Brad Bershad: First of all, thanks for taking the time to call me and talk about your music. I hear some noise in the background... where are you right now?
Erland Wanberg: We’re at this little restaurant called Rocky Pops in Monterey, Tennessee. We played North Carolina last night and we’re en route to Nashville. We’re gonna have some good southern cookin’ pretty soon.
Brad: Cool. I saw you’re from the West Coast. Is this your first time east of the Mississippi?
Erland: The first time was actually last summer. Andy McMahon and I took our wives and kids on a cross country trip. We rented an RV and did the whole thing. Kind of an inspiring trip to help write some music and produce the record and also a nice family vacation.
Brad: Tell me about the artwork on the album cover for On Our Side.
Erland: The album cover was done by my dad, actually, Lars Wanberg. He collaborated with an artist in San Francisco named Angie Crabtree. It was a spinoff of a picture from the great depression of an unemployment line. Kind of inspired by the song “Working For Free” which touches on that subject matter. I found the picture online and had this idea of recreating that scene but having a picture of the band and also having family there.
Brad: Very cool. It kind of represents the classic meets modern vibe for your music, too...
Erland: Absolutely. It came together really easily, so it felt like it was just meant to be. Usually when things happen like that, you’re on the right track so I’m stoked it worked out.
Brad: It also kind of looks like a line of fans at a venue waiting for the show...
Erland: Yeah! We’ve had multiple people say that. It kind of worked out in that way, too.
Brad: Your music is kind of Folksy Americana meets Modern Indie Rock. Is there a word that you like to use when you describe your own music?
Erland: It’s kind of been hard, actually. Ya know... you just mentioned a couple genres and we touched on a lot of different things in the production of the record. While we were recording it, Andrew and I came up with this funny phrase called “Jungle Folk” which you can hear on “My Love” and “Darlin Dear” and some of these songs that have a jungle rhythm with the percussion... but that was more of an inside joke than reflective of any genre. Sometimes it’s easier to just say 'Rock and Roll' and then let people figure it out for themselves when they hear it.
Brad: I saw an interview where you mentioned Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and James Taylor as artists who you’ve been inspired by. Are there any contemporary artists that you’ve been inspired by?
Erland: I really love Bon Iver. I’m a huge fan of his music right now. I think he’s a genius. His recordings are innovative and he’s really creating some beautiful work. That would be one... there’s so many great songwriters and musicians out there right now, but he in particular kind of blows my mind.
Brad: Have you heard the album that Justin Vernon put out a couple weeks ago?
Erland: No! Did he put it just under his name? He’s been doing a lot of different projects lately...
Brad: He’s got this band, it’s a trio called The Shouting Matches, and they did an album called Grownass Man. It’s rootsy grunge rock. Very bluesy, I think you’d like it. I’ll send you a link when we’re done with the interview.
Erland: Wow. That’s awesome!
Brad: Do you have a favorite Bob Dylan album?
Erland: A lot of my favorite Dylan tunes are so spread out amongst his whole catalog... but if I had to choose one, it would probably be The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, just because it has so many amazing acoustic tunes that helped the world fall in love with him in the first place.
Brad: How about a favorite James Taylor song?
Erland: "Carolina On My Mind". I love that tune. He’s got so many great ones that, again, it’s hard to pick. But that’s an example of one that I love.
Brad: Is there a moment when you decided that you were going to make a career out of playing music?
Erland: Honestly, the first time I picked up the guitar and learned that I could write songs at about 15 years old it was kind of a realization. Up until that point, I was really into basketball and it’s funny because it kind of happened at the same time I realized that it might be kinda hard to get to the NBA [laughs] so it was perfect, ya know?
Brad: So you pretty much knew right away?
Erland: Right away, yeah. I picked it up and I had a friend that knew how to play and he taught me a couple of Nirvana songs and I came home and figured out how to get online and look up tabs and taught myself how to read tablature and started teaching myself chords. The internet was so influential for me, because it enabled me to learn everything I needed to really quick. I didn’t have to wait for a guitar lesson once a week or somebody to come around and show me the things. I started learning these songs really quick and then started writing my own. [pause] Looking back, they weren’t very good [laughs].
Brad: Looking forward, do you have any goals that you’ve set for the band?
Erland: We really just wanna be able to keep playing this music and touring and promoting this album in whatever way we can. Up to this point, we’ve been doing it on our own so it seems like at this point we need an agent. Maybe a record deal would be nice, but maybe not... I don’t really know. It’s kind of a funny time in the music industry for deals. The goal is to really spread the music around enough so that people want us to come back to their town and we have an audience that we can keep playing music to around the country.
Brad: Tell me about the label that you’re on now, Zero to Zenith.
Erland: Oh. We’re not on a label. I just used that name for the album because I thought it was a cool name. It’s basically just self-released. It’s from the ground up, ya know? From nothing to something.
Brad: What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not playing music?
Erland: Well... I love to surf. Ya know, us Californian boys have the waves and the beach so I love being out in the water. I’ve also got two daughters, Maggie is a year and a half and Olivia is almost four. So it’s good to have time to just enjoy them, when I’m not working.
Brad: Cool. Good luck the rest of your tour!