By Eric Althoff
While studying at the University of Mary Washington, Will McCarry started jamming with some of his classmates. He would play with various permutations of musicians, but continued gravitating to guitarist Lonnie Southall, bassist and pianist Jackson Wright, and drummer Mike Pingley.
McCarry knew, just knew, they had to be a band.
“We would just show up and play anywhere that would have us,” McCarry, a Loudon County native, said recently. “We’ve arrived at this four-piece, which is our live band. There’s nothing else quite like it.”
The foursome, performing under the name Wylder, has been performing in the capital region for several years. McCarry acts as the band’s primary songwriter, with more than occasional input from his bandmates on their songs’ sounds and sensibilities. This is evident on a folk track such as “Sunstroke,” which could be labeled as indie rock or folk rock.
“While I write almost all of the lyrics and a vast majority of the melodies, the guys each bring something special to the table,” McCarry said, adding that he feels the band’s sound could be described as “highly articulated pop.” “Lonnie for many years was a songwriter in his own band, and his sensibility is much rougher, more raw than mine. I’m very technical, and I want things to be highly arranged.”
“I usually get my way, but when you have someone who is suggesting a little more ‘indie rock,’ it informs the sound in a really interesting way.”
McCarry’s early influences include the Beach Boys, the Zombies, and the Beatles. He later discovered the work of Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Shins, which informed the indie rock sound he was looking for.
Because his bandmates are also his friends—and a band is essentially a family—disputes among the members of Wylder are inevitable. In addition to being the primary songwriter, McCarry handles the business end of Wylder, which he said can head off possible disputes among its members.
“It provides a central anchor in that I tell them where and when to show up, and they do it,” McCarry said with a chuckle. “They’re very committed, and they are my closest friends. And sometimes we fight, which happens, whether it’s about songwriting or the sensibility of the sound of the band.”
“But what’s really interesting is that every time we go into a studio, the engineer, producer, or whoever we’re working with inevitably says ‘I’ve never met a band who is as courteous and nice to each other as you guys.’”
But no matter how cohesive the band, no matter how long they’ve been playing together, the challenges posed by the pandemic limited Wylder’s ability to perform and make money as a unit.
When lockdown happened last spring, a whole slate of spring and summer 2020 shows vaporized. This wasn’t great news for Wylder, but McCarry said he and his bandmates all have day jobs (McCarry works at a conservation organization in D.C.), and thus, they were luckier than many of their contemporaries whose sole means of income is playing live.
“I was actually able to say ‘OK, this is just the way it’s going to be right now,’” McCarry said of accepting the reality of pandemic life. “There was actually a little bit of fear associated with how to use this time the best—where I have this time at home to do something creative without anything distracting me. And I actually think that was kind of an overwhelming feeling, especially when you see someone like Taylor Swift put out three records in a year.”
McCarry used the time alone to write and refine more songs for the band, which helped alleviate some of those same stressors.
“It was an incredibly good time to take stock and be creative and just kind of live in what we really love about this, which is the writing,” he said.
Wylder continues to build a DMV fanbase, one person at a time, while taking their sound out on the road. But being on the road can be a tiring experience, and thus requires a true love of the music in order to sustain such a lifestyle.
“It can be easy to forget, and this year, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what we really love about playing live,” McCarry said. “I think there’s absolutely nothing like when you’re standing up in front of an audience and they’re connecting with the music. All of that becomes worth it instantly—all that sleeping on couches and eating crappy food on the road.”
McCarry says Wylder will continue to record and release new music as they feel the songs are ready for audiences, and he will also release a single next month. He is writing the third full-length album for Wylder, which he hopes to release sometime in the next few months.
“I think it’s really special,” McCarry said of the to-be-released album. “It’s a distillation of what I’ve always wanted Wylder to be, in a purer sense, than we’ve ever had before. And that’s just a result of having an entire year to think about the arrangements of these songs.”
The band will continue to play live, although McCarry says that after the year-plus of the pandemic, their touring schedule will be far lighter than it was prior to last March. Plus, drummer Mike Pingley and guitarist Lonnie Southall are now fathers who desire to spend more time closer to home.
However, Wylder will be playing live again at The Hamilton on July 31. McCarry said it will be edifying for the band to play together again, especially for a hometown crowd.
“Recently, we played our first show back in an indoor room. And it felt like this is what we’ve been missing for the last year,” he said. “There’s nothing quite like communing with your bandmates on stage.”
“It’s a singular experience, especially when it means something to people, and they come up after the show and tell you that. That’s a really special thing.”
Wylder will be performing at The Hamilton on July 31. Purchase tickets here.
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