There’s a bug on the cover of Wand’s new album. Laughing Matter is the new double LP from Cory Hanson and company, out now on Drag City Records. While the bug floating in an alien lake may not be a caterpillar or a butterfly, the record certainly represents the psych-rock act’s emergence from an artistic chrysalis.
“I love all the records we’ve ever done,” Hanson says. “But it’s like reading an old diary — I see the things that nobody else sees. I hear the process and where we were at and how young we were. The things that we got lumped in with, the stoner garage crap, it makes it hard when we try to book shows and stuff. We’re a band that plays with all kinds of genres — frequently with anachronistic fragments of things, but it’s not meant to be the end-all, be-all.”
Hanson hails from one of the great Californian traditions of modern rock. Beyond Wand alone, he has shared projects with Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Together Pangea, The Meatbodies, and many others. But as Hanson and his Wand bandmates — Sofia Arreguin on synth and vocal, Robert Cody on guitar, Lee Landey on bass, and Evan Burrows on drums — grow together, they move farther and farther into the unknown. Fuzzy guitar riffs have been replaced by eclectic drum and string arrangements, and hook-driven rock songs washed away by spacious psychedelic experimentation. And that’s just the way Wand prefer it.
“When I was a kid,” Hanson says, “the way that I got into The Beatles was listening to side three of the White Album. Not one or two, but three. That’s what made me play guitar seriously … [Laughing Matter] is a double record, so it has many sides and flavors — that’s the beauty of it. We’re a band that encourages people to find a place inside, finding an inviting way into the music, not just buying a bunch of billboards and getting a manager that throws your shit all over everywhere.”
This organic approach to the album’s creation is evident in how ending track “Jennifer’s Gone” came to be. “Sofia had a dream that Evan sang it,” Hanson says. “So he tried and it was this kind of understated and devastating vocal performance. So we just kept it. It’s the only one that feels like it has that really nostalgic string sound.”
Embodying this mystic ideology is the stunning album art. The insectoid imagery is up for interpretation, evoking the strong feeling of being spirited away to a world ripe for discovery.
“Sofia had this friend Sam Lubicz from Germany who does these sci-fi, technological-looking Photoshop collages,” Hanson says. “I was really into marble paper and marble on record covers — Desert Shore by Nico and stuff like that. So I purchased some marble paper and then shot it and scanned it and our friend Justin Gallego from Dreamdecay laid it all out.”
Even as a veteran of so many performance-forward musical acts, Hanson still feels trepidation in taking his perfections on the road.
“It’s always nerve-wracking bringing a record that you’ve had mastered and listened to in every circumstance and are really accustomed to the sound of,” Hanson says. “Going to the stage can be really frustrating, but ultimately, it’s just like the final break in the relationship. I have to completely [let go of] my attachment to the songs in this form and we have to open them up. And it’s made it really the best it’s ever been.”
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