News/Thoughts

While Wild Skies

Where folk, rock and Americana meet, that’s where you’ll find this Chicago based collaborative of musicians, better know as While Wild Skies. Perhaps not so out of the ordinary these days; this foursome got together by way of a series of Craig’s List ads posted by Aaron Lechlak. The Ohio transplant and singer/songwriter was searching for band members to help with a studio project in early 2014. Eventually connecting with opera trained singer Kristine Sorum-Williams, jazz bassist Tommy Good, and folk drummer Andy Kearns, “what began as a solo project evolved into a three-part harmonic melting pot of folk-rock.”

Social Media Band
“Craig’s List can be a great way to meet other musicians, but it wasn’t all that easy,” Kristine told me. “There was a lot of back and forth, and we tried out a ton of different players before the four of us finally came together. You have to put up your own listings but also respond to other people’s listings as well. You really have to sift through the mud to find the gold. It is probably different in each city, but Chicago has a lot of listings for metal bands and cover/tribute bands. There isn’t a huge folk scene here, so it really took a while to find each other.”

In 2016, after some personnel changes, the band retooled and began writing and rehearsing as a four-piece. “The stripped down sound gave the group a better appreciation for the simple; requiring them to lean heavily on their vocal harmonies to achieve the big sound they were looking for.”

“I think we definitely draw from the energy and hustle of the city,” Kristine said, “but also from the diversity of being exposed to different folks from all over, and to different music. Chicago has a blues and jazz tradition that to me, is ultimately rooted in the feel that it gives you; and needing to feel something from the music we play is a big part of our sound.”

whilewildskiesA Little Country Too
The band considers their sound Americana. It’s a little folk-rock, a little singer/songwriter. “We never realized it though,” Kristine said, “people also tell us it’s a little country, too. For some of our newer songs, we’re starting to adopt a more pop structure in our songwriting, while letting our voices keep it grounded in folk and Americana.”

Their music of course is influenced by all kinds of genres. “Aaron and Andy are big fans of The Band,” Kristine added. “I think that influence shines through in a few songs, but isn’t overly obvious. We all like The Head and The Heart quite a bit as well, and I think that comes through a bit in our sound. Tommy’s jazz influences definitely come through as well in his more technical playing. I think we all really dig on soul music and Americana music that invokes some feeling, and we try to craft our arrangements in ways that have a good groove and feel.”

Mostly Original
The band’s main focus is on original material and crafting their own original sound. “We do sneak a few cover songs into our live sets once in a while,” Kristine said, “but mainly we play original music. Aaron is the main songwriter, and he usually brings an idea or nearly finished song to the band and we work through it to polish it up. We are all constantly digging for new music as a source of ideas. Most often a song starts with humming a melody into the voice memo app. on an iphone, and then sitting down with a guitar or piano to work out the structure. Aaron usually begins with the music, then sort of rifs a vocal part to feel out what the rhythm or cadence of the lyrics should be. He then sits down to try to tell a story and write the words.”

More New Music
The band has a new CD, From Far Below, a collection of eight original songs. They recorded this CD in the Fall of 2016, it was just released in April 2017. “It was our first real studio effort as a band, and we’re super proud of it. Some of the songs were a year or two old, stuff that we have been playing live for a few years but hadn’t been properly recorded yet – so it was really cool to hear those songs come alive. Other songs like “Fumes and Faith,” “Stay Here Now,” and “Heaven Help Us,” were brand new tunes. In fact, we finished “Heaven Help Us” the night before we went into the studio, so we sort of had to iron out the wrinkles while we tracked it.”

The band mostly promoted their recent record in Chicago as schedules made it difficult to really plan a proper tour. Now they’re hard at work on the next record which they hope to put out next summer. “We’re in sort of a next best thing economy with Spotify and YouTube right now,” Kristine said. “It seems that is the way things are going to be in the foreseeable future. As a result, our game plan is to try to just constantly release new music. This next year might see us releasing a constant string of singles instead of waiting to put together a proper album.”

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