The 4/20 interviews: The Wild Reeds
For 2019, April 20 brings an embarrassment of musical riches to Asheville area venues. Among the notable shows are Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Love Canon, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, and KNOWER at Pisgah Brewing Co., Phosphorescent at The Orange Peel, Rising Appalachia at Salvage Station, Southern Culture on the Skids at The Grey Eagle, and local singer-songwriter Brie Capone’s Farewell to Asheville show at Isis.
Also in the mix are the Los Angeles indie rockers of The Wild Reeds, who’ll be at The Mothlight. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mackenzie Howe corresponded with Asheville Stages via email about the challenges and rewards of the band’s new album Cheers and her thoughts on an Asheville musician’s review of their previous local show.
Edwin Arnaudin: You were in Asheville a little over a year ago, opening for Ben Sollee at Salvage Station. What about that performance and your time here has stuck with you?
Mackenzie Howe: Asheville has always been good to us. The people are incredibly welcoming and truly like to have a good time. It feels familial and small. That show was a blast, we had some really good conversations with folks after. We are excited to return!
EA: My local singer/songwriter friend Hannah Kaminer was at that show and was won over by what she saw. Here’s her report: “It stood out to me that all three of the women are talented multi-instrumentalists. They constantly switched instruments — and played weird ones. And there is no single front-woman — all three of them acted as front-woman together or took turns. That’s so refreshing because lots of music people want to set women against each other and get them to compete for the diva spot. They do have guys in their band, but they seemed to work with them as colleagues, not as the eye candy in front of them. Other than that, I just really enjoyed the show and their songs. I loved seeing women take musicianship and sisterhood seriously at the same time.”
What’s your response to that review? How does Hannah’s assessment align with your on-stage goals and overall intentions as a band?
MH: That’s exactly what we hope one might gather from our performance! She was spot on with some of the things we struggle with, i.e. the myth that there should be one female lead, that there’s only one spotlight, that we have to tear each other down rather than share the spotlight. Our band is not exempt from working through a lot of this in our own inner dialogue. I’m so glad she was able to glean that from our performance because we have had to work hard at times to remind ourselves of why we are doing this the way that we are. We all believe in each other as writers and musicians and that’s ultimately why we do this.
EA: You’ve talked about Cheers being an exploration of your, Kinsey [Lee]’s, and Sharon [Silva]’s individuality. In the process, were any of you three tempted to record a solo album or were any steps taken toward eventually doing that? And through exploring your differences, what kept you grounded and focused on channeling your creativity into The Wild Reeds?
MH: As three songwriters, we have very distinct voices, stories, and preferences. Sharon said it well recently — She said that we know we can do this without one another, but we are still choosing to do this together because we believe in the power of camaraderie and even the magic that sometimes comes with compromise. This record really tested our commitment to one another and also encouraged us to branch out.
All three of us girls, and all five band members, involve ourselves in other projects, whether it be solo tunes or friends’ bands, because we want to keep busy and express ourselves outside of the band. At times when I’ve had all my eggs in the Reeds basket, I can get too controlling and worry too much, so it’s nice to branch out and take the pressure off. Who knows what the future holds in terms of solo albums? I’m sure there will be some. We’ve never followed a formula as to how bands work before, so I imagine we will continue to do what we want.
EA: This interview is part of a series about the insane number of amazing shows happening in Asheville on 4/20. Excuse the bad pun, but why do you think there’s such a, well, high number of shows that day?
MH: 4/20 is Earth Day, and unofficial Mary Jane day, so I can see why Asheville of all places would have a number of things going on. Glad to be part of the celebration!
EA: As part of one of these noteworthy acts, but also a music lover in your own right, what do you see as some of the pros and cons of having so many appealing options in the same city at the same time?
MH: Any time you play in a city and there are other shows going on, you can count on it being a little harder to draw an ideal audience. We don’t see it as a big bummer, though. Hopefully folks get to see several acts that day!
IF YOU GO
Who: The Wild Reeds with Valley Queen
When: Saturday, April 20, 9 p.m.
Where: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
Tickets: $15 advance/$20 day of show
(Photos by Pooneh Ghana)