Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview #5 - Wing Dam

We recently had the chance to chat with Austin Tally; musician out of Baltimore Maryland, who was gracious enough to take the time to answer a few questions for wasfuersohr about his latest project and its recent self-titled release, Wing Dam. You can read our review of the Wing Dam EP here and head on over to Wing Dam's bandcamp to check out the album for yourself by clicking here.


Are you the sole member of Wing Dam or are there other contributors?

Yes, I am the sole member of Wing Dam. I make backing tracks on an old Casio CTK-601 keyboard (drum tracks, a few synth voices), a bass, and (on some tracks) a lap steel, and then build vocal and guitar loops live.

Wing Dam's bandcamp site mentions the record was recorded at 'Six Flags (Baltimore)'. Is this a studio on the theme park grounds or an unrelated 'Six Flags' recording studio?

As for Six Flags, that is actually the name of the house in Baltimore city where I live/record. In the past, other bands such as Nuclear Power Pants and Future Islands have recorded there, as well.

I have gotten questions about the name "Wing Dam," so maybe I should clarify: a wing dam is a type of dam that only goes part-way out into a river to create a faster channel in the center. I am originally from New Hope, Pennsylvania, and one of the main hang-out spots when I was living there was at a wing dam on the Delaware River. It is only very slightly higher than the water level, and often floods with an inch or two of water. Gives you the feeling of walking on the river itself.

The music has a very dream-like quality to it, conjuring up images of long ago summers and quiet contemplation. What, if anything from your experiences, did you draw inspiration from when putting the record together?

Well, the five songs on this EP were written over the course of probably three years. Some, like "Dig" for example, came from a while back when I was working on a farm in Pennsylvania for the summer. I work and rework these songs over the years; they change shape. They're informed by the original experiences that were there when I wrote the song, and everything else that has happened to me since. My aesthetic interests change (or maybe 'grow' is the right word?) and I continually try to make the songs the best they can be. I was a poetry major in college, and it's kind of like that-- they always say no poem is ever finished, there's only the most recent draft.

What records were you listening to while making Wing Dam, and did they have any affect on the shape that Wing Dam eventually took?

Well, I'm always listening to a pretty eclectic mix of genres, anything from jazz 78's from the 1920's to music my friends have been making during the past month. I don't stick to anything in particular for too long (but I also don't ever completely leave anything behind); there's too much good stuff out there. Recently I guess I've been listening to a lot of foreign music. I have a tape of Nepalese folk music that I keep coming back to. But if I had to pick, I suppose the two records I've been stuck on recently that might have had the most affect on the Wing Dam EP are Paul Simon's Graceland and the lovely, slightly insane and completely genius unfinished Beach Boys' album SMiLE (the original '66-'67 mixes, not the re-created 2004 version). I really have a place in my heart for percussive back-up vocals, and ever since I bought a loop station I've been digging building them up live.

What do you do in preparation for recording vocal tracks? You've got such a unique sounding voice, I have to assume you do some kind of vocal gymnastics before you record in order to achieve that sound.

(laughs) Hmm that's an interesting question-- I really don't do anything to prepare for recording vocals (except that I developed a little head-cold during the sessions for Wing Dam and had to take a break to let my sinuses clear up before I could record vocals for "Moon.") I just turn on the mic, add a little reverb/delay, and I'm good to go. Maybe that 'uniqueness' you’re talking about comes from a complete lack of any formal vocal training. I've just been figuring it out as I go along.

You mentioned the definition of 'wing dam' earlier, and told me about the feeling you got walking out onto one, sort of a 'walking on water' feeling. Do you try to translate that feeling of wonder and awe into the music you make, at least as far as Wing Dam is concerned? It does seem to have seeped into the cover art, if you don't mind me saying so, in a somewhat humourous fashion.

Yeah, that cover seems to sum up a "feeling of wonder and awe" pretty well, I think. (laughs) This project is all about water. And I guess I am too. Like I explained to you before, the wing dam was the spot on the Delaware River where we'd all go to hang out back in high school, and whenever I'm back in Pennsylvania. It's not sort of a 'walking on water' feeling, it really is walking on water-- the concrete lip floods over with a little sheen of water, you're walking halfway out onto the river and can't see what you're walking on.

Soon after I moved to Baltimore and came back to PA to visit, I realized how much of my life had been spent by water. Everywhere we'd hang out back home was by water: on a railroad trestle over a creek, under a bridge, on the wing dam. Or at the beach, where I've been going consistently since I was old enough to walk. That's why I'm not looking at Wing Dam as a temporary project -- it really [hopefully] sums up who I am.

As you've released music under your own name and obviously now as Wing Dam, do you see yourself expanding your musical palette further under any other monikers in the future?

Like I said earlier, I can't ever stick to one genre. Or one instrument. Or one musical project. I used to play in a folk duo called Silent Whys, I had a lo-fi dub side project, an electronic metal side project, an improvised dance music side project, some folkier stuff released under my own name. I'm sure I'll never stop 'expanding my musical palette' -- what I really want to do right now is find a bassist and a drummer and make some brutal, grinding, blackened death metal, or doom. Surprised? (laughs) But I'm definitely going to keep going with Wing Dam on top of whatever else I get into.

As a one-man band, is there any one aspect of the music that really grabs you? Perhaps you're in your element while mixing and mastering, or you've got your own little world while playing the guitar and everything else can wait.

Not quite sure what you mean by 'grabs,' but maybe this will answer your question: I love mixing/mastering, it's fun to get really focused on the little details, but the best part for me is definitely playing live. When you're recording it can be easy to lose track of the spontaneity of the music and get bogged down in EQ and post-production stuff. The real satisfaction for me comes from seeing it all come together, and sharing it with an audience.

As someone who lives and records in Baltimore, how would you describe the music scene there to someone that has never come into contact with it? [Like say, myself for instance.]

I was just home in PA last weekend actually, and I was trying to describe this to some of my friends there. It's hard to explain. Basically, there is a ton of music going on in Baltimore. No one genre has more presence than any other, I wouldn't say -- there's just lots of different acts doing their thing. Some bands are the only ones with that specific sound, others can sort of be grouped together. But there's a lot of individuality.

That being said, the music scene as a whole (or rather, the city as a whole) is very tightly-knit. They call it "Smalltimore" sometimes, and that's not far from the truth. Everyone knows everyone (for the most part). There's lots of collaboration, and people helping people get shows, or recording as guest musicians on albums/EPs, etc. I would say the only real way to get a sense for it is to come to town and see the range of types of great shows in any given week or so. It's impressive.

As sort of a follow up to your 'death metal' response earlier, I will say that after listening to Wing Dam, yes that is a bit of surprise. With that in mind, do you think your open-ended approach to the music you create allows you to come back refreshed and interested in a project or specific sound?

I definitely think so. Whenever I find myself in a rut, or stuck in a particular chord progression, or blanking on lyrics, I usually switch to a different style of music or a different instrument (probably why I play upwards of 10). Because of that, I master none of them, but get good enough to do what I want to do. Some projects come and go, but certainly all of them serve a purpose. They let you see things from different perspectives. There are only a few genres of music that I flat-out do not like. Only problem with that is, I have to have some kind of focus or I wouldn't get anything done (laughs).

As we're all fans of music here, do you have any recommendations for the readers/listeners that you think they should check out? From obscure to headlining acts, go buck wild.

Shoot, I got a bunch of recommendations (laughs). You asked for it! I'll stick with my friends' projects, and I'll still probably forget a couple. These all totally rule:

Amanda Glasser, who I used to play with in Silent Whys, has an amazing, hauntingly beautiful solo project called Saint Julien ( I have another friend who records instrumental space-rock/krautrock-influenced stuff as Omoo Omoo ('s my friend William, who records under the name Baraka ( My friend Sara's band, who I played slide guitar with for a couple shows, is called Which Magic ( / My roommate has an awesome electronic project called Skyway (no website at the moment, but if you're ever in Baltimore and see that on a flyer, check it out for sure!). Back home, my friend Ty shreds in a band called Mach 22 (findable on Facebook), my friend Bee plays in a sick punk band called Big Attack ( And last but certainly not least, my friend Chris Lyons ( from PA (now living in New Orleans) -- one of the most talented songwriters I've ever met.

Any final thoughts on Wing Dam or in general?

empty acorn shell
reveals a small mandala --
the paths of water.

Thanks for listening!

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us.

No comments:

Post a Comment