Americana, blues, roots-rock; whatever you want to call it, Whiskey N’ Rye is it. This five-piece from Seattle knows how to put on a show. They recently released their sophomore album, “Sick Soul Summertime” to rave reviews and sizable fan-fare.
They’re headed to CWU this Friday, so we caught up with lead singer and songwriter Philip Lindholm to ask him about their influences as a band, what their journey to fame has looked like and why of all place, they chose CWU to perform.
When did the band start and what got you into making music?
The band started around 2013. I’ve been making music for a long time. I started when I was a student at Central from 2001 to 2003. I was always playing but I didn’t actually start songwriting untilI had a weird neighbor in the dorms that was always playing and writing music.
So you went to Central? What did you study?
I graduated with a double major, actually. One in philosophy and religious studies, and then an independent studies. You were able to craft your own degree and dialogue with an advisor. My advisor knew Hebrew and Aramaic. That was something that I wanted to study.
I was in Douglas honors college, I was kicked out. Got kicked out because I was doing homework for one class for another class.
What did you do right out of college?
It’s funny, after I graduated I went over seas for college. I went to oxford and spent a lot of time there over in Europe. It was there that I started to really develop as a songwriter and a producer. I’d been writing for a while and producing forever. I really started to form songs together that were much bigger than me. I was hearing music that was grand. I was writing music that required more music, more sounds and more pallets. I was working at the BBC at the time and I ended up quitting I moved back to Seattle to start a recording studio. It was really hard to write music over there and I was working full time. I took the money I saved up and threw it into a rehearsal studio.
Wait, you worked at BBC? Doing what?
At BBC, I was a documentary filmmaker. I was working film production for making documentaries.
As you’re probably aware, you took the stereotype for rock ‘n’ roll singer and threw it out the window.
Generally it sounds pretty odd to people. When you read the band bios, I really don’t bring it up.
How long have the five of you known each other?
We’re going on three years now, which sounds like a long time, but it’s been going so fast, we literally started our very first gig at the mix in Seattle. There were 30 people there, and the stage show, the sounds, was all very nascent. It wasn’t formed yet. We grew form that 30 person show to playing a big auditorium of a thousand person stadium in Reno. We’re playing for the Sounders here in a few weeks. It’s kind of exploding, we’re just along for the ride at this point.
The Sounders? That sounds like a huge show
We actually play the march to the match is what it’s called. There’s a big parade that goes through Seattle in Pioneer Square that goes to the field. We’re in discussions of actually playing inside the stadium for different events.
Is this you first serious band; what did you do before?
It’s the only band I’ve had. We’ve changed a couple faces here and there. This is the only band I’ve ever been in. a lot of guys have been in lots of different projects. This is my baby, this is the only one I got. I give it everything I got.
What’s it like being a southern-style rock group in Seattle?
Surprisingly enough, we’re amongst kind of a smaller group of bands that are doing similar sounds. As foreign as it might be to this region, there’s actually a lot of it going on. We’re not a movement like the EDM movement. We have no Decibel Festival, or that type of support. We have a lot of people yearning for actual instruments in their music. People who still love rock and roll, people who identify with where rock and roll has come from, but where rock and roll can go in a way that still resonates with those blues roots, Americana roots.
So explain roots-rock to me. What exactly does that mean?
We call ourself a roots rock band which means we incorporate Americana, folk, that sort of thing. Those are genres that rely heavily upon emotion and real instruments. Not having any other production elements in a song. One of the things we do is, we’ll lay everything down and then we’ll let it sit for a while. If I’m distracted by anything in the song, if there’s anything in the way, then it goes. There’s really sense of needing to be very discerning of what the song actually requires. There’s a lot of toys out there now, a lot of buttons to be pushed and strings to be pulled. When the guitar is soloing, we want you to know it, when the drums are pounding, we want you to feel it.
What sort of reaction have you seen from your album “Sick Soul Summertime”? Have you had an audience sing your lyrics back yet?
We were doing this show in Reno as part of a benefit for a local food bank. We thought we would show up and play our tails off. The there was singing our lyrics back to us. The record had done very well there in about a month previous to us showing up. When we showed up, it was incredible show. We ended up staying for an hour, hour and a half. It was pretty surreal for us. We find, when people hear the music they like it.
What is that moment like, as a songwriter, to hear an audience sing your lyrics back to you?
I think every songwriter, when they write a song, gets to a point in the process where they say, ‘Is this for me, or is it for the world?’ What drives that decision is what’s best for somebody. The clearest and most obvious is when you show up and somebody is singing that back to you. The song no longer belongs to me, it’s there’s now. They’ve made it there own, they’re kind of giving it back.
What spurred the decision to come back to Central?
We’ve only been working with college booker for six months now. I told him that we’d really like to go back to central. I still have friends there, still have professors there, I would love to go back. My drummer is 16-years-old. We really love that college vibe. We feel like, the music is a whole lot of fun and when you play colleges, we find that people are jumping along with us. We love the college market. I personally have an affinity for Central.
It’s a cliché question, but, what sort of bands have influenced you guys?
Each of the guys would answer that a bit differently. From a song writer place, John Lennon has mapped it for me. My keyboard and drummer are big McCartney fans. My keyboardist for example, grew up in Italy, if you ask him about his music influence, he’ll say something completely different.
As I grow older, the Seattle sound makes a lot more impact now then it did then. There was a lot of noise back then, and now, especially with streaming, I can be a lot more selective of what I want to listen to. I find myself returning to those sounds that came from the 1990’s.
You recently got a great producer. What’s it been like working with him?
We do believe in allowing a certain amount of chaos on stage, and in the studio. We did mix with Jack Endino. This is a guy that refuses to work on a click track. Most of the recording studios, 99 percent play everything to a click track. Jack Endino comes along and says, ‘Look all my favorite records in rock history, there’s emotion in the music.’ While we don really sound like a lot of those sounds, we certainly appreciate the earnestness and the artistry, and that’s really what a recording does. It captures a band in a moment.
What’s your favorite venue to play at?
We do love colleges, there’s just an energy there you’re not going to find elsewhere. We also like to go into the dirtiest dive bars in towns. We’ve played some prim and proper venues where people are seated in booths and they’re just kind of watching while they’re eating their salmon. We enjoy that, but it’s a very different set. For colleges – depending on the event – we like to turn it up a bit and have some fun. If we were left to our own devices, and we could play anywhere, we would find a really dirty club and play on.