(L–R) Jordan Mendenhall, Tony Lake, Joe Plummer, Jake Rosevear and Will Tuddenham of Wildcat Strike keep their songs direct and driving to maximize their appeal. Photo: Logan Sorenson
Starting with the crunchy licks of everyman band The Pentagraham Crackers, SLUG Localized will heat up with the running beats and toothed refrains of Wildcat Strike before surf-rockers The New Electric Sound cast their net of sensual grooves over every man and woman in the crowd. This 21+ show happens Friday, Aug. 16 at Urban Lounge, and doors open at 9 p.m. If you’re a sad, lonely ragamuffin stuck at home, check out the show through the live stream on gigviz.com.
Two members of Wildcat Strike (Will Tuddenham, keys and Jordan Mendenhall, guitar) arrived for the interview on time and greeted me warmly at Mendenhall’s home and band practice place. Soon, the rest (Tony Lake, lead vocals/guitar; Jake Rosevear, bass; Joe Plummer, drums) arrived, and the full ensemble took seats around a table in the living room, cracking jokes and snapping open the beers we had nabbed from the corner store. The band settled in as the cold booze dissipated the heat, and Tuddenham began by explaining that their band formed quite organically two years ago. “We were friends beforehand. Tony got a new guitar and thought of a cool name for a band—Jordan built a music room in his house and we thought, ‘Let’s make a band,’” he says.
Tuddenham, in fact, had never been in a band. “I’d never even played bass before,” he says. But as the first members (Lake, Mendenhall, Tuddenham and Rosevear) grew and improved, they shuffled instruments around (Mendenhall went from drums to guitar and Tuddenham switched to keys), added Plummer on skins and started honing their sound. After their time together, they feel like a real band. “Are we a proper band?” Lake wonders with a laugh. Tuddenham replies, saying, “We’re getting there.”
The band acknowledges that some sound comparisons are strange, but they agree that Cursive seems to be the most closely related—though they had difficulty describing their sound, which is at times romantic and piano driven, at times pure rock and sometimes even touches on punk and metal. Whatever it is, it’s always a good time. “We don’t want to be the band that’s like, ‘Yeah, you can’t compare us to anything,’” Mendenhall says. They try to be honest, throw a bunch of things on the wall, and see what sticks. “We just like to call it rock n’ roll,” Tuddenham says.
Wildcat’s sound is nothing if not direct. They don’t waste time on flashy guitar solos or lengthy instrumentals, but prefer great riffs and powerful refrains. “You lose momentum [with long solos],” says Rosevear. “There’s always a good guitarist, but a 20-minute solo on the radio just forces you to want to change the song.” Instead, they start with the firm foundations of solid songs (many are written acoustically by Lake before the band collaborates), throw in immense drive, pure vigor and, by the end, they’ve got something completely different. Their songwriting approach is very fluid and open: “We know what we like to sound like, but we don’t have a lot of direction,” Lake says. Rosevear states, though, that everyone abides by their songs: “Each individual member’s purpose is to serve the goal of having a good song. That’s what we shoot for.”
Mendenhall also explains that their sound isn’t always played loud—it translates well into many formats. He says, “It sounds good whether it’s just pianos and vocals or a full band.” Rosevear elaborates, saying, “We play a lot of our stuff instrumentally at restaurants and stuff, which helps us learn what our songs sound like in different contexts. We can understand how it really sounds—sometimes, when it’s loud, it’s just loud. [Playing quieter venues] teaches us a lot of discipline.”
They keep it simple, dial it in and aim wildly for your throat after dancing with your heart. “Our songs are really direct. As long as we know our parts, we clean it up and trim the fat. We try to be energetic, but it’s important that we nail our parts. We’re very much about control,” says Lake. Wildcat Strike rely heavily on energy from the crowd, and disdain artists who simply press play on a laptop. “How do you work with the energy of a crowd when it’s preset?” says Lake, wondering. “Some of what we do might be sloppy sometimes, but it’s because we’re feeding off the energy of the crowd. If that sounds ‘hippy,’ then so be it, but there’s a real element there.”
The band wants nothing more than to play good music. “Regardless of the bands we’re in, we’d still be playing music. It sounds cliché, but we do it because we love it, not really because we worry about what other people think,” Mendenhall says. Lake laughs in agreement as he says, “We love the excuse to have something to do on the weekends. We never had much more ambition than aiming to have some drinks and play some music.”