WAND'S FIRST ALBUM, 2014's Ganglion Reef, isn't perfect, but it is a perfectly balanced blend of heavy and hooky. Led by singer/guitarist Cory Hanson, the LA quartet mashes together airy, psychedelic pop melodies and a crunchy, nearly metallic guitar tone and turns out something that's seamlessly both pretty and ugly.
When it came time to record a follow-up, Hanson and his mates wanted to more accurately reflect their live-show vibe.
"Our [live] performance of the Ganglion Reef music was much more simple and all about heaviness and improvisation, so we wanted to do something that captured that and make it a more energetic, heavy record," says Hanson, who played with rising West Coast garage bands like Together Pangea and Meatbodies before forming Wand. Bassist Lee Landey, drummer Evan Burrows, and guitarist Daniel Martens round out the band.
To get the sound they wanted, Wand worked with a producer for the first time, recording with Chris Woodhouse at the Dock Studio in a shadowy section of Sacramento. The whole process, including mixing, took 12 days. It didn't go exactly as Hanson envisioned.
"I went in thinking, 'Oh, this is going to be a really grimy, disgusting record with these really fucked-up guitars.' And then Chris sort of... took a different turn, because he just kind of gave it a Big Star treatment," Hanson says. "So the production is, like, bizarrely pristine and all of the performances are really fucked and weird."
Altogether, the new album, Golem, doesn't sound that different from Ganglion Reef. The songs tend to stretch out a bit farther in different directions, and there's more noise and fuzzy buzz and general weirdness—a good thing. But despite the surrounding clatter, Hanson's pop sensibility shines through. At times, Wand sounds like Tame Impala letting their hair down and stomping around like a doom metal band. No shock, then, that the promotional materials for Golem cite Electric Wizard, Sleep, Black Sabbath, and Melvins as influences, among others.
"Most of the songwriters that I really appreciate have these sort of chameleonic aspects to their songwriter-ship," Hanson says. "I've definitely spent a lot of time listening exclusively to metal, and I think most of the band have spent a lot of time listening to and identifying with that kind of music."
Still, with Wand, there are always two sides to the sound. "Oh yeah," Hanson says. "I need lots of veggies with my weird, processed, gross meat."