Michael Yun was ready to call it a no-show. A few winters ago, the guitarist sat in his house in St. Johns, listening to the downpour outside and waiting for the singer who so impressed him when his band, Inside Voices, played with her band, Pioneer. Eventually, Misty Mary showed up on a bike, completely drenched. That night, the two wrote the swooning, slumberous "You're Not Really Here." And in that moment, arguably Portland's most authentic purveyor of shoegaze was born.
Filled out by drummer Stevie Sparks, WL (pronounced âwellâ) spent a year making its new record, Hold, a polished collection of droning, swirling guitar, combustible drums and Maryâs lofty vocals.
"We're writing music while we're all in the same room," says Yun of their creative process, which speaks to the balanced dynamic that runs throughout the album. Each member delivers equally powerful blows, whether in the form of a crumbling drum fill, mercurial guitar riff or gusty lyric. At times, the music conjures the controlled brooding of the Soft Moon, mixing glam and grit like a Sofia Coppola movie. Sparks' percussion plays a major role throughout, fulfilling the moodiness of the band's oft-overused "dream-pop" title while stretching it to inflammatory new heights. There's a green, generative feeling to Hold, atop all the factory-floor whirs and rumbles. Take the tail end of "You're Not Really Here," the last track of the record, which simply and quietly just falls off. The song leaves as unexpectedly as it came to be in the first place, without so much as a rain-soaked footprint. And that generates the need to hear more.
WL is accomplished enough, right out the gate, to make you wonder why its members have to work landscape architecture jobs and bartending gigs on the side. Perhaps not for long, though: Yun hints that another recording will be out by year's end.
"We don't know how it will be received," Yun says of Hold, estimating the looming number of cassettes WL created in advance of its release show and appearance at PDX Pop Now later this month. He reminds me that they don't have a manager. But that's industry. WL is deeper than that.
SEE IT: WL plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Grandparents and on Sunday, July 14. 9 pm. $5. 21+.