Have you heard Wraths yet? A South Bay, Los Angeles punk act formed by scene veterans from the likes of 1208 and The Darlings, and fronted by none other than Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg. Don’t be too shocked if this is the first you’ve heard of them though. The super-group have kept a pretty low profile until now. They’ve just quietly self-released their self-titled debut EP, a hard hitting blast of punk rock that’s neither Pennywise nor Black Pacific but something decidedly more angsty and technical.
We recently caught up with Jim to talk about this new side project, how it came to be, what fans can expect from it in the future, and how it may or may not effect his work in Pennywise. Read the interview below and exclusively stream a few tracks from the debut Wraths EP while you do.
Wraths EP is out now and available on iTunes.
1. No not much is known about Wraths other than the fact that its members have backgrounds in some pretty well respected punk acts. There’s you, obviously, but in addition Steve McCall was in 1208, and Chris Kranes plays bass in The Darlings. How did this little “super-group” come to be?
1208 and The Darlings are both local South Bay bands so we all know each other from shows and tours we’ve done together, and the three of them started working on some songs in their rehearsal space. They had about 6 or 7 songs completely finished and Steve texted me wondering if I knew of any singers who would be good for the project, and I said I could sing the shit out of those songs. I wrote some lyrics for two or three of them and they liked what they heard so we just kept going from there. It came together real easy from the first time we started playing.
2. Now, before we go too much further I’m just going to get this question out of the way because everybody is going to be wondering: The last time you did a punk side project it was with The Black Pacific, which came about shortly after your break with Pennywise. You’ve since reunited with your former bandmates, of course, but does Wraths signify a new rift in the Pennywise camp or is it just simply a creative outlet in your PW downtime?
If I’m not creating or working on something new I get bored. I like playing music and writing songs, whether it’s with Pennywise, the guys from Wraths, my cover bands or whoever. Right now the Wraths project is interesting and fun to have going on. They write really challenging music to put lyrics to and they’re real easy to get along with. It doesn’t really sound like anything else out there at the moment, so I like the fact that with each new song I have no idea what direction to take, we just kind of let it happen. Steve uses a lot of effects on his guitar and the songs don’t always follow the same verse-chorus-verse formula so it’s different than other things I’ve done in the past. With Pennywise, the focus is touring and playing shows right now, but when any of them are ready to start working on songs I’ll be there. Until then, I want to keep putting out cool stuff. The traditional business model of putting out music has completely been turned on its head so you can kind of do whatever you want.
3. How do you balance work loads between Wraths, Pennywise, and The Black Pacific (if BP is even active anymore – are they?)?
I’m also the co-founder of HavocTV and on the board of directors at Surfrider Foundation so there’s even more to the workload than just the bands I’m in!! I have to stay busy or the couch and TV starts calling me. I still work on songs with Al and Davey from the Black Pacific, and we have some cool stuff we’re working on, but basically writing songs and working on Havoc TV and writing books is what I do for my professional life when I’m not on tour with Pennywise. Between that and the Wraths project and a wife and three kids and a dog, my plate is pretty full. The other guys in Wraths have families and things they’re working on, but since we first started we’ve always found time to get together at least once a week when I’m around to work on songs. Finding that balance is tough but everyone deals with that.
4. Wraths debut EP was just released. Who wrote the songs? How much did you contribute in that respect?
The other guys wrote the music for all the songs and I wrote the lyrics and melody for all of them except “I’m A Target” which Steve wrote on his own. I would say we have about four more songs that we’re working on that seem to be coming along nicely, so it would be cool to put out a full album at some point. They’re mostly real short one to two minute songs so we can bang them out pretty quick. I heard the songs, married some words to the melodies and they seemed to come out pretty cool, but it was total collaboration when we were working on them at the studio. I’m not going to be the guy in there saying, “Did you see me on the Warped tour in ’98? Let me run this thing!” They’ve been doing it a long time too and are great musicians. Recording it was ridiculously easy because everyone knew the material so well.
5. When you come up with some great lyrics, or a melody, or a riff, how do you decide if its going to be part of a Pennywise song or a Wraths song?
So far with Wraths I’ve been writing lyrics to what they give me, but I could see writing some music for the project as well. For me I’ve always written the lyrics after I get the music or riff. At this point after writing hundreds of songs, I try not to edit myself that much. I plug in my guitar everyday and try to come up with something cool, whether that song becomes a Pennywise song, a Wraths song or something else it’s impossible to say. I have tons of songs from over the years, a few would probably fit better for Wraths that didn’t really fit for Pennywise, but it seems like no matter what I do people are going to say it sounds like Pennywise. I wrote a lot of the songs so it’s kind of hard to take that out of me. No one wants to hear me singing country or reggae trust me.
6. To that end, how would you say Wraths differentiates musically or thematically from Pennywise or The Black Pacific?
Musically it feels a little more technical for lack of a better term. The songs are shorts blasts of energy and most are under two minutes, but they’re pretty dense in the amount of chords and notes going on in that short amount of time. It’s not Woody Guthrie put it that way. Thematically – the music sounded pretty aggressive when it came in, so I made the lyrics equally aggro. I’m hoping the next Pennywise release has more of that PMA but with this project there was definitely some angst that needed to be purged. Like everyone else in the punk scene, I’ve been really inspired by what OFF! has been doing the last few years, from the songs they’re writing, to the way they record to the way they present the band in general. We recorded the whole E.P. in two days, usually doing each song in one or two takes, and with very quick mixes. What you hear is what you get. We really wanted an old school vibe on this. Just plug in and play. Trying to make every note perfect and to have it be pro-tooled into place makes everything sound pasteurized and sterile and that should be sacrilegious for a punk song. It’s got to be dirty and real or it sounds like product. If it takes two months to record a punk album somethings definitely wrong.
7. Are there any plans to tour with Wraths? If not, any plans to play some shows locally?
We’d love to play a few local shows or backyard parties. Anyone who has a house with a backyard and a working relationship with the local police should call. If there are any bands coming through L.A. who need an opener I’m sure we’d be into it. A quick tour of dive bars up and down the coast wouldn’t be out of the question either, but the Pennywise touring schedule will have to come first of course.
8. In a somewhat recent interview you talked about the value in bands maintaining the rights to their music and self-releasing their own albums, which is what you’ve done with this Wraths release. I’m assuming this is the first music you’ve self released since the very earliest days of Pennywise. How have you found that experience? If you could go back a few months, would you go DIY again?
Absolutely. There are great record labels out there putting out great releases, but this thing is on a pretty small scale. When you’re just starting out I think it’s a better idea to put it out yourself and retain the masters as long as you can so you have complete control of everything. Bandcamp and Tunecore are great resources for that. Once you sign with a label they’re going to want a return on their investment and various expectations come with that. There are lots of channels now to get the word out on your band and have it be heard without compromise. That being said, at a certain point some bands may want better distribution and marketing for their music, but for us, at this point, it’s just about getting it out there.
9. Were you guys ever considering taking Wraths to a label or was it something you guys all new for sure you wanted to do completely DIY?
We had no plans really beyond writing and working on some songs together, but then they came together so quickly we figured why not record them. Once we had done that we just looked for the most expedient way to get it out there without a lot of bullshit. I literally made the album artwork on my iphone using the camera+ app. It took me about ten seconds. If this was on a record label we’d have to take submissions from five artists and then we’d all disagree on which ones look good and it would take three months to approve the back cover and the artist would quit because his vision wasn’t being respected and then the label will want to push back your release because another band is releasing that week and it would be ridiculous amounts of drama. Doing it yourself you can avoid all that completely.
10. Our last question will just be a fun one. If Wraths could go on tour with any band (currently active) who would it be?
Definitely OFF! I think we could warm the crowd up nicely for them. Them or Taylor Swift. That would be fun too. I could bring the whole family.