Analogue Music | Wild Child

Wild Child

By Matt Conner

If you were in the audience for a Wild Child show at any point over the last several years, Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins would like to thank you.

Wild Child, now a septet, is feeling free. If there's an idea they want to chase, it's all systems go. The nerves are gone. The comparisons have stopped. The fears have given way to freedom as the now veteran band tours non-stop, once again.

These days, they're crossing the country (and other continents) on the heels of the interestingly titled Expectations (interesting because they don't seem to care about anyone's but their own). The self-assured nature on display every night comes down to one primary factor: the response of fans. 

Apparently playing in front of passionate fans who sing along to unreleased songs has a way of bolstering one's confidence.

Analogue: You've referenced the freedom of making this album in other places and I wanted to start there. How did you finally arive at such a place? 

Kelsey Wilson: It took us seven years of playing in front of people, playing with different people, getting the right bands lined up, working with the right producers. Just enough has happened in our lives in the past seven years, playing shows together, that we finally figured it out. This kind of feels like our first thing. 

Alexander Beggins: Yeah, I guess it’s part of the duality of the title, Expectations. We set those up for ourselves with this record. We really wanted it to be different and special. We didn’t want to finish it until we had to.

Analogue: When you say you've figured it out, what informs that? 

Kelsey: For me personally, it didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. It’s not like I feel like we’ve figured out all the tricks and we know what we’re doing. It’s actually that we’ve come to terms with the fact that we don’t know what we’re doing, but it’s still good. Until now, we’ve just been throwing shit at the wall and hoping it works out, and it has so far, and it’s always like a surprise. I can’t believe this is working. We’re just playing music with our friends. We have no idea what we’re doing. And we don’t deserve anything and this is insane. Why are people letting us do this? 

I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. Everyone does it differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do anything, as long as you’re proud of what you’re doing.

But now, it feels different. Like I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. Everyone does it differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do anything, as long as you’re proud of what you’re doing. Who cares about the process of making it? And everyone should do things differently. It’s music. There are no rules. That’s kind of the attitude we all got to with this one, where we don’t have to worry and think, 'Well people don’t record strings that way' or, 'People don’t write this way or work with these 8 producers on one record.' We want to do whatever we want.

Analogue: So is that the primary lesson learned after several years? You can do whatever we want to do.

Kelsey: Yeah. We’ve been with other producers before, and we didn’t really stand up as much as we did with this last record. Someone else threw out an idea and we were just like, 'Okay, yeah.' This is the first time we were like, 'Nope, doesn’t matter. Maybe my idea is stupid and doesn’t make sense and is going to take way longer. I want to do it this way.' Everyone had that attitude, so it was all the cooks in the kitchen

We’ve been switching band members for a really long time, and we’ve finally found our lineup with this record. Everyone was just so wonderful to work with, and we got super comfortable and creative in the studio. We just got to listen to each other. We’vve been playing together so long that we just get to listen to each other. 

Alexander: We also took our time. We recorded this whole record over a span of like a year and a half. And if you look at Fools, we recorded the whole thing in 3 weeks. The Runaround, about the same amount of time. So we spread it out, so it was all fresh. All the studio sessions were fresh. New people to work with and new locations. So it was just fun the whole time.

Wild Child

Analogue: Was there a turning point that really created that new direction for the band?

Kelsey: Playing shows really is what it is, for me. Seeing people singing our songs back at us. It took awhile for that to actually sink in. 'Okay, people are connecting to this.' We can be really hard on ourselves, but we just kind of all realized that we get to make people happy for a living, so it doesn’t really matter. This last year, touring is what did it for me, seeing the crowds get bigger and bigger and people knowing words to songs we haven’t even released yet. You realize, 'This is really special. I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in all the people that are on stage with us.'

Analogue: How do people know words to songs that haven’t been released yet?

Kelsey: Oh, we’ll post an Instagram video of us writing or we’ll play the song live once in one city, and someone will record it on their phone. We’ll show up to the next night and they’ll know every word already. I don’t know how they do it. 

Analogue: That’s crazy.

Kelsey: Yeah, it’s really crazy. 

Analogue: Was there sort of a breakthrough song on Expecations that came first and exemplifies that confidence that you’re talking about?

Kelsey: I think it was actually the song, "Expectations." We wrote it at my dad’s house out in Oregon. It’s the first one that was like, 'sShit, we’re going to need a guitar for this one. I don’t think this is just a ukulele song anymore.' It happened so naturally. We wrote it in like 20 minutes, so it was supposed to happen. 

Alexander: Yeah, we wrote the one, "Expectations," and one other song in like 30 minutes. 

Kelsey: Oh, yeah! It was just such a good writing session. We flew out to Oregon just the two of us to write for a couple days, and it was so easy and so perfect. For "Expectations," we recorded a little iPhone demo and then we listened to it like every 5 minutes for the next 48 hours. It’s like, 'This is going to be so big. This feels so good. I can’t wait to show this to the band. They’re going to love it.' We knew we would call the record that immediately, too. We were like, 'That’s a great album title.'

Analogue: How does that feel when something sort of opens itself up to you in a way that just from out of nowhere? Are you surprised when those moments still come? 

Kelsey: Absolutely.

Alexander: Yeah, of course. Any time you finish a record, writing and recording, you’re like, 'I hope we continue to do this.' Every album cycle, it just kind of happens naturally. You don’t have to force it, but you’re always like a little bit scared. I wonder, 'Do we have what it takes to make a sixth record?' We’re already well on our way to making our fifth record, so when you have a prolific writing team, it makes it a lot easier. We’ve never had writer’s block. We kind of complete each other’s sentences, in the way of writing. If I get stuck on something, she has ideas and vice versa. 

Analogue: I was hoping you could speak to the choice to going with so many different producers. 

Alexander: We knew we wanted to do something different with this record, we just didn’t know exactly what or how to do it. The initial idea was to disrupt the album cycle and record a song a month and just release an album throughout the year. That seemed a little difficult with our touring scheduled, so we said, 'Let’s make the record we wanted to make.'

We compiled the list of people we wanted to work with, and when we reached out to them, everyone got back to us and said, 'I want to be a part of it.' So we were like, 'Now, it’s going to be challenging.' Here are all the songs we have. Who wants to do what? We thought everyone would dogpile on three songs.

Somehow every producer wanted to work on a different song. So we were looking at it and were just like, 'Okay, well, I guess we’ll do it with everyone, and everyone’s happy with their song selection.' It just worked out in some kind of magical way. 

Analogue: Were you afraid that maybe you would lose some cohesion in that way?

Alexander: At the beginning. I was kind of planning on losing some kind of cohesive feel. And for some reason, that’s why I think we ended up recording 18 songs for the record. So when we went to go put it together and probably played more with the track listing on this record than on any other record, because we had a lot to figure out, and we had songs we knew we would cut, but when we finally had the track listing, I was like, there it is, there’s the record. It all sounded cohesive together, and it (told the tale?) that we wanted to. 

Analogue: Anything that you’re most excited about on the horizon?

Alexander: Europe is still fun and exciting for me, because I’ve only been a couple times now. But back home in the states is where our friends are, our friends and family, so I'd say New York, L.A., Toronto, and San Fran. Kind of all the big ones. And you get fond of certain places. Asheville is one of my favorite towns along with Charlottesville. You start to figure out, 'This is my coffee shop here, and this is my bar. This is the AirBnB that I like to stay.' Last year was all about making the record, now it’s about playing it, so hopefully we’re going to have some really good shows.