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Gimme a Break: Familiar Wild

Hometown:Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Members: Melissa Bandura, Melissa Hammer, Kenton Wiens, Jesse Waldman, T.Nile

RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Nick Drake, Great Lake Swimmers

New Release: Dark Dreams

Latest Single: "Oregon"

Vancouver’s Familiar Wild has a sound that walks a fine line between folk and alternative rock. While the band is a recent renaming of a band that’s existed for years, they've adapted their sound on their latest album, Dark Dreams (out September 30), incorporating elements of straight-up folk, alternative and orchestral folk. Their tendency to adventure doesn’t end there. As the band explains below, the name Familiar Wild is intended to evoke nostalgia for past eras and many members are avid hikers or cyclists. Familiar Wild was nice enough to provide us with a video of their North by Northeast performance of "I Won’t Say." The vocal and string performance showcases the band’s raw talent, so be sure to check it out below. Check out the interview below with band member Melissa Bandura and stay tuned to listen to their latest single, "Oregon."



What’s the meaning behind your band name? 

Familiar Wild reflects the growing popularity within urban cultures of going "back to the land." Think of the coleman stoves, tin cups and cast iron frying pans used on our family camping trips. Now extrapolate that feeling to our urban gardens, canning/jarring parties and 100 mile-based restaurants. We remember the days when the wild was familiar to us: before we journeyed into the city and perhaps forgot about the simpler things. Familiar Wild reflects a bit of this nostalgia for nature: equal parts AAA and Pacific Coast sound, FW evokes the peace of mind and spirit of contemplation found in the wide open outdoors.

What’s the inspiration behind your latest single, “Oregon”? Who’s the guy on the cover art?

The guy on the cover art is actually Melissa B’s partner. We liked the pic because it was taken on the Cape Scott trail (a remote trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island. very wild). He looks sort of like an old logger in that photo.  Old photos of people tend to bring that sense of nostalgia to the forefront. Again, that’s the feel we are trying to relive just a bit in these tunes, while keeping the music current and relatable to the general public. Oregon was actually written about Mel’s partner and is partly sung from his perspective.

What can fans expect to hear on Dark Dreams or what are you most excited for them to hear?

We are most excited for people to hear the thickness of the album. In the arrangements, we worked with co-producer Corwin Fox to create a literal orchestra behind the lyrics. There are many sub-rhythms, sub-melodies and lush harmonies going on in the album. So much, that it would take a few listens to discover all of the layers used. That’s exciting to us.

What’s the meaning behind the title, Dark Dreams?

“Dark Dreams” is meant to give the bittersweet feel of the album’s overarching theme: losing the memory of what it’s like to be young/innocent and moving towards self-realization of adulthood/responsibilities. Some dark themes are specifically contrasted with hopeful ones, making the album very heavy at times but very whimsical at others.

What was the last piece of art (music, physical art, film, book, etc.) that really blew your mind? What effect did it have on you?

The last piece of music that blew our mind has to be the show that Arstidir put on at NXNE. Their harmonies, musicianship and writing really impressed us. It brought tears to our eyes it was so beautiful.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve actually followed?

Don’t compare yourself to others: don’t put yourself on a pedestal and don’t put yourself down. With so many musicians making wonderful music it’s better to just enjoy them rather than compete with them.

What’s the future hold for Familiar Wild?

A lot of touring in 2013-2014: Vancouver Island, interior of BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, USA and  Europe. More recording (at least another single in September). More festivals (we are playing Rifflandia this September, but look for us at other similar festivals through 2014).

How would you describe your shows?

Our shows really put the song first: we create a listening experience of thick arrangements, tight harmonies and not only multi-instrumentation but multi-tasking. Imagine Mel B on looped violin right after she plays a guitar riff while Mel H is playing right handed trumpet and left handed keys. At times, Kenton plays drums while playing guitar. Everyone sings. This band is fun to watch as they orchestrate the tunes to their fullest.

Follow Familiar Wild on Facebook and Twitter.


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Janelle is the owner of Green Light Go. When she's not spreading the word on her favorite bands she can usually be found riding her road bike through Michigan, designing super hip clothes or analyzing people much to their dismay.
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