Analogue Music | The Wandering Hearts

The Wandering Hearts

By Matt Conner

The Wandering Hearts are that much closer to their sonic goals.

With each new album, Chess Whiffin says The Wandering Hearts are finding greater ownership of their process and creative confidence in their instincts. The results, as heard on their latest singles serving as the breadcrumbs toward a new album release in the spring, are as close to "their sound" as anything they've released to date.

What's interesting about our conversation with Whiffin—who is one-third of the Americana group that also includes Tara Wilcox and A.J. Dean—is that the band was saying something similar on their last release, a self-titled that came out in '21. It's a sign that the band has been heading in the right direction for a while—one that has called them to step out and follow the muse as they sense it.

With new songs "About America" and "Still Waters" and "Not Misunderstood" out now and more on the way, we recently sat with Whiffin to hear more about this latest batch of songs, the pursuit of authenticity, and how the industry is treating them these days.

Analogue: The last time we talked, the conversation around the last album release was about finally being able to establish the sound you wanted. Now that you’re on the other side, does this feel like another big step forward into something you’re picturing, or do you feel it’s less dramatic than that and you’re just building on this cornerstone that was laid?

Chess Whiffin: Both actually. Because we released it during the pandemic, essentially, we didn’t get the chance that it could potentially have had. We did as much as we could touring-wise.

Musically speaking, half was what we wanted and half wasn’t quite there. We hadn’t completely found it at that point, but on this new record, it definitely feels like it. That record played a part in that. We figured a lot of things out, and without that whole process, I don’t think we would have made the record that we have.

So yeah, it’s an exciting place to be putting out a third record. We’re chuffed to still be doing it after COVID. You wonder if there’s still going to be an industry to come back to. You wonder if that’s the last record you’ll make. Well, I mean, we did know that we’d make music regardless, but to have the support we’ve had consistently from a lot of the same people—even right from the start of our careers as a band—it’s amazing they’ve stuck with us. Having that support behind us has really helped.

"In making this record, I think we feel a lot more ownership having made this one the way that we have."

Analogue: I want to go back to what you said about your last album being a tale of two halves. When you say that, what are the two sides? How would you describe them?

Chess: I think there was an element of trying to tie in the sound from the first record, trying to have some consistency through it and not have it just be an entirely different thing. When we made the first record, we were a very different band. We’d signed to a major label having just met. On that record, we love the songs but it’s a very different record had we known each other for 10 years. It just would have been different.

So the second record had elements of the kind of authenticity that we wanted to put across of who we are as singers and musicians. Yet there were still some other influences feeding into that. After making this new record, it was just us along with our manager, Steve, who is also my husband, in this very room. The guys all came and stayed and we made it the most authentic you could possibly make a record—just in our house.

Only looking back did we realize that the second record had real elements of that. The majority felt like that, but there was a little bit… We made it with Simone Felice and David Baron who are incredible people and incredible producers and incredible musicians. We had the best time making it, but it was very different to make it with them than how we made this.

Elements of that really worked and we learned a lot about recording in that way and working with other people, but you do have other people’s opinions feeding into the music, the choices, the sounds. That’s obviously why you work with other producers like that because you want their opinions. That was a big part of it. But in making this record, I think we feel a lot more ownership having made this one the way that we have.

Analogue: Do you keep other voices out of the process because you have greater creative confidence than ever?

Chess: Yeah, I would say that. There was the odd bit when it came to mastering and all of that stuff, but that’s not my forte. I’ll leave that to others. We heard it all as it was happening and we were aware of it, but we also wanted to let people who are really good at that stuff do that stuff. So they came in and were really vital as well.

Analogue: You all just played Americanafest this year. How did that go?

Chess: Loved it. Love being a part of it. It’s always so much fun and it draws a great crowd. We had a great showcase at a great venue, but I can’t remember what it’s called. We’d played 17 gigs in several states, so I forget the name of it. But it was great. We brought our drummer out and then there’s another UK band [Lauren Housley and the Northern Cowboys] that we play a lot with as well, so they played guitar and bass for us. So it felt like a bit like home being there and playing that show. It was really good fun.

Analogue: You mentioned the uncertainty of what you’d find on the other side of the pandemic. Now that some dust has settled, what are you finding?

Chess: It feels like the landscape of the industry has changed quite a bit. That might not be COVID. That might be the last few years generally, but it does feel different. Not sure if that’s the massive pressure that artists have now with social media and creating content and it’s detracting, I think, from what we do. It’s hard to find that balance because people got so reliant on social media during COVID, because that was all we had.

Now it’s crazy. TikTok is nuts. I can’t quite get my head around it. We’re not very good at stuff like that, so when we’re asked to do stuff and create things for people on social media, it all feels a little forced. [Laughs] But it’s still a huge part of it that we have to get our heads around. We have to be involved because it’s not going away.

It’s great that we’ve got an industry to come back to and I think there are a lot of positive changes that have happened. There’s a lot more support for indie stuff, and I think that’s the benefit of social media. A lot of people are getting recognized and having huge success with no record label or management and yet their careers are skyrocketing through something that’s gone viral. So there are some real positives as well.

But it’s great to be back out on this last tour we did. We did a tour of the States for five weeks, and a lot of the stuff we did was stuff that was booked from March 2020. It’s taken us this long to get back out and it’s not even at the same level that we had booked for that March. So it feels good to be back out doing it and yet in other ways, it feels back to square one. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives us the opportunity to hone in on who we are and what we are as a band and what we want to portray—the kind of music we want to put out and make.

VISIT: The Wandering Hearts

*Photo: Stewart Baxter