Vulture Whale may not be a household name yet, but they are surely on the rise to becoming one. One of our newest writers, Joe, had the opportunity of sitting down and having a chat with lead singer Wes McDonald, before their show at Piano’s in New York City last weekend. This band is on fire, literally. Lester Nuby predicted that Piano’s would probably “burn down” before they got there. The night before the Piano’s show the venue the band was playing at had a fire!
Vulture Whale started four years ago in Birmingham, Alabama. Wes and Lester were first in a band together in junior high school and then reestablished the band idea while working on Wes’s solo work. They played mostly cover songs and oddly enough, Lester tended to the drums at this time. Given they have a long history together both in work as well as friendship. The name ‘Vulture Whale’ also has a story of it’s own, though Wes claims that it isn’t all that interesting. For a while the band toured without a name and then came up with Vulture Whale while they were recording in L.A. It was a suggestion from both Wes and Jake. Wes thinks that Lester has a very nice Mike Mills (REM) type back up voice. Lester on the other hand played the show that night with the same guitar he had in junior high; the same guitar from their first band.
Through all of the changes and musical history of the band, Wes remains true to his roots and is not at all discouraged by them. Even though they play indie rock, it’s hard to hide where you come from. “Why fight it?” Wes says. Still living in Birmingham, he and his wife have a 14 month old baby, as he grew up there and still calls it home. Being in a good number of bands and doing solo work on his own, when Wes was in The Ohms he still continued polish his solo material which he was able to fall back on when he left the band. One funny coincidence about the band is that one of the musician’s name was Jeff Buckley. He spent a lot of time clearing up in articles that it was not “That Jeff Buckley!” Lester also had musical success under his belt when he played with the band Verbena from 12 years who mutually decided to part ways and they were dropped by Capitol Records.
When creating songs within the band, the music writing process for Vulture Whale is very organic. Either Lester or Wes come in with a song idea, and the rest of the band then collaborates on it. This brings to life the songs we know and love today. It’s very much a group effort in the studio. For Wes the songwriting process is subliminal. “You just gotta write what you feel sometimes” he says, When asked if he enjoys being in the studio or on tour better, Wes would rather toss the coin on that one, as most musicians seem to do. Though when the topic of what song is his favorite to play live, he quickly answers with “Sum Yung Scientist” because it’s one of the only songs he gets to play lead guitar on. Creating their studio sound onstage is a breeze for the band as they think of performing a fun event rather than one filled with pressure. Constantly playing the songs you wrote onstage only makes it easier Wes claims.
Vulture Whale is currently on Skybucket Records who is owned by their good friend, Travis Morgan. It’s an Alabama based record label where all of the bands play and admire the other local bands on the label. Almost like how Saddle Creek started. There is no better way to cultivate the music scene then to water the seeds and let it grow. Wes’ influences can be seen a little bit in his songs as he is a fan of The Feelies and Massachusetts’ own NRQB. As for new bands, he likes MGMT because “the guy wears a headband”. What’s not to like? All jokes aside, Vulture Whale are very aware of the business of music and how they’ve become popular throughout the world of blogs. The band notices a definite difference in the building of a band’s reputation and agrees that sites like Myspace have opened up a whole new fan base for them which probably wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Wes also has a love for Brit Rock and the band actually has an EP coming out titled ‘Bamboo You,’ which is named as homage to The Rolling Stones record, “Tattoo You.” Even though they have no idea what the future holds, Wes can’t imagine not playing music. If he wasn’t writing songs, he’d be writing a book he says. One thing that is for certain is their new EP comes out in the fall and they will just keep touring and playing.
Check out Vulture Whale on MYSPACE
Interview by Joe Paolucci