The Peoria-based Way Down Wanderers are giddy their just released second full-length album “Illusions” is currently No. 3 on Billboard Magazine’s Bluegrass chart.
Principal songwriters and vocalists Austin Krause-Thompson and Collin Krause stopped by the GLT studios ahead of their show at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington Saturday night.
Austin said the recording exceeded his vision.
“Sonically it’s a lot fuller than I expected,” said Austin, who recently married Collin’s sister Sawyer. “We weren’t quite sure going in to the studio how some of the key parts would fill out. I’m really happy with it.”
Collin added: “The goal was to just put together some songs we all loved and cared about into one cohesive album. I think we did that with the album ‘Illusions.’”
Austin said despite no singular vision, the songs on “Illusions” hang together quite well.
“They each touch on a few different aspects, but there is definitely a kind of theme throughout of life, relationships, appreciating the time you have … and making the most of it,” said Austin.
The lead song on “Illusions,” “Principles of Salt,” is the only one on the album not written by the duo. It’s a mid-tempo folkish song written by “dear friend” Joshua Powell out of Indianapolis. Collin takes lead vocals and the two harmonize as on most WDW songs.
I packed my dusty old guitar
And cancelled all my credit cards
I had to run and change my name
I think I missed the rapture
Of some body snatcher
It’s taken me out of the frame
But I’m too stressed
And I regressed
I’m saying all that’s on my mind
You led me and you get me
So let’s just leave it all behind
- “Principles of Salt” by Joshua Powell
“He (Powell) is one of my favorite artists and had written this song about five years ago that ended up on an EP, but he hadn’t really done anything with it,” said Collin. “So the song was largely undiscovered. I really wanted people to hear this song because I fell in love with the message.”
“It’s kind of a take on repression in America,” said Collin. “That’s something that’s kind of center right now in a lot of issues we’re seeing and have been for a long time. It raises some important issues and questions we need to ask ourselves as a country.”
“Frozen Through” from “Illusions” has a music vibe similar to “Principles of Salt,” and could be interpreted as a wistful love song.
I know that time is just a fleeting thing
So I’ll lie in the dirt without suffering
Yes I’ll lie in the dirt without suffering
I know the river is frozen through
Not a seed is with me without you
Not a seed is with me without you
- “Frozen Through” by the Way Down Wanderers
Austin, who helped write the second verse, hears the song differently.
“I’d say it’s more of the anxieties people might hold with their time running out on earth, and not getting tied up in the sense that it’s moving so quickly,” said Austin.
The five years since GLT first interviewed the Way Down Wanderers in Collin’s living room seem like a blur. The band had maybe been together for a maybe a month and were then managed by Collin’s mother Staley Krause. A couple demos uploaded to SoundCloud was their entire musical output at the time. Though not as finely produced as they later became on their debut EP, it was easy to spot both the songwriting and musical talent that lineup had. Collin said the hard work between then and now is beginning to pay off.
“I think a lot of people see a band like the Avett Brothers or Mumford & Sons and think, ‘Wow those guys just got really big, really fast.' And the truth is the guys probably spent a decade or more driving themselves across the country in a van playing little shows here and there. That’s kind of what it takes … just putting a lot of time in and working hard,” said Collin.
Austin acknowledges hard work and talent doesn’t always translate to success in the dog-eat-dog world of music, but emphasizes the focus Collin elaborated on is necessary.
“I would say there’s a huge difference between being a part-time and full-time musician,” said Austin. “We saw a ton of growth once we all decided to quit our regular jobs and focus on the music, touring, and writing. I definitely think without that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
The Way Down Wanderers play the Castle Theatre Saturday night. St. Louis-based folk/country/bluegrass rockers Clusterpuck opens the show.
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