Worn instrument cases and amplifiers line the perimeter of the practice room, while plastic patch and multi-colored wrapped cables snake across the floor, coiling in tired piles on the ground. A sick Alexander Beggins sits on the ground with his eyes closed and props himself up against the southern wall, nursing a Smartwater in one hand and his ukulele in another. His ailment? Food poisoning. Despite the vocalist’s understandably quiet energy, the other members of the local indie-folk band, Wild Child, are in full swing, strumming, plucking, blowing or tapping away on their respective instruments. By Samantha Jogenia Grasso
Born in early 2010 in the back seat of a touring van, Wild Child is the first serious music endeavor of lead vocalists Beggins and Kelsey Wilson. The pair met while touring as instrumentation for the band The Migrants and began collaborating shortly after. For those six weeks on tour, Beggins and Wilson took their first shots at writing music, using Beggins’ ukulele as a basis for the trial. “We had never been singers. This was our first tryout and it was nice because we had each other to fall back on. The other person wasn’t just by themselves,” Wilson recalls.
When the two came back home from touring, they found out that they were neighbors, what Beggins calls an “accidental, really cool coincidence.” From then on, the two started writing and paying together. A little more than a year later, the duo released their first album, “Pillow Talk,” on October 25, 2011. Beggins and Wilson originally wrote the album with the intention of featuring whichever instruments the two could play. “Nothing was ever really planned or thought out too far in advance, and that translates in the way the band came about. It started out with a ukulele. Ukuleles are small and easy to keep on the van. It just happened that way,” Beggins explains.
Before the release of “Pillow Talk,” Beggins and Wilson gathered musicians from their friends and family, and, by the time the album was released, Wild Child was an ensemble of strings and classical instrumentation among the modern rock stock. Along with Beggins and Wilson, the band features James Bookert on banjo, Chris D’Annunzio on bass, Evan Magers on keyboard, Carey McGraw on drums and Sadie Wolfe on cello. Supporting trombone, French horn and trumpet have even made appearances in the band’s makeup.
Now in the practice room, on the eve of the band’s release date for their sophomore album “The Runaround,” the chemistry between the members is apparent. Standing and sitting in a skewed circle facing inward, they listen for each other intently. Some tap their bare heels on the carpet-covered concrete; others sway slightly to their own tune. The keyboard cuts through the noise and begins to play the familiar, drifty chorus to “Victim the Charm” (a Wild Child original), and the bass jumps in, followed by Wilson on violin. A smooth, folk melody begins to form through the solo work. Before long, the whole band joins in, and Kelsey’s silken voice floats out of an amp near the drum set, diffusing through the strings and percussion.
Contrasting “Pillow Talk,” Wilson said they have taken their time writing and producing “The Runaround,” since the band’s larger size gave them the opportunity to make the album bigger, longer and faster. Featuring round brass harmonies and deep bass lines, the album is complex in style and structure, without losing an ounce of the band’s liveliness first presented in “Pillow Talk.” Rest assured to long-time fans, the ukulele is still the driving force. “We’re going to keep pushing [the ukulele] ‘till it can’t be pushed any further,” Wilson says.
Without a doubt, Wilson and Beggins’ charming, playful harmonies are just one element that set Wild Child apart from other local acts. The septet is organic in sound, as well as membership. The instrumentalists range in age from freshmen in college to mid-thirties. No two people have the same style at the rehearsal, although most members are missing their shoes. Wilson says their different personalities make the band’s songwriting and performance unique. “We’re a really crazy group of people. We’re all so different that if someone saw us on the street there would be no chance we were hanging out just by chance. We would’ve had to be in a band,” Wilson adds.
Back in the practice room, Bobby Fitzgerald on trombone and Mark Jansen on French horn play their bridge duet in “Crazy Bird” on a loop, focusing on the creation of a solid block of sound, with gradual, brassy growls toward the end of the duet. While brass instrumentation has become more popular in indie-pop, Wilson says it is difficult to classify themselves in a genre or pick out direct influences for the band. “We don’t try and emulate someone else," Beggins says. When he and Wilson first started writing, their musings didn’t start as anything they wanted to play for anyone else. "Our little release made us happy. It felt good and felt right,” Wilson explains.
Although the album released October 8, the band has been playing songs off of the record for the last year. Beggins says he feels that their audience has enjoyed what they’ve heard off of the album and that he’s “excited to have people know the new songs and sing with [them], like the last album.”
After the release of “The Runaround,” Wild Child is set to tour until the end of the year, and will even take the stage this November at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Wilson says they’re already writing songs for their third album, and the band has intentions to further build their fan base in Europe soon. “We’re getting the name out there. We have a great team of people out there to push the snowball a little bigger,” Beggins says.
Despite their focus on music and touring, Beggins and Wilson agree on this piece of advice for college students: “Stay in school as long as you can, and party while you’re there.” Beggins takes enjoyment in life to heart, especially with the band. “We love what we do. When we’re on stage having fun, the crowd is having fun. We just try and have fun with each other,” he says.
Wild Child will play this Friday, October 11 at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater to commemorate their recent album release of “The Runaround.” Other Austin local bands, What Made Milwaukee Famous and Holiday Mountain, will open for the headliner. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m., and Wild Child is set to go on at 11 p.m.
BAND PICKS: “Victim to Charm”
ORANGE PICKS: “Rillo Talk”
Insider — ORANGE asked Wild Child to fill in the blank: If you like ____________, you’ll like Wild Child. “Biggie Smalls,” they answered.
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To find out more about the band and their upcoming show dates, check out their website: www.wildchildsounds.com