We’ve all heard of the power of tribes, the way people with shared interests can connect in new and unique ways. Musicians, of course, are no different. They relate in a way that only other musicians can, with a keen curiosity and unmatched passion. So what happens when you put two musicians together and ask them to interview one another? As it turns out, you get a pretty unique insight into the inner workings of everything that goes into their craft—their personal battles, their triumphs, and the daily struggles that you and I take for granted—like where to live, or how to stay current. Check out Kyna Wise of The Go Ahead and Charlie Wolf of Charlie Wolf & The Small Calamities as they go one on one, discovering the importance of where to live (and why it isn’t necessarily Los Angeles), the struggles of songwriting, and much more.
Kyna Wise (of The Go Ahead): What’s your project?
Charlie Wolf: I just put out a new album, Angels & Commerce, and have been releasing a series of videos from it. It’s indie rock adjacent, with a twinge of folk mixed in. How about you?
Kyna: Our music is rock… alternative rock. We haven’t been able to pin down the genre perfectly yet. We just re-mastered our EP, Cycles, and re-distributed with a music video campaign. How long have you been hustling in the music scene?
Charlie: I’ve been writing songs and playing gigs for about 10 years now, but I’d say that in the past year I’ve become more serious about promoting my music and trying to get it into the hands of more people. How about you? And do you find that not having a defined genre makes it harder for you to attract fans or is the eclectic element part of the appeal?
Kyna: We’ve been playing as a band for five and a half years, and we too just got really serious about promoting ourselves. We have a manager, so she kicks our butt. It’s great. And yes, I do think that not having a defined genre makes it harder for us, especially in San Francisco where the music scene is very electronic. Even live bands have major electronic elements and peoples’ ears are tuned into that vibe now. However, the people who appreciate our eclectic sound REALLY appreciate it. We might not be doing the most popular thing right now, but it moves the people it moves and that’s all we want.
Charlie: I was really surprised about that last time I was in San Francisco! I was mainly familiar with the LA scene and the style is just totally different in the Bay. We’re both originally from LA but live elsewhere, right? Most musicians are moving to LA to try to make it.
Kyna: When did you move to Texas? How do you find LA to be different?
Charlie: I just got sick of LA. I love LA, but it got to the point where there was no reason for me to be there. Now I’m in Denton, Texas, which actually has a really big music scene; there are shows here 7 nights a week. And I didn’t realize until leaving LA how much healthier a scene like this can be for musicians. I was talking to the promoter of a small showcase gig and he asked me, “Is $50 and free drinks okay?” In LA, you’d be lucky to get a dime for a gig like that.
Kyna: That’s a great way to look at things. For me, LA was a whole different beast. I was never a musician in LA. I focused on theater, and it’s what I originally went to school for. I moved up to San Francisco to become a teacher, got my degree, and then joined this band with my homies. The band families we make are invaluable and it’s really pushed me to be the best singer I can… because I want to keep playing shows with these beautiful people. Are you the kind of writer who paints the scene of everywhere you travel?
Charlie: For a while, my songs had a very big “LA” vibe to them, and I’ve been trying to shed that since I don’t live in LA anymore. I think I think I’ve probably said “Lomita” more than “Love” in my lyrics. Are there any themes you find yourself coming back to in your songs?
Kyna: I typically have two themes; one is, of course, love. The other theme, and the more apparent one currently, is self-improvement—acceptance of my faults.
Charlie: I think I approach similar topics in my songs. For me, I’ve noticed it’s very cyclical. I went through a phase where I was online dating a lot (which was consistent in its weirdness) and I think I definitely wrote a lot about love then. And then I spent a while writing more about being out of place and the transition from being fresh-faced out of college to a person who is supposed to know who they are and have their life together. I have to try to consciously try to keep writing things that are fresh and not rehashing the same themes. I don’t want to become as easily parody-able from a thematic perspective as, say, Morrissey, but I probably already am. What are your plans and goals as a band for 2016?
Kyna: Oh man, I love Morrissey and all of his misery. [Laughs] I get on myself, too, sometimes about writing about the same stuff. As for goals: more press, and laying down the groundwork to make a little money off of this whole journey so that we can realistically keep journeying this way. Goals are a funny thing in this industry. Yes, we want to play festivals. Yes, we want a deal of sorts, but nothing is guaranteed in this game. My personal goal is to keep getting exposed to more people so that we can travel to meet them and play for them. How about you?
Charlie: I’ve been reading some interesting books about songwriting and the tough thing to realize—and I’m incredibly bad at this—is that the real pros of songwriting write whether they have inspiration or not. They just sit down and write. There’s a fascinating book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield about this. I think my goal is similar to yours—continue to get exposure, play more gigs, make more songs, and make better songs. I’m releasing quite a few music videos each with their own fun perspective that different directors have crafted, so continuing to see songs come to life like that is something I’m really excited for.
Kyna: I’ve read The War of Art, and I totally agree. It’s been so nice chatting. Let’s keep in touch!
Charlie: Definitely. It’s been great talking to you and good luck in 2016 and beyond!
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