh my god I’m having a baby/ I knew this day would come to finally save me.” Though he had not yet met his wife, nor had his first baby at the time he wrote the lyrics, “I’ve always respected people that have accidentally had babies and stuck around and became fathers and mothers,” Max says. “I was just trying to figure out what it was that would make me feel I was living a good life, and I thought maybe if I accidentally had a baby, I would pull it all together and be a cool dad and suddenly be a good person.” Max’s lyrics tap into the part of us that longs to feel deeply what others feel, to understand life from someone else’s heart space.
This strong sense of empathy allows Max to escape the confines of his personal life and tap into experiences outside of the realm his own consciousness, inviting everyone to draw on their own empathy as you experience Wilderado’s music. “I’m always seeking some idea of truth in joy, and I think throughout that you have to come to terms with that the opposite of those things is what defines them,” Max explains, “so in songwriting I always like to try and contact sorrowful, sad things and allow myself to write that way because I want my songwriting to be the sad part and my life to be the happy part. I feel like there’s a balance there—it’s almost therapeutic to write that way.”
After studying the lyrics to Wilderado’s new EP Favors, Max’s radiating happiness and easygoing demeanor surprised me, as the four tracks on the EP will nearly break your heart. “You Don’t Love Me” is a driving rock anthem exploring the plight of a devastated heart. “All I wanted was a beating heart/but you don’t love me;” I was worried to ask whose heart had been broken. “Someone actually printed that I got divorced, which isn’t true,” Max explains of the bleak lyrics. “I’m sad a lot, which I think is ok, and it’s something I want people to understand—being sad is totally fine, just don’t stay there. See it, appreciate it when it’s there and then move on to the happy parts.”
Favors marks a shift in Wilderado’s style to a more driving, rock n roll sound, the result of touring for two years and “starting to really understand each other and discovering that we really enjoy larger guitar, big vocals, big drums and the idea of big room sing-alongs,” Max explains. Drawing inspirations from the road shaped the new EP, as they learned from idol Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac during the 27 shows they opened for him. “It will not get any better than that…actually hopefully it will,” Tyler says of the tour with Buckingham. “By the end of it, they kinda wanted to take us under their wing—it was such a sweet moment.”
The four members of Wilderado will continue bring their energetic spirits and dance-inducing folk-indie-rock around the country this year with 21 more shows on the books. “We love playing big cities,” Tyler says, “but it’s nice going to smaller cities, where this is what people have been looking forward to—coming to the show—for the past month. There’s just an energy that exists inside a venue when people are there singing along.” The genuine love Wilderado has for their fans and for music make their concert an experience you will not want to miss.
Wilderado returns to Austin on Tuesday October 16 at Barracuda for their tour with Sure Sure. Click here to buy tickets.
Show me your favorite songs, and we can be friends.