We caught up with Nick Anderson, frontman of American pop rock band The Wrecks to chat about new album Sonder and being on the road again.
If you aren’t yet familiar with Los-Angeles based band The Wrecks, let their sophomore album Sonder be your introduction.
While it is brimming with the heartfelt, anthemic pop-rock sound their fans have come to love over the years, it is the confidence in pushing things further – boldly blending genres and unexpected sonics – that make it feel like The Wrecks are only getting started.
When we chat with Nick Anderson, vocalist and songwriter for the band, he has just arrived at his hotel after a 17 hour drive from Austin, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona. But where some of us might be ready to call it a day, it is hard to ignore the passion and excitement coming from the other end of the line.
And The Wrecks have a lot to be excited about. That show in Phoenix was one of the last on the band’s huge Better Than Ever tour – a tour that has taken them to stages in every corner of the US, many sold out and all of them packed full of fans ready to sing every word to every song.
Not a bad way to get back on the road after such a long time stuck waiting.
For The Wrecks, this jam-packed tour schedule has been a long time coming. Since releasing their debut album Infinitely Ordinary back in May 2020, the band have hardly had a chance to get out on the road. Now with their second album, Sonder, in hand, they can finally showcase their music the way it was always meant to be heard – live and loud.
Pushing through has always been at the heart of The Wrecks. From moving across the country to base the band in California to sneaking into a studio to record their debut EP We Are The Wrecks, doing everything they possibly could to fund its follow up Panic Vertigo, or releasing their debut album Infinitely Ordinary during a global pandemic and finding unique ways to connect with fans knowing they wouldn’t be able to tour it.
That same sentiment is shared across new album Sonder. An ambitious record inspired by a break-up and brimming with the upfront, honest and vulnerable songwriting fans have come to know from Nick Anderson, it is an album that he has described as “a very difficult, sleepless journey” but one that he pushed through “because [he] had to.”
What we are left with is 11 powerful songs that are as witty as they are honest, bouncing between huge singalong anthems, genre-bending tracks, and softer, alt-rock ballads.
At the heart of it all though, is The Wrecks. And if their ever-growing, dedicated fan base is anything to go by, its a recipe that keeps on working.
The Wrecks’ Nick Anderson chats new album Sonder, songwriting, and finally being back on the road
You’re heading to the final stages of a pretty big tour – how has it been finally getting back on the road and touring both your albums?
Nick Anderson, The Wrecks: “It’s been crazy. We didn’t expect to have such a successful tour this summer. From a lot of our friends who are announcing tours and a lot of other bands and artists, we heard that tickets weren’t selling very well and this whole tour was three or four times bigger than our last one, and it outsold in every way. We had to upgrade a bunch of venues and it’s been a whirlwind of blown expectations. It’s been so surreal and we’ve been riding the high of that all summer. Seeing these massive shows that, each one should have been the biggest one, but they just keep coming. It’s been so cool.”
You’ve recently released your second album Sonder – how are you feeling now that it’s out in the world, especially releasing it at a time when fans are finally able to enjoy live music the way we were a few years ago?
“It’s been really special because this is our first full US tour even since we put out our first album and we have two out now. So we’re, for the first time, performing both of those albums and it’s been so cool to actually be able to tour after putting a record out. We’ve never gotten to experience that.
“Seeing people sing along to songs that were so new – it’s been surreal and we’ve been so focused on the shows and we’re only playing five or six of the songs from the new album, but we started touring the day the album came out.
“I’ve been so caught up with those few songs and with the tour, it hasn’t really hit me that the actual album is out and that people are listening to the other songs because I’ve been so focused on the rest that I have to remind myself, ‘Oh yeah, everyone’s listening to these. Maybe sit back and read some comments and see what people think’.
You released your debut album Infinitely Ordinary right as we went into the global pandemic – what was it like making another album without the chance to properly tour the first one?
“It was weird because we had all been hying up this album for four years through different labels and different releases, and our fans were really waiting for an album, and then we were closing in on it and COVID hit.
“We didn’t wanna put a halt on it because we had been promising it for so long. We finally had it ready and it was more important for me to put a date on people’s calendar, put something that people could look forward to and know wasn’t going to get canceled because at the time just nothing was certain. It meant a whole lot to us personally, and as a band and to our fans, to be able to put something on their calendars and give them a date that they could look forward to. And, and it helped us all get by for a little bit knowing that that was going to come out.
“I’m always writing with the idea of subconsciously thinking about the live show because of the dynamics of our music. I want the songs to be exciting so they translate well live. I don’t know if I’m ever writing the album with the actual live show in mind, but it’s definitely fun to watch it, to not tour for two years there and then write an album, having it so separated and then watch these songs still have that same live liveliness. It’s not going to go away, it’s deeply rooted. We’re always going to be writing music that’s tailor fit for a live show.
The Wrecks started as your solo project before you gathered the rest of the band – what initially led you to music and how did that evolve into where The Wrecks is now?
“Making music and performing was always an outlet for me. It was an escapism from getting bullied in high school and getting made fun of for the clothes I wore and the style that I liked and the bands that I liked, I got picked on a lot in freshman and sophomore year of high school.
“So music was something easily for me to turn to. It was easier for me to take all that on knowing that I was putting it towards something, so it was always an outlet for me to be able to focus on instead of focusing on all the other noisy stuff.
“It’s always been that way. Even what I’m writing now, and even with the music that we put out, it’s still an outlet to get through things. The most recent album, Sonder, it was written because I was going through a breakup and I needed something to help me get through. So I turned to music.
You, and The Wrecks, are no strangers to personal, vulnerable songwriting and Sonder definitely doesn’t hold back on that front. What was the creative process like, diving into these very real, raw emotions and knowing that soon you’d be sharing them with the world?
“For me, I want to put it out into the world, I want that vulnerability to be out there, and certain messages I want them to be heard. It’s usually actually pretty cathartic to be able to put it into a song and know someone’s going to hear that, or know that now the world’s gonna know – all these silly kind of romanticism of songwriting. So, I lean into that a lot and I use it as a diary that I want to get leaked. I think it’s a really powerful way to approach music. So it doesn’t ever feel vulnerable or scary for me, it just feels necessary.
“This album specifically was very much an isolated, solo project in a way. There’s a few songs that I worked on with Schmizz [Nick Schmidt, guitar] and a couple of friends, but for the most part I was going through a breakup and I was writing a bunch of songs and I just needed time in my studio tucked away for a month and came out with what the album is.
“It took me a long time to make because I’m not very good at guitar or at piano or drums, but I know that I’ll put the time in. So, I just had to get better and better at editing and chopping things up and I had to put together this album, even though I knew it was going to take me four hours to do a guitar part that would take a real guitarist ten minutes, it was worth it. And I got to do it my own way and get all these things off my chest that I needed to get off.”
Now that you’ve gone through all that, what does this album mean to you?
“It’s a stake in the ground, as far as another chapter goes, it’s a stake in the ground on the way to the top of a mountain. It’s like a checkpoint. It’s ‘Camp Sonder’. It’s where I’ll leave these songs and I’ll leave these emotions, I’ll leave them behind and I’ll move on to the next thing.
“To be able to have a very concise, clear record, I got through and I wrote about, and I released and to be able to move on feels really good.”
What’s the process of getting to perform these songs live like? Does it add to the catharsis?
“By the time I’m performing the songs, most of the emotion has escaped me. At that point I’m just worrying about singing them well and performing well. The performance of the show trumps what the meaning of the songs are.
“I don’t try to get into that mental state, I don’t think it would be helpful for the performance. I’ve never really been able to relate when artists breakdown to their songs because I’ve heard each song a hundred thousand times because I also produced them. I already went through the emotional part of it, now it’s about the performance.
“If I’m getting emotional during our shows, that’s because people are singing along to it and I’m watching a lot of hard work pay off, so there’s validation. And there’s love in the air for music, and being able to share that with people, those feelings do hit me. I’ll forget lyrics because I get caught up in those kinds of things.”
The album covers a lot of sonic territory – was it intentional for you to see how many directions you could take your sound or did that evolve organically?
“That was definitely an organic thing. I like to blame my ADHD for that kind of jokingly, but I never go into a song trying to make it fit any shoe that another song fits. That’s the beauty of producing your own music, I can go in a bunch of different directions but it’s not going to feel like it’s not coming from us. I can write 11 different genres for one album, and it’s not going to feel like it’s coming from 11 different places. I think that it’ll always feel like it’s coming from one place as long as I’m the one touching the mouse and keyboard and hitting record and making the choices.
“That allows there to be some kind of intangible connection between all the songs. I can’t even explain that, I don’t know what that is because in my head I’m like every song sounds like so wildly different, but people are like, ‘no, it’s still the same band’, and that’s something I’ve embraced. It’s like branches of a tree.
You’ve spoken about where the album came from for you, but is there a central message you hope fans take away from Sonder?
“I’ve spoken to a lot of fans at shows now who went through breakups themselves this past summer, or over the last year, and this record really helped them through those things. And they connected with some of the lyrical content.
“I named this Sonder based on the title track. It started there. That one was focused around being with someone who isn’t maybe totally considerate of other people, other than the people in their immediate circle of friends and family. I think that it’s very important to consider everyone equally. When it comes down to mask mandates or vaccines and or a lot of [other] political things, I think it’s about the consideration, getting rid of individual ideology and believing that we are all collective people.
“That that was something very frustrating for me that I was going through and ended up being detrimental to my relationship, was trying to get that through to someone who maybe had a selfish outlook. That was the catalyst for the title of the record. As soon as I started writing that song, I was like, ‘I need to name the album this’.”
What is it that you love most about making and performing music? What keeps you coming back every day?
“It’s listening back to the song. Every time it’s always been what I’ve liked about music is making something and then sitting back and listening to it and hearing what I made. All of the input, whether it be recording guitar, writing a piano part, singing all these harmonies, is all about the output.
“At some point that output went from being the thing that drove me to work 22 hours a day. It eventually became something I was able to make a career from, but it’s still at the beginning of the day, it’s about hitting space bar and sitting back and listening to it and being proud of the sounds that I made or the song that I created and being in awe of it.
“Because it all seems like magic to me. I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t know how it happens. But I’m just so grateful that I can put all this time in and eventually make something that I think is cool. And I just keep doing that until other people think it’s cool.
“That’s what keeps me doing it. It’s the creation of it. There’s so many songs that I love that I’ve made that no one’s ever heard. And I made them cuz I wanted to make ’em.”
The Wrecks sophomore album Sonder is out now.