Taylor Lissandrello is hardly a new face in the San Francisco music community. On any given night, he can be found operating lights at The Chapel, manning the drums with a local band or hanging out in a crowded bar where his friends are playing music. He is an ideal example of what drives every creative hub: He’s a defender of the arts and and he is an artist himself. A creator, contributor and supporter. After years of creating and writing all sorts of pieces — poetry, short stories, songs — he’s finally ready to release his debut EP, Eyes on the Road, with his band Wicked Winds.
Ahead of their release show, which goes down tonight at Amnesia, I spoke with Lissandrello about his new record and the long road that brought him here.
The Bay Bridged: What bands have you played in and what pushed you to finally release your own music?
Lissandrello: I played drums in a couple bands over the years. The most recent, a band called RAWDAD with the Aguilera brothers, Raoul and Angel, on bass and guitar. I also worked a bit with A-1, a local hip-hop artist. Before RAWDAD got gigging, I played with a group called Kamp Camille that sort of fizzled out a few years ago.
As far as what pushed me to release my own music, I think it was always sort of inevitable. I’ve always written poetry, songs, stories, whatever. I just sort of hit a wall one day. I was very unhappy and unsatisfied with the road my life was taking. A few very important people close to me kind of shook me around a bit at the time. Sort of like a, “Wake up fool, you can’t put this off any longer.”
TBB: Who plays in Wicked Winds?
Lissandrello: Wicked Winds has taken all sorts of shapes since its slow and gradual conception. I don’t think we’ve actually ever performed with the same line-up two gigs in a row… Maybe that is an exaggeration. Right now it is Sivan Lioncub (Everyone is Dirty), Danny Demento (Feather-Bright, Way José), and Jason Cirimele, who seems to be playing with everyone these days. I feel very blessed. They’re all total bad asses.
TBB: It has been a long time coming for the band to release Eyes on the Road. What took so long? Tell me about the process behind the record — Was the songwriting a collective process? Is there one person driving the creative energy? How did the studio New, Improved Recordings and producer/engineer Carlos Arredondo affect the process?
Lissandrello: Man, it really has been a long time coming. It took such a long time for a number of reasons. First one being, it was the first time I’d entered a studio in a situation where I had such a large amount of creative control. There wasn’t really an established band at the time. I had just been working on the songs with Raoul, the bass player of RAWDAD.
I booked a few days with Carlos and cut all the guitar, drums and vocals. Then I called in Raoul for the bass, Graham Feltham, an old friend from the East Coast, to play lead guitar, Matthew Szemela came in to play violin on a few tracks and Elsa Tanoukhi did some backing vocals. Carlos and I sort of figured out what worked and what didn’t. So to answer your question, I sort of recorded in a fairly unorthodox method, without any real idea of what I was doing to begin with. I sorta stumbled my way in the dark with Carlos, who is awesome, as my guide.
Carlos was great to work with. He is a really great guy and talented engineer who is all about exploring what the songs need and the best way to capture that sound. Maybe we should have brought in some other folks to bounce ideas off of, but the record is full of raw emotion that I’m not sure would have been captured with a room full of people behind the glass.
I guess the main thing that really delayed the whole process was I ran out of money. Like, twice I think. The songs got tracked, sat for a while, mixed, sat for awhile, mastered, sat again, and then I got CD’s printed. By then, it was like, “Well, might as well just wait til October.”
TBB: Are there any overarching themes throughout Eyes on the Road, or otherwise a general attitude or vibe that drove you to make it?
Lissandrello: The thing that drove me to make it was the desire to just put something out. Something that meant something to me, something that had my guts all in it. I think that really played a major role in how everything came out, for better and for worse. It might not be a very “fun” album because of the tumultuous time the songs were written and recorded in.
TBB: Your song “The Hole” is really beautiful, but there’s an undeniable rustic, dusty feel, particularly in the lyrics and vocals. You’ve got one of those husky voices that bleeds with emotion. What elements of the world or your life most inspire your sound? When did you start writing the songs on the album? How has your songwriting evolved since then?
Lissandrello: I think that what most influences me is change — perpetual evolution, growth that is inevitable. Things don’t always grow in the right direction, but they grow all the same. I think that also reflects my sound. It is always changing. Probably because it is all still very new and I’d like to not end up pigeonholed in a “sound” or genre.
What we are doing live right now is drastically different than what the album sounds like. It’s rowdy, electric, with an edge. My hope is that Wicked Winds continues to keep people on their toes. I don’t like how predictable music has become. Most folks don’t take enough chances musically.
TBB: What brought you to San Francisco from upstate New York? How long have you been here? How does it compare to other musical communities you’ve been a part of?
Lissandrello: I come from a small town that lacked a whole lot of substance. To say I was bored would be a drastic understatement. I graduated high school and drove around for a while in my minivan. San Francisco just sort of sucked me in, like it has a way of doing. I’ve been here about 5 and half years.
Upstate New York, when I was romping around, was mostly dive bars and basement parties. Primarily basements. It’s got a really depressed economy, so it’s just the way things go. But some great moments happened in those basements. But it is definitely a drastic change compared to the never-ending party that is San Francisco. I love this city. Regardless of all of the displacement and corruption and evil that occurs, there is magic in the air. There is a wonderful community soaking in that magic, and contributing to it.
TBB: Besides the EP, what we can look forward to from Wicked Winds for the rest of 2015 and in 2016?
Lissandrello: Wicked Winds will continue to evolve. We’ll be recording a new record in 2016. We are working out the kinks and shedding our adolescent skin.
Catch Wicked Winds tonight along with Blisses B and a rare acoustic set from Annie Lipetz of Annie Girl & the Flight.
Wicked Winds, Blisses B, Annie Girl
October 13, 2015
8pm, $7-10 (21+)