WIM took New York City by storm at CMJ 2011, tearing into local venues like a blizzard of glam-folk glitter and virtuoso pop force and defying any notion of simple genre categorization. The Sydney-based band, whose debut release is out on esteemed Aussie label Modular Recordings just this week, have a heady supply of influences and musical experiments that seemingly knows no bounds. Bassist Dustin Bookatz clues us in on what makes the band so much more than a clever name.
Prior to your many CMJ shows, WIM was named as one of the “best band names” by a number of blogs. Do you find your name is an important connector to your music?
I was quite surprised that bloggers liked our name. Not because I don’t, but because it’s an empty signifier… it’s a name in the true sense. So it doesn’t point to outside objects or flying cars, or some sort of forest animal… it’s just a name. For us, this is an important connector to the music as it leaves the possibilities of that WIM is as very open, and also we feel like WIM may serve as a moral compass that exists outside the band… (“What would WIM want us to do?) Plus, you can hold our record upside-down and still read it.
What is your fave Wim Wenders film? Mine’s got to be Wings of Desire, followed by Paris, Texas.
Both those films are absolute classics! And so is Buena Vista Social Club. Also, I recently saw Pina, his new film which is about Pina Bausch, an amazing choreographer which is filmed in in 3D…it is absolutely amazing and ground-breaking and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Oddly, it came out in Australia before the USA and when we flew in to New York it was at the same time as Mr. Wenders himself was in town promoting its release. Schedules happened to work out and our first morning in New York was a breakfast date with Mr. Wenders himself. Thankfully the universe is still intact and nothing imploded when Wim met Wim.
I’m not sure if, being from Australia, you know how important the station NPR is as a cultural signifier, but how does it feel being named “a standout act of CMJ 2011″ by that radio station? Impressive!
We had definitely heard of NPR and knew they had clout in the music scene, but I don’t think we knew exactly how great the nod they gave us was until the waves started to come back to us from different sources. It was a huge honor to be named a stand-out act of CMJ by them and for us the CMJ festival, and the feedback from it, certainly felt like a bit of a launching pad in the USA. It was great to turn some heads in NYC and hope that the waves can spread further around this country as we’re all very inspired and happy to be here.
Have you always been a 5-piece? How long did it take to find your nuanced guitar sound?
We have been a five-piece from before we coined the name WIM…which is now approaching four years. In the very early days, we were guitar-less and experimented with a cellist and violin player, but the band was only properly formed when the current five members of the band started playing together.
I think our sound is a product of those five players, who all bring very strong aesthetics to the table that span different genres and styles, (everything from heavy rock to soul to flamenco). I think a good part of that sound was there from when we first started making music in a room together. Over time, we’ve tried to refine and stretch our sound… we want to cast the net wide in terms of influences and approaches… Maybe this leads to the nuances you speak of. We do tend to spend a lot of time in the crevices of songs.
You played with many a range of bands during CMJ, from Casiokids to Datarock to Zola Jesus. Does each show have its own feeling/memory for you depending on the crowd and the lineup?
Each show has its own feeling most definitely. It’s great to share the stage with such great new bands and to check them out in action…That’s part of what makes CMJ so great. Also, the crowds were very receptive and responsive. People over here seem to be very encouraging but also discerning.
Were you guys just together since 2007 before the most recent release on Modular?
We formed around 2007. We made a little ep after a while and then eventually made our first full-length record. Modular came along after hearing the nearly-finished record and now they are behind us and putting it out. And that is a long and great story made into a few sentences.
Modular is usually associated with more electro, dance-oriented bands but they are of the top Australian labels known here in the U.S. Did it take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to the level you are now?
Yes indeed! But I think if you believe in what you do then it’s a whole lot of fun too. Modular have acts that aren’t all dance-related (Tame Impala as an example), however, the big ones that have gone more global tend to be more electronic. We saw the signing to them as a great positive for us, as we felt that they are great taste-makers and generally on pulse with international audiences. The fact that they deal with dance music a lot is cool, because we didn’t much like the idea of being grouped as another indie-folk outfit. We wanted to be our own entity. Really, we just want our music to be heard by people, and felt that they could be great partners in helping this happen. They are also great when it comes to remixes, which was something we never thought about until we signed. Though now we have some amazing collaborations including a remix (“See You Hurry”) by Twin Shadow, our own reinterpretations of other people’s tracks and more collaboration in the pipe-line!
Check out Memory Tapes’ nonstop remix of WIM’s “Something For You” (from their forthcoming single to be released Dec. 6th) here.