WIMPS' NEW ALBUM, Suitcase, sounds great—raw and urgent, but also warm and intimate—so it's no surprise that the Seattle punk band took a little more time recording it than they did previous releases.
"Our first record [2013's Repeat] was written very quickly. We knew the songs really well and we recorded it over a weekend," says lead singer/guitarist Rachel Ratner. "And we're happy with how it turned out and everything, but for this one we were like, 'Let's spend a little more time.' And that little more time was like three weekends instead of one weekend."
The trio of punk-scene veterans—Ratner plus bassist Matt Nyce and drummer David Ramm—used those weekends wisely, adding an extra guitar part here or dialing in a harmony (or call-and-response vocal) there. They made Suitcase at Seattle's MRX Studio with Matt Stegner, who provided a level of recording expertise heretofore unseen in Wimps' four-year history.
"We definitely spent more time being more thoughtful about the whole thing and trying to make it sound a bit better," Ratner says. "We tried to be a little more creative on this album and that was really fun."
Fun is the operative word when you're talking about Wimps, whose members have done more than their share of time in bands like Butts (Ratner), Meth Teeth (Nyce), and the Intelligence (Ramm). The band's sound is at once bouncy and jagged, built on sturdy bass lines with Ratner belting out songs about the banality of everyday life. It's punk rock, yeah, but with '90s touches everywhere you look, from grunge to riot grrrl to slack-rock.
Each member of Wimps is in their 30s, a fact reflected in songs like "Old Guy" ("I'm not your dad/I'm not the landlord shutting you down") and "Middle Ages," which starts with Ratner shouting about her sore back and feet. Other songs on Suitcase revolve around living in squalor, lying around on a couch, and vampires. But a lot of the chatter surrounding the album's release has been about this "old" punk band hanging around the Seattle scene, singing about adult concerns. Wimps are okay with this.
"All of our songs are just about regular stuff. I think we had a couple songs on this album about being older and some people have kind of latched onto that, and that's fine," Ratner says with a laugh. "I just want to clarify that we're not, like, in the old folks' home. We're just slightly older than some of our show-going peers."
She continues: "We're comfortable with who we are. We're not going to lie about our ages or anything. But it is funny that people are like, 'Man, how do you guys do it? You're so old and you're still out there! Good for you!'"
That's underselling Wimps' rising status, of course. The band is earning excellent reviews for Suitcase, which was released by Northwest indie powerhouse Kill Rock Stars. (They're playing the label's holiday party at the Spare Room this week, alongside labelmates Kinski.) Ratner calls the success "unexpected," but don't be mistaken: Wimps is not yet paying the bills. All three members have non-rock 'n' roll careers, she says, that must be considered when scheduling band activities.
"We practice weekly and keep the shows to the weekend unless they're super awesome and big," Ratner says, "so that we can go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up early for our jobs."