New Jersey’s Wyland sounds considerably polished for such a young band. In fact, CMJ calls the uplifting sonics, spacey reverb, and soaring vocals—which fall somewhere between Long Island emo-pop band As Tall As Lions and Brit-pop mainstays Keane—“instantly digestible.” The band just released their second EP, Snake Hill, and are launching a new tour in support.
Lead singer and songwriter Ryan Sloan was kind enough to speak with Rawckus about Snake Hill, his views on live showmanship, Wyland’s role as rock ‘n’ roll “outcasts, and the impact of politics on the arts.
Rawckus: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Ryan. You said you’re getting off work. Do you have a regular job outside the band?
Ryan Sloan: Yeah, we all have regular jobs. I do electrical work with my father. Mauricio, our guitarist, works as a musical therapist. He works with kids with autism. He’s the man. I don’t know what our drummer Chris does. I know he drives UBER on the side. I think he works at a medical place. He’s the person that answers the phone all day, maybe? Our bassist Zach works in this chemical plant, so we’re all pretty scattered.
How does that work for you in terms of studio time and touring?
RS: It’s tough. We’ve got to really pick and choose our battles. We all, with the exception of maybe Mauricio, hate what we do all day. That’s kind of our fuel to make this happen. We have a steady schedule where we meet weekly. In terms of shows, I usually book them between two to three months in advance so it gives everybody ample time to take off. There have been times where some people couldn’t make it, and we had to swing it with what we’ve got. It’s not always the most ideal thing.
Is that the goal then, to make the band a full-time venture?
RS: Yeah, that’s been the goal since the inception of the group. I think as soon as we started we knew this is what we want to do. It’s just a matter of getting to that point where we’re financially stable to continue to write songs.
You’re about to head out on tour for a bit, right? Where can people come see you?
RS: We’re hitting Ohio, Chicago, Tulsa, Dallas and Austin. Then we’re coming home and having our EP release at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, NY.
How has the reception to the band’s live show been?
RS: It’s been great. We’ve always taken our live shows very seriously. We love playing live and putting on a good show. Being that I work in electrical, I built this whole lighting rig and we run everything through midi. So we have a pretty cool lights show for an independent band. We’ve had some great experiences. We played a music festival in New Jersey opening for Mumford and Sons, which was the kick-start for us to take this band much more seriously. We played Playstation Theater in Times Square over the summer, which I think was our biggest local-esque show. People have seemed to really enjoy it.
Are there any other bands from the New Jersey area that are working from the same foundation as you? Is there a scene that goes along with the music you are writing?
RS: Not necessarily. There are a ton of incredible local groups around here. Just to shout out a few: There’s a group called Deal Casino that’s just on fire. They’re playing Firefly Fest this year (no pun intended). A band called The Vaughns who we’ve kind of grown up with, and we love them. It’s a female-led band, and she’s a badass. I wouldn’t say we fit in with anything going on in the New Jersey scene. We’re more like the outcasts. Not to sound like the introverts, but I feel like we’re doing something very different. We’re not following any trends, we’re not in any scene specifically. We’re kind of doing our own thing. At some point it’s going to make sense to people, and I think we’ll stick out.
Wyland’s sound is incredibly mature. Where does it come from?
RS: It’s funny because I spent between ages 18 and 23 thinking about the music I wanted to play. I grew up listening to everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to U2 to Bob Dylan—a little bit of everything. So it was really tough deciding “what is our sound and voice?” For some reason, we gravitated to British rock. Bands like Keane and Travis and Elbow and Radiohead of course. We wanted to create something like that in America.
We’re not following any trends, we’re not in any scene specifically. We’re kind of doing our own thing.
The style of music you’re playing isn’t exactly the sound du jour. What is it like being a band in your position in today’s music market? Who are you trying to reach?
RS: We’ve been following this traditional route of getting in the studio, recording, getting a PR company, and trying to release music. The goal is always trying to get your music to as many people as possible. I love my band. We want to keep whatever’s left of rock and roll alive in our music. We’re putting a lot of time and energy into our music videos. We want to create this polished image of ourselves and write the best songs we can write. That’s kind of all we can do.
Are you looking for a label or do you want to remain independent?
RS: I think retaining creative control is number one on our list of priorities. I can’t write something I don’t feel passionate about. Looking at top 40, I can’t take it. You can tell half these people are just puppets. They’re not even singing the things they’ve written. I can’t support something like that. I don’t necessarily think a label signing us and telling us what to do and how to do it is what we’re looking for. The ideal is to be in control of what we’re doing and give our fans what they’re looking for.
What do you see as the biggest change from the last EP to this one?
RS: The last EP was a little darker, and this one we wanted to brighten things up a little bit. With this EP we were fortunate enough to work with a lot of cool ‘80s-esque synths like The Prophet. We love experimenting with sounds. Mauricio on the guitar has a pedal-board the size of a car trunk.
Your new single “The Answer” is very obviously about bridging divides in a contentious time. Can you talk about its conception?
RS: We recorded this really cool 40-second track that was supposed to be the intro for our last EP about a year ago. Over the summer, I was listening back and stumbled across it. I started working on it again, and at the time there were a lot of things going on politically. Lyrically the song kind of took itself there. I wanted to talk about what was happening. I’m living in a household that’s as split as the country—one side of my family is full of big-time Trump supporters, the other is more liberal and democratic-minded. So the song is my therapy for that.
Who are you listening to now?
RS: Have you heard of Glassnote Records? I found out that every band that I’ve ever loved is pretty much on there. I’ve just been going through their roster and listening to all their groups, specifically The Temper Trap. For some reason, when I listen to Glassnote’s bands, I picture landscapes. I visualize their stories in such a cinematic way. I hope that people feel that way when they listen to us.