Will Stratton Returns with the Wonderful “No Wonder”

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I have been a fan of Will Stratton for a the past few years ever since first listening to “What The Night Said” and some of the previously released tracks from it.  Such good acoustic singer songwriter with flecks of orchestral moments, indie pop style hooks and overall solid tunes throughout his material to date.  Stratton’s newest offering “No Wonder” hits the world today and should be something that you are looking into.

This album picks up where he left off with “What The Night Said” in the fact that Stratton continues his life vignettes to song.  His voice simply accents the music, he doesn’t overpower anything and isn’t trying to force himself into the song.  The songs are the music that accompanies his lyrics – neither is more important and in fact the album without lyrics could almost be a release in itself.  I also don’t want to be gotten wrong, with Stratton at the helm of the vocals, it only brings the whole package.  Stratton also has some assistance in the vocal department on this album with Jess Funston & Essie Jain (yes that Essie Jain).  I like the addition of harmony it brings, with songs like “For Franny Grass” and “The Country Clear” the addition feels natural – it isn’t actually a duet, just an accent.

The album also enjoys some growth on the inclusion of more strings (cello, viola) and even a bit of horns in completing the album.  While the entire album flows nicely, there is even one track that might stick out to the Will Stratton regulars and that is the track “If Only” which is quite upbeat and includes rocking guitars and full percussion.  While it is a bit of an escape from the album, I am still a bit torn if it adds a layer or takes away as an experiment – you can decide when you listen to the full album.  For me the stand out tracks include “Judas 1966”, “New Jersey” (total uber slow ballad, gorgeous), “For No One”, “Who Will” and the modern day Robin Hood tale of “Robin & Marian”.

“Who Will” – from 2009’s “No Wonder”
Bonus out-takes from the album:
“Judas, 1966 (Alternate Version)”
“For No One (Demo Version)”


Will was kind enough to answer a few questions about the album and what is going on with him, see below:


> * What was the inspiration for this album versus “What The Night Said” or was it just a natural step to the next album?

What The Night Said was a very easy record to make. I had already recorded an earlier version with most of the same songs, and they were songs that just came out of being in high school and feeling the way I did, and so when I was asked to come make an album in a studio it was just a matter of going over everything and improving a bit on it.

No Wonder took longer for me to write–basically, it took me all of my time in college to write and record something that I was happy with. I have been moving around quite a bit since the summer after high school, and so the sort of false consistency of my life up to that point is gone.  So at various times it was about different things, but I think it ended up being a mixture, a sort of compromise with myself so that I could be decently happy with the result and move onto something else.  After a certain point I would come back to it after months of being at school and not thinking about it, and I was just rewriting and rerecording everything–it had become a cycle of reevaluating everything, because of the big gaps between sessions, and I realized that if I didn’t put a stop to that, it would never get done. There are a lot of songs that I ended up throwing away, songs that are more story-oriented like “Judas, 1966” and “Robin & Marian.”

I think at one point I was trying to make it a record about the folk song. But I think that most of the songs that are on the record as it is are about looking for home, and not quite finding it. What The Night Said was an album about home (in other words, about the town where I largely grew up, Basking Ridge, New Jersey), and No Wonder is about the process of figuring out what comes after that.  It is a strange record, at least to me.  As the album format begins to die, I find myself trying to hold on to it, and I think maybe that is where the strangeness comes from.

> * Do you gain inspiration from those you work with, music you listen to or does it simply come to you?

Partly, I just find myself humming or singing melodies during the day, and I make a note of them and try to put them in a song. Those seem to come out of nowhere, but occasionally I will catch one that sounds nearly identical to a song that I’ve heard recently, or an old song that I love, and I try to steer clear of those.  So I try to filter it down to melodies that just sort of arrive in my head without much effort, because I find that those melodies have a particular quality to them. But yes, as far as the actual sounds that make it onto my finished recordings, I take a lot of inspiration from other artists.

Albums like Scott Walker’s Scott 3, Big Star’s Third, Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, His Name Is Alive’s Detrola, and dozens of other records all contributed to the sound of this record, in one way or another. I’m slowly getting closer to being more comfortable with my own sound, which I think will be more evident on my third record.  No Wonder is more of a bird’s nest sort of album, with little stylistic fragments brought in from all over the place.  Other people probably won’t be able to hear most of them, because in the process of paying tribute to the music that I love, it often ends up sounding nothing like what I intended.

> * The style of music you make would be considered laments and beautiful soundscapes. I noticed the new album has a pretty rocking track called “If Only” – is this a new sound or is it simply a song to mix it up?

I was in a lot of punk bands in middle school and high school, some of which were pretty embarrassing, but others were a lot of fun. If Only was originally a sort of dirge-like folk song, with a couple more verses, and I decided it was just too depressing and boring that way. So I ended up recording the guitars and vocals in about a half an hour on a whim, and then Kieran (drummer, label owner, co-producer) came in and I had him do some really visceral, simple drums, and after one take of lead guitar by the brilliant Aaron Tasjan, from the Madison Square Gardeners, and a great sort of Matt Freeman-style bass line from Rob Calder, I had a really un-Will Stratton-sounding track on my hands.

It was going to be a secret track but I decided I liked it too much for that. It’s actually sort of an old sound for me, in that it sounds a bit like those old bands I used to play in.  But yes, I do plan on making a lot more music that doesn’t fit whatever tendencies people currently ascribe to me, if there are any.  I want to make a noise record or two, and I’m working on a piece of chamber music right now that I writing some lyrics for.  It may be the first half of a double album–I’m not sure yet.

> * I see Essie Jane makes an appearance on the album, how did this come about?

I’m a big fan of Essie’s music, and I asked her to sing on a couple tracks.  The last Essie Jain record was recorded at The Buddy Project, where I do most of my recording these days, and I met her when she was coming to check it out with Jon Mizrachi, who played trumpet on both of our records, and who handles film and television licensing for both of us.  I met her again later on–she came to a show I played on the Lower East Side a couple years ago, where she and her husband live–and we all had some dinner after the show, and I thought I might as well ask her if she would sing on the record.  And she said yes! It was fun.  She came in and did it over an hour or so.

> * Your sound can be soo full at times but I consider you a solo artist. Are you actually a solo artist or is there a band/team behind “Will Stratton”?

I’m not sure if there’s a straight answer to that. There’s no band, at least not right now, but I always try to have a good set of people around to contribute.  Vile Bodies, a free EP that I made a couple months ago, and that you can get on my Bandcamp site, is just me. But No Wonder has a bunch of great musicians on it.  I already mentioned Essie, Jon, Aaron, Rob, and Kieran, so I should probably mention the rest–Dave Dunbar came in and  played viola.  He’s responsible for the great arrangement on “The Country Clear,” and the rest was done under closer direction from me.  Dan Bindschedler, a cellist, came in on really short notice and did some really skillful improvisation, which I edited a bit later on.  Kyle McCammon played upright bass on a few tracks and did a really solid job.  And my friend Jess Funston contributed some truly stellar vocals in addition to Essie’s.

Sometimes I know in advance whether a performer has a similar or a complimentary aesthetic to me early on, and so I let people try out their own parts, and then I edit everything until I’m satisfied with it during the mixing process, but occasionally I get more specific with people when I have something definite in mind from the outset.  Now that I’m getting some work as an arranger once in a while I’m starting to think more seriously about this.

> * What is coming up for you? New album release show, tour, relaxing?

After looking for a job for four months since I graduated from college, I finally found something part-time.  So I’m playing a show here and there in New York, I’m working on new recordings, and I’m trying to continue to sort things out–find more work, start to pay off my loans, get a place of my own, maybe join a band or two.

There’s no tour planned, not right now.  I don’t have a booking agent, and I have the naive idea in my head that a really good one will find me.  I will try to pop up once in a while in different places in the states and Canada, though, if I get a chance.  As it is, I get a lot more pleasure from the recording process than from performing. I’m slowly getting more excited about the idea of performing for people more frequently.  I just don’t know if my music always deserves the level of attention that it requires when I perform it by myself, and I don’t know if my music always thrives with an ensemble.

These are things I am working on–maybe when I’m twenty five or so, I’ll have it all sorted out.

There you have an interview with this up and coming singer songwriter – I personally love that last line…It makes me feel very past my prime, but I won’t hold it against Will…

Bonus previous Will Stratton:

What The Night SaidWill Stratton
“Katydid” (mp3)
“So Ashamed”

from “What The Night Said”
(Stunning Models on Display)

More On This Album

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