WYO: Cinematic Indie Band Finds Inspiration in Isolation

We recently collaborated with the LA-via-Wyoming band WYO to produce and share some amazing behind-the-scenes videos as the band worked on their sophomore album, Changes, both in Los Angles and in Wyoming. That video series, as well as the exclusive streaming premiere of the album, can be found on our YouTube channel (big thanks to Elixir Strings for co-presenting the series and hooking up the band with a supply of guitar strings for the sessions). After the record was completed, we had an opportunity to chat with the band’s driving force, Andy Sorge, to talk about the group’s origins in film, the new record and the overall creative headspace of the band. 

Can you tell us a little about where you started and how the band came together?

I grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’m originally from San Diego, but moved out there with my family and spent elementary school out there. We moved back to San Diego later on, and I eventually became more involved in music in high school. Once college came around, I decided to go to film school, and I was incorporating music in all my projects there. Once I got out of film school in New York, I got work at a production company back in Jackson Hole. They were doing a lot of commercial work, and I was asked to do a lot of different tasks. But eventually I started doing music for a lot of their clientele. So, the first commercials I scored were these board shorts spots for Quicksilver. From there, I decided that music was ultimately what I wanted to pursue the most. 

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I ended up freelancing for a lot of different production companies and scored some documentaries.  But in between projects, I began writing music for what would become WYO. 

It took years to home in on what I wanted to sound like. Eventually, we put a handful of songs together and went to approach Brad Wood [Liz Phair, Veruca Salt] to help produce it. 

So the film scoring thing wasn’t something that came out of film school, that was a direct result of your work with the production companies?

Exactly. Everyone at the company knew I could write music, so they hired me to do that for some of their commercials. Once I got started writing music for film, I was like ‘This is really where my heart is.’ I was a little scared to pursue music younger in life – but the goal was always to start a band and play shows.

So how did WYO originate in the midst of all this?

It all started at the house [in Jackson Hole] between film projects. I wanted to write songs and sing – that kind of expression is something I find really therapeutic. It’s really fun to see if you can write something compelling. The band itself really came together in Los Angeles, after my musical partner Scott Gibson and I took some of the songs to Brad Wood. Before that, we had recorded with a lot of session players, and we had decided to move to LA after that [to work on that first record]. So that’s where the other members of the band first came into the picture, but that batch of songs were originally conceived by myself and Scott.

So that leads us to the second record, Changes.

Between Scott and I, we had demoed about 10 songs, and had brought the band out to record back in Wyoming. It’s really inspiring out there – as soon as you’re out there you feel really grounded. Between the mountains and the beautiful scenery, the inspiration just strikes immediately. 

We’ve had a family home out there since I was a kid. And so fortunately, my father’s kept it and we ended up moving a bunch of recording equipment into the house in my 20s — so there’s a full-blown studio there that we can go to at any time and track drums, and everything else. The reason we go out there is to isolate ourselves, and sometimes we really don’t leave the house for weeks at a time (laughs).

To find that creatively, you really have to be focused like that. Isolating ourselves out there seems to do the job.

What’s the songwriting process look like for the band now?

Sometimes it varies. But most of the time, especially on Changes, it was more about coming up with a rhythm. What we really struggled with on the first album was having a lot of cinematic music, but they’re slower tempo numbers on that record. So that’s what changed a lot on the second album, really focusing on more up-tempo songs. To be honest, I have a beatmaker on my phone, and I can program a quick beat, find the right tempo, and write a song that matches that tempo and feeling first. 

Usually I’ll sit at the piano with that drum loop going, and we’ll try to write the first verse or a chorus. I’ll see if I can come up with a cool melody, and eventually once you have enough ideas the inspiration will strike. And it’s like figuring out a puzzle – sometimes you just have to step back and see it and it works. Like ‘Moonlight,’ I had it finished in about 15 minutes. Then there are songs like ‘Hot Lights’ – that song was a blend of two songs that eventually came together in the same key over a long period of time.

Do you tend to write alone, or do you collaborate with Scott on that process?

I tend to write a good portion of it on my own. But when I hit a wall, or if I think I have a good idea, I’ll approach him and ask him what he thinks. Then he’ll start implementing his ideas into it. So, it’s definitely a collaboration but I tend to get started on my own first, then ask people to join me as I think I have something worth working on.

How was the recording process different the second time around?

Once Scott and I got into demo mode, we’d put things into Pro Tools and feel it out initially. And from there, we’d chart the songs together and shortly after that the three other members of the band would show up. So we already had the charts written by the time they got there [to the studio]. We’d rehearse, maybe make some changes, and then we’d spend about a week straight recording.

Meanwhile, as we were recording, we’re on the phone with Brad Wood, saying ‘Hey, these demos are coming along – will you be ready to work in a month?’ So, by the time we got to his studio again in Los Angeles, we had 11 or 12 songs that were already demo’d – but I was getting so caught up writing these lyrics. That was the toughest part for me. And I should have been more focused on the creative [stuff], and I think knowing that now, I’ll approach the third record completely differently. 

What do you mean, exactly? How would you approach the next record differently? It’s funny, the second one just came out and you’re already thinking of how you’d work on the next one. 

I want to know, lyrically, what I want to say first. It’s more meaningful if you have a lyrical inspiration, I think. At the end of the day, you’re playing the song multiple times live, out and about, and you want those songs to mean something to you. And to others. 

I think I’m maturing into this place where I was more of a musical writer on the first two records. But now, I think it’s more about finding my voice. And what the story is going to be, or what’s going to be meaningful to me in the future. 

Follow on Twitter @wyotheband

Photos by Monika Sed

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