Interview: whitewolfsonicprincess at Evanston’s Space

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CHICAGO – The venue called Space is one of the finer rooms in Chicagoland, specifically in Evanston, Illinois, and one of the finest local bands – whitewolfsonicprincess (wwsp) – will be making an appearance on Wednesday, July 20th. For details and ticket information, click wwsp.

The band began in 2006 out of a theater project anchored by lead singer/percussionist Carla Hayden and guitarist/singer James Moeller, who have been together as partners and collaborators since meeting as teenagers in the 1970s. The band has evolved since it began, adding more instrumentation to their signature sound, but at the core are the songs written by Hayden and Moelle.

Their three released albums are “10+1,” “The Shadow of the Marigold” and “The Alternate Boot: Vol. 1&2.” To travel with whitewolfsonicprincesss to float in a dream of magical thinking, ethereal musicality and images of promise … and we all arrive together. Or as been described of them, “21st Century Druid Music.”

Spacewwsp
whitewolfsonicprincess at Space in Evanston, Illinois
Photo credit: whitewolfsonicprincess.com

The current line-up of wwsp is Carla Hayden (vocals, percussion), James Moeller (guitar, vocals), Chuck Wasserburg (electric guitar),Michael Hovanian (double bass), Tim O’Brien (electric bass), Randy Farr (percussion) and Nura A. (violin). HollywoodChicago.com interviewed Hayden and Moeller in anticipation of their upcoming show.

HollywoodChicago.com: What is the origin of wwsp?

James Moeller: The band was birthed out of our theater group Black Forest. We started incorporating music into our theater work, and we were inspired by, and attracted to, the process of creating music, which then led us to forming a band. The music & the band have grown organically over the years, morphing and expanding. It’s been a crooked path. We started as a duo, and we are now a full seven piece band.

HollywoodChicago.com: Although Carla is the lead vocalist on the bulk of the songs, James has been contributing lead vocals as well. In the songwriting process, what determines who will sing what song, and how does who sings the song add to the atmosphere of what the song is communicating?

Moeller: It’s pretty simple. We each write lyrics. I come up with a riff or chord progression, and the songs kind of emerge from there. We collaborate on everything, we bounce ideas off of each other, suggest edits, or changes, but if Carla comes up with a lyric, she will sing it. And it’s the same for me. So if you hear one of us singing lead on a song, it’s because we wrote that particular lyric.

There are some great exceptions, for instance on the song ‘I Close My Eyes,’ Carla wrote the verses and I wrote the chorus. That’s a perfect collaborative blend. We feel strongly about having two voices in the band. Male & female. Yin/Yang. Two voices. Two sensibilities. So we often find ways to sing together. How best to support the song and each other? It’s the strength and beauty of collaboration. Two of us. Add in the band, and there’s seven of us. All contributing to this big, expansive energy.

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve both had a relationship of living together and creativity for many years. As you made the transition to a music project, how did it shift the dynamic of that relationship, that perhaps surprised you over and above what you knew?

Carla Hayden: I would say for me, because I am a visual artist, being able to translate words into visual imagery, which then found its way into a song has been very rewarding. Those guitar strings… something about the way he makes them sound… he does drive me crazy, but that’s wasn’t a surprise, the surprising thing is how fully merged two beings can become, or how all seven of us can completely lose ourselves in the moment. There’s also a push and pull, a tug of war, how to knock something together so it becomes one thing.

There’s a process, a method, a magnetic thing, that finally merges on an atomic level or something. There’s frustration and fun and joy and pissed off-ness. The opposition before the electrons flip over and merge. You can get into that same place like in acting where you lose yourself, become one thing and not separate things. That makes you forget everything else. The chores, the day to day… the minutiae of life.

Moeller: The music, the band, the creative journey, it’s the best of us. It brings us together, working on something beyond us. It’s a powerful bond. We have grown together, surprised each other, challenged each other. We inspire each other, and keep each other honest.

We come to it as equals. Drop the ego. Once in awhile we do butt heads, but that’s part of the process, it’s the good work. Can’t imagine living without it. It’s an intimate collaboration, which then becomes this bigger thing beyond us. Doing the work. Sharing the dream. Always trying to do the best that we can. Always ready to create, to play.

Spacewwsp2
wwsp at a Recent Outdoor Concert
Photo credit: whitewolfsonicprincess.com

HollywoodChicago.com: How did the pandemic lockdown period affect your process and songwriting?

Moeller: The pandemic lockdown forced us back to the basics. Carla and i are lucky that we live together. We wrote a whole new album’s worth of songs in our kitchen sessions during lockdown times. It forced us to focus on what we could do together, cut off from our band, cut off from our audience, our rehearsal space and doing any live shows.

It was a difficult, but also a very creative time. Made us think about what is important in life. It forced us to simplify and to entertain ourselves. It the essentialness, of Love, music, creativity, health and good vibrations.

HollywoodChicago.com: What was the best part of our ‘re-emergence’?

Moeller: Re-connecting with the people we create with and the people who love our band. We have a new lineup, and COVID actually took its toll on us. We lost a member to vaccine hesitancy, and we we had a bit of a lineup change. Our long-time drummer left, which at first seemed like a set-back, but actually, renewed & refreshed our approach.

Carla picked up the drum-sticks and starting playing drums, a floor tom crash cymbal and snare. It opened up a whole new way to work together. And the vibe in the rehearsal room just morphed, evolved, we think we have the best lineup and sound we’ve ever had. We have a world-class string section, crossed with music from the street. We are finally living up to the tag one of our fans gave us: 21st Century Druid Music. You know we sing often about trees, mountains, rivers, animals and the mystery of our interconnected ecosystem.

HollywoodChicago.com: You begin your live shows by striking a gong to create an atmosphere. How did that tradition begin, and what kind of vibe does it create before your live act?

Hayden: It’s actually a Tibetan singing bowl. I started ringing it for peace, because I felt so helpless in the world, and I wanted to just have a moment where you could send a peaceful sign out over the world. Now I feel we need to ring the bell for peace and love. What it also does is really brings focus, not only the band’ performance, but the for the audience too. It’s a unifying moment. Everyone wants it, everyone can relate to it. Everyone can relate to the simplicity and hope for peace and love.

Space presents whitewolfsonicprincess on Wednesday, July 20th, 2022 (doors open at 6p, showtime 7p), located at 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. For more information about wwsp, including albums, click whitewolfsonicprincess.com.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Editor, Film Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2022 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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