WIVES debut LP, So Removed, opens with the timely and befitting lyrics: “Happy ever after / this place is a disaster.” According to Jay Beach, the vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter of the four-piece WIVES, this is the track that best embodies their sound. It’s Drone-y, crammed with clever observations, and still catchy enough to make you forget the world is ending despite being told straight to your face. “Waving Past Nirvana” embraces my favorite sentence in the band’s bio, which describes the sentiment of their debut as “tethered to daily anxiety without resorting to cynicism.”
WIVES’ creation story plays out much like their sound: a confident teetering and self-assured stumbling that somehow leads you to the exact right place. Beach, guitarist Andrew Bailey, drummer Adam Sachs, and bassist Alex Crawford were all embedded in New York’s DIY music scene working on their own music projects when the unraveling of a previous project and an uncanceled studio session lured them into the studio. Beach puts it succinctly, sharing, “It was a lot of fun and when we heard the tapes we were like, ‘Wow, that’s really good.’ So, we just became WIVES.” The album was created over a two-year span of time with the friends taking advantage of stolen moments in the studio, never taking it too seriously and just following what felt and sounded right.
“When the four of us came together, it was definitely a unique sound none of us had hit on before in our other musical lives. I think everyone brings something quite unique to the table. I write songs that are, I guess, more traditional. Our bass player is a huge My Bloody Valentine fan, and his vibe is really shoegaze-ey, our guitar player is more modern. Our drummer Andrew is super into death metal and hip-hop. I know the sound of WIVES makes a lot of sense because I know where everyone is coming from, but everyone is coming from separate places,” Beach explains.
The band got their start in Queens, New York City’s largest borough, and the nation’s most diverse large county. Much like WIVES, it’s full of people coming from different places, but it plays out harmoniously.
“We have mad Queens love, and I think Queens is the best borough in New York by far,” Beach shares when asked about the backdrop of their start. “People are a little more chill in Queens; it’s a little more of a family vibe, and there are still many ethnic communities that are intact. There’s [a] flourishing Polish community and Eastern European community, little Bangladesh, little Nepal,” Beach says. “It’s like a good social experiment. Like let’s take the most diverse amount of people you can and, like, throw them into a place, and it mostly works out, you know?”
That organic coming together can be heard in tracks like “Even The Dead.” It’s anything but over-practiced or contrived; it’s exactly what you would hear live. “There are no overdubs, no nothing,” Beach shares when asked about the track. “We just started playing this one riff and went for it for those five minutes and recorded it on tape. That’s it. That’s the final track. Obviously that kind of lightning in a bottle doesn’t happen all the time. That’s rare. But when we have a piece, like, we really believe in, we just keep it. We don’t fuck with it. It might not be perfect. It might not be a No. 1 single but it has something, a spontaneity, that’s really hard to find.”
One of the albums poppier moments comes by way of “The 20 Teens.” Beach shares that while listening to A Flock of Seagulls playing at a Bushwick restaurant, he had the thought that all the lyrics might as well have been “This is the ’80s, this is the ’80s,” since the track seemed to embody the decade so well. He decided to square up to that track, and create his own version for the 2010s, full of references to people reading paper magazines and donning dungarees. The track starts with a sharp and inquisitive “some records are so twisted that they actually happened,” a line Beach found in an old journal he’d been writing in while listening to old 45s.
“You could say it’s positively ironic; I think in our songs there’s a strain of sweetness and nostalgia,” Beach says, and laughs, when I share that the songs seem like perfect listening for both pre-party and post-breakup. “Even though there’s also this stance of New York cynicism, it’s in there too,” he adds.
There’s something in the way Beach sings that makes your ears perk up. Like Lou Reed from a pulpit, it feels biblical. You can’t help but attempt to decipher messages hidden in the lyrics, something that could save us from our present-day chaos, or at least make us more comfortable with it. The album has moments of respite, but it magnetizes you back toward careful chaos. See, you can dance through a track like “Hideaway” and move to forget, but then the closing track, “The Future is A Drag” reminds you of the state of things again. Much like the bustling Queens borough, there’s a calm, but not without a commotion.
“When I’m listening to music, it’s more about just being here and now in this time and place and listening to these sounds. Sometimes it’s an old blues record, sometimes it’s a T-Rex record, sometimes it’s Vince Staples — whatever it is. There’s something that just gets captured sometimes that I call ‘the slow within the fast.’ To me, it’s the most amazing thing I can think of experiencing. It’s this marriage between rhythm and, I guess, melody and, not to sound lame, but there’s a shifting thing that happens on really good records like My Bloody Valentine or something like that, where there’s something shifting underneath your feet. The ground is shifting. It could be a fast song — hip-hop does it really well — or it can be a really shoegaze-y thing that’s slower. But, that’s kind of what we’re going for. We want to move people in the way we know is possible to be moved because we’re just lovers of music.”