At a time when an almost overwhelming amount of music is readily accessible in the world, it’s a struggle for many artists just to be heard. But Portland band Wonderly manages to find their way into millions of ears each day.
The duo of Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk composed the haunting theme and background music for The Daily, the hit podcast produced by The New York Times, which averages 90 million listeners a month and also airs on 30 public radio stations. They got the gig after a producer heard the music the two produced for another podcast, Dear Sugar, an audio advice column co-hosted by Cheryl Strayed.
“We are thrilled to be working with The New York Times,” says Brunberg, owner of local music venue Mississippi Studios. “They pay us well and announce our names at the end of every show. Most people don’t do that.”
Wonderly had previously composed a theme for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud. But The Daily has given the duo national exposure—and lots more jobs. They’ve scored a new detective film, The Last Ferry, and an upcoming documentary by Portland filmmaker James Westby about video stores.
Brunberg and Landsverk both used to tour in bands. Now they write and perform all their music without leaving Brunberg’s home studio.
“It’s nice to be able to make the music sound exactly as we want it to,” Brunberg says. “And the best part is, I get to stay home with my family.”
But that doesn’t mean they’ve retreated exclusively into the realm of jingles and film scores. Wonderly has a new album coming out in 2020, whose content will diverge significantly from the geopolitics and investigative reporting the duo’s music accompanies on The Daily.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the exploding whale and lots of other weird things,” Brunberg says. “And this album’s going to celebrate all that.”