It’s been long and winding rock and roll road for seven-year overnight sensations Wayland. OK, “sensations” may be a stretch. But everything else is true to point — in spades.
The story of the Michigan-based quartet is an all-too familiar one: Grow up in small midwestern suburbias, get the rock and roll bug, then move to Los Angeles in search of rock stardom only find that the glittery lights aren’t as attractive as they look in the pages of Hit Parader. In reality, they were actually flames — and the band was the moth.
But Wayland managed to survive the hustle and bustle on the west coast just long enough to record an album and, more importantly, come to the acquaintance of producer Jude Cole, actor Keifer Sutherland and Jackyl frontman Jesse James Dupree, who would eventually give them some career saving advice: “Get the hell out of L.A.”
And they did. Seven years, a new album (the rocking “Rinse and Repeat” released last September) and some eye-popping live shows later, the Wayland wave is on the rise. While household name status has yet to be achieved, vocalist Mitch Arnold, guitarist Phillip Vilenski, bassist Dean Pizzazz and drummer Nigel Dupree are working their way there with a workman-like approach.
Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.
ListenIowa caught up with Arnold for brief phone interview recently and discussed “keeping it real” in their live show; lost perspectives in L.A.; and following in the footsteps of their fellow in-state rockers, Greta Van Fleet.
Other than the short break you were just on, Wayland has been touring pretty relentlessly this past year, getting the name out there and pushing your album, “Rinse and Repeat.”
Last year was kind of a whirlwind and getting all that together. I can tell that people have been listening to the album. It seems as though people have really shifted and are knowing the record. We’re seeing that ramp up. As a band, that’s really exciting. Because of the response, we felt like we needed to take the time to get some of the new songs in the set for this new tour.
What do you think is the cause of the bump in fan interest?
The root cause is that I’m in a great band that plays great music. But I think going out with Hinder, Josh Todd and Adelita’s Way really helped for exposure because we were playing in front of big crowds. But as a live band, you just keep progressing, and we’ve just gotten so tight in what we do. Putting out a great record and touring on it, I think, has given the fans a bar to hold on to. I think that’s something that’s missing in a lot of records and a lot of bands these days, unfortunately, where a band will put out a great record but have trouble recreating it live.
Having said that, then, when you guys are in the studio and writing and recording your songs, do you have your live show in mind and make sure you create things that can be reproduced onstage without using samples?
We go back and forth with that. We’re actually experimenting with some samples. We’re not on a click, so the challenge is that whenever Nigel hits that sample back on the drums, we’ve got to be on tempo. We decided as a band that were weren’t going to be playing with backing tracks, so this is kind of meeting it in the middle. With technology today, you are able to do so much. We don’t really have the bunk space or the budget to bring on a keyboard guy, so to give the fans what they want, we try to make it sound as close as we can to the record. So even though we might use some samples, it’s almost like we have the mentality that we’re going to rise to that and it’s, “OK, if we’re going to use samples, we’re going to make it really hard to play.” (laughs) We do that to make sure we’re accountable to play our instruments. One thing we really don’t want to do is throw background vocals on. What we hope to eventually get to is that Foo Fighters thing where you have the base guys, but then you’ve got the two extra guys offstage playing keyboards and singing. But right now, it’s just the four of us.
How integral is Jesse James Dupree as a member of your management team?
He’s very important, and I think he always will be. He’s one of those guys who is smart, strategic and knows how to get a band down the road. He’s no bullshit, doesn’t lie, doesn’t steal, and his heart is in the right place through the whole process. That’s something to be said. He worked for free for years. It’s just in the last couple of years that we’ve started to make money that we’ve finally been able to give him the percentage that a manager would make.
It sounds like you’ve put a good team around you to give you the best shot at having success right from the start instead of going the DIY route, so to speak, and going bare bones and hoping for the best. You put yourself ahead of the race.
I feel really lucky. I hate to give him a bigger head than he already has (laughs), but that was Jesse’s guidance right there. We said “no” to three or four record labels last year, and what you could consider as being pretty good deals. Instead, what we did, piece by piece, is build our own team around us and created our own record deal. No other band has done it specifically like we are doing it. You don’t have to go with a big record label to get something done with the technology that is available today. We’re paving our own way, and it’s working.
You are from Michigan, right?
The three original members are from Michigan, yes, and I’m from Indiana. We all met in Los Angeles. I was out there for 11 years, and we were out there for seven years as a band. We ended up starting to work with Jude Cole, Keifer Sutherland and Jesse. After we made our first record in 2010, Jesse and Jude said, “OK, you’ve got this record, and now you’re going to start touring on it, but it’s not going to be out of L.A. because it’s just not economical. So we moved to a pre-Civil War farmhouse outside of Wayland, Michigan. We had day jobs and started touring on weekends. So we based ourselves there to get some hometown support, and then branched out from that.
Michigan has it going right now with you guys and Greta Van Fleet, who are tearing the charts up and selling out everywhere.
Oh man, those guys are young, they’re talented, and I gotta thank them, man. They’re paving the way for some great Wayland shit to come out. They were able to put a lot of effort in getting that record out. We’re kinda all off to the side snickering and going, “Go ahead boys. Pave that way for real rock and roll. Wayland is right there behind you.” (laughs)
Is there something to be said about Midwestern work ethic and mentality?
All of us had great parents who instilled great work ethic here, but honestly, there are a lot of people in Los Angeles that have a great work ethic, too. What I feel people lack, especially in big cities, is perspective. You’ve got a singer/songwriter in L.A., he gets a great project, it gets put together, and they’ve got it going. They’re selling 200 tickets to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and feel like things are ramping up. But then feel like they’re entitled to something bigger than what they have. They’ll get offered a little record deal, but the label says they want them to move to Michigan, and tour out of a van, sleep in parking lots and beg for showers and food. Basically chip away at a career. Nineteen out of 20 artists are going to go, “No way. I’m waiting for that big deal, man. I’ve got label interest and we’re going to put it out and get a bus.” That’s not what happens. The chances are so incredibly small. You have to put in the legwork. It’s not necessarily their fault. Sometimes you just pick up these delusions of grandeur.
And realistically, that’s a tough pill to swallow, going from somewhere like L.A. to the Midwest. Not that it’s bad here, but they’re two entirely different worlds.
Speaking from experience, when they told us to move to Michigan, my reaction was, “What is in Michigan that’s more important than what’s going on in L.A.? Or New York? Or London?” And the answer to that is “everything.” Rock and roll fans aren’t going to start out there. You’re not going to build a base out of those cities. You’re going to build a base out of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina, upstate Florida. I wish we would have gotten that advice maybe a little bit earlier. (laughs)
What lies ahead for Wayland in 2018, then?
Gearing up for 2018, we were very quick to realize that 2018 was already much bigger than 2017, and that year was the biggest we’ve ever had. We’re going to be releasing some new music, some unreleased stuff for an E.P., then in the fall, we’re planning on going back in the studio and starting a new record so that in 2019 we can come out with another full-length. That’s skeletal. We’ve got some big tours we’re going to be on in the meantime, and it’s going to progress quickly. But it’s taken us getting out there and grinding on the road to get here. We don’t plan on stopping.
Feb. 1 Waterloo, IA at Spicolli’s
Feb. 2 Altoona, WI at Northwest Wisconsin Winterfest
Feb. 3 Davenport, IA at Wapsi Willys LLC
Feb. 6 Westland, MI at Token Lounge
Feb. 7 Muskegon, MI at Unruly Brewing (Acoustic)
Feb. 8 Ft Wayne, IN at Piere’s Entertainment Center
Feb. 9 Saginaw, MI at Dow Event Center
Feb. 10 Kalamazoo, MI at Bells
Feb. 11 Akron, OH at Empire
Feb. 16 Huntington, WV at V Club
Feb. 17 Marietta, OH at Adelphia Music Hall
Feb. 18 Asheville, NC at Mothlight (Jeff Santiago)
Feb. 19 Concord, NC at Amici’s
Feb. 23 Savannah, GA at Stage On Bay (Blue Oyster Cult)
Feb. 24 Florence, SC at Livewire / 507 Live
Feb. 25 Spartanburg, SC at Ground Zero
Feb. 26 Naples, FL at Southside Grill
March 1 Jacksonville, FL at Florida Theater (Blackberry Smoke)
March 3 Lakeland, FL at Mason’s Live