Wymond Miles — chiefly known as the man responsible for the bold and catchy surf leads that hold the beautifully wonk-ish cacophony of the Fresh & Onlys together — has a new solo LP slated to hit shelves on June 12 via Sacred Bones. Under the Pale Moon is a stripped-down follow-up to last year’s Earth Has Doors EP (stream it via Bandcamp) — both home recordings on the big brown behemoth known as the Tascam 388, state of the art in the mid ’80s and now a cult-ish hunk of furniture used by a lot of SF bands, including Kelly Stoltz and Thee Oh Sees (and up until Play It Strange, the Fresh & Onlys as well).
Sacred Bones’ description of Earth Has Doors reads like the dust cover of a humanities course book — “These songs concisely yet esoterically document the existential crisis of our current epoch…” — and is expansive with billowy swells, while Under the Pale Moon is said to be more straightforward pop music, a consequence, according to Wymond, of listening to jangly pop music for Fresh & Onlys inspiration. While he plays most everything on the album, James Kim from Magik Trick did the drumming and Greer McGettrick from The Mallard and also Shayde Sartin and Tim Cohen from the Fresh & Onlys pop up on percussion and bass.
You can listen to the track “Pale Moon” below, and keep reading for an interview with the guitarist and new father who was kind enough to answer a few questions via email despite traveling, playing shows with the Fresh & Onlys, and, of course, the demands that a new family can bring. Wymond Miles is playing tonight, 5/9/12, at the Rickshaw Stop.
TBB: Earth Has Doors is languid and atmospheric, whereas your new song “Pale Moon” has a more jangly Go-Betweens feel to it. Is that the case for the entire LP?
WM: “Pale Moon” was the first song I wrote and recorded when I intended to make this record. It was very off the cuff and fast so when I began recording it I bounced all the tracks down as I usually do in order to layer the song up. After 6 tracks it just sounded done to me. I could’ve sent the tune into a more cosmic-psych place but I was relieved to have something so stripped back sound so dead on. That set the tone of my approach to the record, although some things got very dense in the end. I was listening to lots of dreamy, jangly anglo-guitar pop at the time honing in a vibe for the Onlys so that certainly rubbed off on me, but I went in making this record without any conscious stylistic choices, I just wanted something raw and true to the moment of writing.
TBB: I read that Earth Has Doors was made off and on over several years. What was the time frame for creating Under the Pale Moon and how do the songs differ in terms of your artistic vision?
WM: The Earth Has Doors EP could’ve been a double LP, there were so many songs I had kicking around. I needed to get them off my chest, they were haunting me, I felt immobilized by not seeing them through. So I made a concise work that basically summed up all of those years of tunes, no fat. In contrast, Under The Pale Moon was done over a couple months maybe. I recorded it in between the Onlys hectic touring and recording schedule, we were gone for nearly half of last year. Too much was happening for me last year, there was no time to sculpt a vision. So musically I was writing all the parts as I recorded them, and lyrically it’s a fairly direct mirror of my life at the time. So because the process was so immediate the record has a very thematic charge and sound to it, although this was unintentional.
TBB: The themes of Earth Has Doors were esoteric concepts like Mysticism, the end of the world, Gnostic symbolism, and Anthroposophy — was there a practical reason for that? How does Under the Pale Moon differ thematically, if at all?
WM: I didn’t write any songs specifically around those concepts, they were just my fascination at the time. That atmospheric mood of the EP was certainly grasping for the mystery. I had just moved to San Francisco from the plains of Colorado and was kind of in an open, tender place to take in new ideas, and began a deeper philosophical inquiry to everything. Musically I was neck deep in Current 93, Wovenhand, all these heavy spiritual shaman fellas. This new record kind of began with Pale Moon and it was a love song, albeit a complicated one, something I hadn’t any interest in writing before. Over the past year I just used songs to reflect and unpack things. There’s a lot more sex, death, rebellion, or rather it’s much more direct now I suppose.
TBB: You have an interest in the philosopher Rudolf Stiener who bridged the spiritual and physical worlds, the objective and the subjective….. Do you attempt the same with your music?
WM: When asked, Rudolf Steiner would help show how the subtle — or spiritual if you prefer — is infused and guiding the physical domain. Music is an opportunity to explore the relationship between these realms. No difference between my solo records or the Onlys. Simply and broadly put it’s just a way to observe that through a strict discipline (in this case writing/guitar playing/recording) richer sources of creativity can emerge through you at times. It’s relational. What’s creative in the human process is also innate in the cosmos. When making music there’s a dialog going on with the subtle realms.
TBB: So, you don’t feel there is something you can accomplish as a solo artist that you cannot with Fresh & Onlys?
WM: It’s just another expression of music I’ve felt called to make. Nothing is lacking in the Onlys for me. Really my records are made in such solitude with almost no one hearing any of it, although they don’t sound that way. They are personal but are meant to sound alive and breathing, so far they’re aren’t “Pink Moon” affairs. Onlys are great because it’s all done in the spirit of collaboration with strong willed people just overflowing with ideas, recording our last record was a party with people in and out of the studio all the time. Making this record was the contrasting yin to the Onlys yang, a single vision, with only me recording and dictating what to play. They’re simply different crafts in what they demand of me.
TBB: Tell me about parenting and how it has affected your worldview, your music…
WM: Really it just mellowed me out. Put more play and discipline in my life. Allowed me to stop thinking about myself so much. Parenting insists on creativity at every turn and it also demands strict discipline of rhythm and repetition. It’s obviously an act of sacrifice and humility. It helped me develop a more nuanced kind of observation. Time bends and isn’t like it was before, certain hours are a molasses pace but really it all rushes by so fast. That interaction of creative discipline is what made my records happen this year.
Wymond is currently touring the west coast in support of Lotus Plaza (Deerhunter guitarist), with Greer McGettrick on bass, Ela Jaszczak on guitar, and Kyle Gibson from Fresh & Onlys on drums, and will hit up the Rickshaw this Wednesday. He will continue to tour the rest of the country this summer with a yet-to-be-determined band.
Lotus Plaza, Wymond Miles, Mirror Mode
May 9, 2012