THE EXPANSIVE LONELINESS of Wussy's music sounds thoroughly Midwestern. "We're always very honored to hear that," says Wussy guitarist and vocalist Lisa Walker, "We sound like where we're from. Cincinnati has a very rich musical history."
Walker and Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) have played as Wussy since 2001. Their latest release, 2016's Forever Sounds, has brought the group an elevated degree of exposure.
Walker says it feels good for their music to finally have its moment. "With this one, I think we did put a little bit more into it in that regard," she explains, "and really tried to get it out there in a more palpable way."
"What happened to the one that I adore?" Cleaver ponders over roaring guitars on the new album's standout "She's Killed Hundreds." He's answered by Walker's dreamy call-and-response before he concludes, "She's killed hundreds, maybe more."
Despite its Americana feeling, nothing ties Forever Sounds directly to any kind of country, roots, or rural musical tradition. Instead, think layers of Bob Mould-style feedback, Paul Westerberg-esque songwriting, and Guided by Voices' semi-psychedelic free association.
There's the loping, tom-tom-based rhythm that kicks off opening track "Dropping Houses," sounding like a trucker convoy on a long night's journey across the plains. And then there's the familiar, early Wilco-style "Hello I'm a Ghost." Throughout the record, Wussy explores the emptiness between notes like a barfly in the corner enjoying a moment alone with his beer.
Taken cumulatively, there's something about Wussy's brand of guitar-driven indie rock that undeniably harkens back to the Heartland. "We wanted this particular record to be a bit more mysterious," Walker says. "All of our records seem to have a theme for us and this one was about more noise, more mystery."
But not all Wussy's inspiration comes from America. Walker says she considers Forever Sounds to be a homage to early- and mid-'70s British bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. "They would make records that you wouldn't really understand," Walker says, "but that would make you want to listen to them more.
"I'm from Muncie, Indiana," she continues, recalling an early visit to the UK. "I went to Birmingham and I thought, 'Wow, this looks like where I'm from.' It just made all the more sense why bands like Black Sabbath and the Who were writing about this sort of gray, working-class world.... That would ring true to some kid growing up in a cornfield in Indiana or Ohio. It's like, 'Wow, we are living parallel lives.'"
Walker says Wussy's band name is intended to reflect how independent and underground music can be a defense mechanism for kids who don't fit in. "It brings a lot of kids out of their shell," Walker says. "You might not know a lot about me but I'm pretty awesome because look at my badass musical tastes."