Wednesday‘s genre-defying fifth album “Rat Saw God” demands immediate attention. The Asheville-based quartet is led by a powerful singer and guitarist. carly hartzman, which paints vivid portraits of ordinary American life (excellent example from “Quarry”: “A sad old woman sits in the corner of the aftershock from the quarry / says ‘America is a spoiled child unaware of grief’ / But then she hands out full-size candy bars on Halloween” ). Meanwhile, guitarist MJ “Jake” Lenderman and lap steel player Xandy Chelmis create a lush, shoe-like bed for the band’s songs that resonates with the delicate playing of bassist Margo Schultz and drummer Alan Miller.
Before the band’s sold-out show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 20, Variation He spoke with Hartzman about how his unconventional upbringing brought specificity to his lyrics, about writing with bandmate and boyfriend Lenderman and about early plans for their next album.
My songwriting is full of very specific lines. When did you realize that you could create art from these little moments of your life?
All the arts I appreciate are the same style. It’s very southern, an appreciation of taking things slow and noticing the details. Vic Chesnutt comes to mind, someone who can write whole songs about a single detail pulled from a day in his life, and all the novelists I love, like Mary Karr and Richard Brautigan, that I always talk about. You’re going to read a chapter in a Richard Brautigan book that’s all about soup and stuff, but not in a boring way. Anything that can come from small details that unlock other small details is an easier way for me to write than trying to write about an overarching idea of love or death.
I also have a photography diploma. I’m not so interested in it anymore, but this is another setting where you have to look at the shit everyone else is looking at but find something worth catching.
You really stretch your vocal range on this album and you can create an incredible scream. How do you determine the best time to deploy it and what is your strategy for catching the perfect rock cry?
Recording “Bull Believer” was probably my third scream in my life. I had neither the time nor the space to practice. Now I know because I have to do this every night, and I’ve watched many videos on YouTube of that band’s lead singer, Flyleaf, how he looks at his voice. Doing this sustainably takes a lot of practice. I’ve always wanted to scream in our music, but I knew I had to write about this particular thing in my life where I really needed to scream before I unlocked it, like the ability to randomly scream. Frankly, I really needed to prioritize this very personal memory that I had to get there first.
You grew up Jewish in a conservative Southern town. How has this affected your songwriting?
It was an experience that gave me an outside perspective. I have a lot of songs from someone who watches something happen, who doesn’t need to participate in the situation. I often felt like I was looking at Christianity from this safe space where I didn’t actually have to be involved, because I knew that many of my friends who grew up as Christians were afraid of their bodies, hell, magic, and so on. fun, exciting stuff. I was just so impressed with it. I was a very casual Jew, so it was mostly about food, family, and singing. I found Christianity really creepy, and some of the things parents of some of my friends have to say to me about being Jewish are, “Damn, I guess you can tell me I’m going to hell, but that’s weird because you’re my friend’s mom.” It wasn’t terribly traumatic, but it was always one step outside of what many of my other friends went through.
You were outspoken about your relationship with your bandmate, Jake. How do you think you influenced each other’s songwriting?
As we tour more and more together, we are still trying to understand. It’s Wednesday and I play guitar in his band. MJ Lender, in the round. There is a lot of time we spend together. He writes the guitar parts for Wednesday and teaches me the guitar parts for MJ Lenderman songs because he’s so much better at guitar than I am. I’m grateful to be in his band because the musicians are so great. I’m learning many basic things I never had because I was self-taught.
I think on Wednesday, Jake will be able to express something in a completely different voice. We use different muscles in the two projects. I think it will adapt over time because both projects are successful, but if we do both, it seems like we’ll almost always be on tour. It’s kind of exciting that it’s going to change, but it’s kind of like MJ-Wednesdays, which is a little defined by songwriting right now.
Wednesday is a very productive group. Finishing a tour, but planning to write more, record more, or just take a break for the rest of the year?
The next album has been written. I don’t know when we’ll be able to reach it, but for me it’s over because I write all the time. We’ve been on tour for eight weeks and it will be a total of 10 weeks. I don’t think I can do something like this again. I want to go everywhere but need more space in between. My songs are about home, and if I’m never home, it doesn’t mean much. We’re just at home and for two days I was like, “Damn, I’m living in the best place ever”. I just sit on my front porch, that’s what I live for. My music is my therapy and my passion and I love to share music with people on tour but I want to find a better balance between home and tour and be able to relax and take care of myself. Then, me and Jake will stop posting because we both write a lot.