It certainly isn’t uncommon — and plenty of times a goal — for people playing music together to develop a familial bond. Three-fourths of Phoenix’s The Lonesome Wilderness had those ties from the jump.
With a couple of EPs under their belt, the band drop their first full-length release, Awake In The Night, this week, kicking it off with a show on Friday, January 10, at Valley Bar.
The family-based act started in 2011 with Joe Golfen (vocals and guitar), wife Andrea Golfen (bass), and brother Paul Golfen (guitar). Brian Weis now fills the role as drummer. For all but Joe, The Lonesome Wilderness are their first band. He spent several years playing keyboards with The Breakup Society.
The band quickly gathered a following with their style of desert rock: a blend of pop and psychedelia with tinges of folk and punk, with splashes of '80s twang and jangle a la early R.E.M.
What is captivating about the band’s sound is a spaciousness that gives each player enough independence to shine, while still presenting themselves as a tethered unit.
There’s a sense of trust there that allows their most exposed moments to take you on fearlessly wild or gently chaotic rides. You never doubt that you’ll be pulled back to a song’s earnest center.
“The instrumentation is a big part of our sound,” Andrea says. “Often, we let them speak, rather than the words.”
The members discuss their band with inherent, casual respectfulness. It’s that collective penchant for relaxed and thoughtful experiences that led them to work on the new record with Ari Leopold of Lava Lake Studio. The producer’s hands have touched recordings by multiple bands, including Paper Foxes, Ghost Cat Attack, and I Am Hologram.
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“Ari is open and very easy to work with,” says Joe. “He works at a very relaxed pace and easily shifted gears as needed during the process.”
Joe is the band’s primary songwriter, bringing music and words to the rest of the team, but from there, everyone creates their parts, and they work together to bring the songs to fruition.
“Cohesion” is one thing he says the band wanted from the record. “We wanted to present the different themes and emotions we’re exploring in a cohesive fashion,” says Joe.
Those mingling sentiments include both ups and downs. “For me, on a personal level, this has been one of the best years I’ve had. But on a global level — especially politically — a lot is going on that creates tension, and so many people are feeling that and not knowing what to do about it,” says Joe.
“The record’s title — Awake In The Night — is about these transitional times in life. Having a child in the last couple of years, we find ourselves up at night because of parenthood, and that’s also the time when life’s concerns often strike, so for us, it’s been about finding that hope in the darkness. We want other people to be able to find that, too.”
The single “(So) Easy” examines that all-encompassing angst. With a driving pop beat reminiscent of Chicago power-pop band Material Issue, the song uses its three-minute length to remind us to absorb what trinkets of hope we can find in the face of all the swirling negativity in the air.
“Rolling Rock” is a stark, rootsy folk track that exemplifies the beauty in the band’s minimalism: the way they don't attempt to club listeners over their heads to deliver their messages makes them effortlessly refreshing.
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The vigorous “Black Smoke Clouds” is an easy standout with its march-y backbeat, sweet hooks, and a chorus that listeners excitedly wait for to come back around.
The Lonesome Wilderness hope to do some touring in 2020 and will also be hitting local stages to play these new tracks as well as tunes from their nearly decade-long career.
Being a part of the local music scene is another vital part of what drives the band. Andrea says, “We want to grow the band as much as possible, but just getting to play with so many great bands with different styles in this music community is what I love the most."
The Lonesome Wilderness are scheduled to perform on Friday, January 10, at Valley Bar. Tickets are $10 via Eventbrite.