Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner Is Hitting Her Creative Peak

Baltimore duo Wye Oak.EXPAND
Baltimore duo Wye Oak.
Shervin Lainez.
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Jenn Wasner could probably take some time off from making music, but she's not really wired that way. Not when she's in the midst of releasing some of the best music of her career.

With the release of Wye Oak’s excellent new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, Wasner has established herself as one of the more consistent and reliable names in the indie music scene and only seems to be getting better. Be it working with drummer Andy Stack in their flagship band, collaborating with Jon Ehrens on the R&B pop project Dungeonesse, or performing solo under the moniker Flock of Dimes, Wasner is about as close to being a sure bet for a record company as an artist gets.

But that's not the reason she got into music, nor was it why she decided to create different projects for herself. The fact remains that a person would be hard-pressed to find many peers that can match what Wasner has done in the ten years she's been active in the music industry.

"My initial goal in having multiple personalities and multiple projects was to allow myself to create and release more music," says Wasner. "At least in the mainstream music industry, there are rules for how many records record labels and deals will allow you to release. I want to be filling my world with as much new stuff as possible, so the quickest way I found to be able to pull that off was to create as many alter egos as possible and release more records."

With eight LPs spread over three bands since 2008, Wasner's output is impressive, but the real accomplishment lies in the combination of quantity and quality of the work. Without ever venturing too far from her signature dream-pop sound yet still managing to avoid projects becoming indistinguishable from one another, Wasner has quietly put together a stellar decade of music.

Wasner is not a revolutionary for creating side projects that allow her to make different styles of music, or for turning a record-label deal into something more advantageous, but an artist maximizing output while successfully experimenting with sounds and styles is worth noting.

After recording and releasing her solo album in 2016, an experience she describes as "incredibly rewarding but difficult," Wasner embraced collaborating with Stack again with a new appreciation for having another person around throughout the record-making process. As a result, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs feels like the result of Wasner and Stack hitting their creative primes and reaching another level in their creative partnership.

"It’s certainly a maximalist sound, and that was a conscious decision that we made: to allow ourselves to make the most maximal record we wanted to," says Wasner. "We went into it saying, ‘No, we’re going to make the record we want to make; we’re not going to worry about limiting ourselves or worry about how we’re going to play it live or anything like that.'

"It also feels like a culmination of all the different things that we do in one place and all the different skills that we’ve learned through making records over the past ten years," she adds.

Wasner seems to have figured out a few things when it comes to trusting her creative vision — including the removal of outside chatter about her music — and it is no coincidence that the results are a dynamic Wye Oak record that is the band's best to date.

"Now, the catch with blocking it all out is the fact that it still applies when things that people are saying are good," she says with a laugh. "If you make the rule to trust yourself and not trust other people when they don’t necessarily get what you’re doing, you have to keep the same rule when people are loving it. Starting to believe what people are saying about you is the quickest way to start sucking, so I’m trying to remember that."  

Still, even if she is trying to ignore what people are saying, it is clear that Wasner is excited about her new album and the fact that people are enjoying it. And why wouldn't she be thrilled? This is what commercial success looks like for an artist still intent on making music that she personally enjoys.

"If I love what I’m making and I think it’s my best work, then that’s the whole point. If other people like it, great, but if they don’t like it, then I still have that feeling of satisfaction. I think it’s really more of learning to protect my heart and to protect the part of myself that is wanting to make things."

Wye Oak, with Corsicana, 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $20.

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