“Wait, wait are we talking George Michael singer/songwriter or…?” drummer Nate Sill said tenderly, barely registering on my tape recorder.
“Oh, we’re going straight Wham on this one. ‘Wake me up before you go-go.’” That got a hearty laugh out of the band.
And that’s just one expectation from Wee Waffle Castle: a good time.
Don’t get me wrong, the guys write intelligent music and perform terrifically – I’ll be honest, they blew away all of my previous expectations. Maybe because it was the list of hefty influences they gave me (“Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus and The Mars Volta”) or because they’re named after a Little Tykes toy (“John calls me up and says, ‘I have a name for a band: Wee Waffle Castle’ and I was like ‘Cool, dude’”). Their song titles do not correlate – with anything – in the slightest (“It was way stupid. It was originally called ‘The Hunt for Red October.’”). But hey, what’s in a name anyway?
The important thing is the music and I couldn’t get over how nonchalant they were about discussing it. Confident, yet nonchalant. They’ve given their music the fairly-deemed moniker “psychafunkaternative,” but I thought it was so much more than that – with pop hooks, ethnic renderings and jams that would make Trey Anastasio conceited.
“We try to keep it interesting…a lot of times we’ll just have two things; one of us will write something, someone else will write something and we’ll jam it together until it sounds good,” said guitarist Isaiah Sparling.
“We just kinda write whatever we feel like writing,” adds laid back Jon Allen.
“Does anybody wanna have a dance party?” singer Brayden Volk says into the squelching microphone (although I can’t be too sure it was him; his russet spider web of hair covers his entire face.) The audience agreed and the band explained that someone would be chosen as dance king – or queen – of the night. They explode into one of their popular numbers and the skip-bob boogie commences. Volk asks, “is that all you got?” and declares the bassist’s brother the champ “because he always wins the dance party.”
As the set rolled on, they jammed on rock riffs and lanky, picked-out melodies. One in particular, “Perestroika,” is reminiscent of angular works in the vein of Franz Ferdinand or Talking Heads, but I really don’t think you can just drop some names and completely encapsulate the music. The songs are separately unique, yet I can very much see them together on one album (any ideas of self production?). To see them live is the true summary, complete with space age guitar effects, psychedelic jams and damn-near-perfect vocals. Despite the PA system acting up, the sound was lush and full; Volk’s microphone even cut out a few times but that didn’t stop him from using his lungs.
Wee Waffle Castle also has some big goals in mind for the future. They’ll be recording a new CD in the spring and one of their songs will possibly be featured on the Illumina Records compilation Rock for Life, an album to raise awareness for drunk driving.
“That is our dream, to quit school. We’ll take any opportunity we’re given,” Sparling says. I’d have to say with my exposure to the band, there should be plenty.
Written and Photography By Nicholas Messer, Copyright OOTB Publications, 2007