The Wrecklunds: Nostalgic Tendencies
by Kara M. Bachman
Recent finalists in the RockyGrass band competition, The Wrecklunds, are all about “today,” but there’s a hint of the heart of yesterday.
It’s not just in the way this Colorado-based bluegrass outfit refers to itself as “traditionally modern,” which seems a type of conundrum until it’s explained. It’s also found in the format they most love for putting the music forward.
By embracing vinyl recordings, the Wrecklunds harken back to what they used to love while looking forward to the future of music as they see it.
“I’m sort of a vinyl nut; I’ve got a bunch of records,” said The Wrecklunds guitarist, Bryan Eklund.
It influenced a decision to release their “Moon Over Broadway” as a vinyl record in addition to CD and digital formats. It comes down not only to nostalgia and a focus on recent trends but also to a sound quality that’s beloved by aficionados of the form that — to fans, at least — presents as much bulk in sound experience as it does in the sensory pleasure of having something substantial to hold. To fans, vinyl is as complete an experience as music can deliver, and more and more who aren’t old enough to remember the vinyl days are giving it a spin.
“I feel like in a lot of ways,” Eklund explained, “the shift to the digital platforms isn’t as rich as the mechanical sounds you get with vinyl.”
Those who lived in the pre-cassette tape and pre-CD eras remember the pops, cracks, and skips of our favorite vinyl. And the depth of sound they provided when paired with a quality receiver, turntable, and speakers that might seem to be ancient behemoths to the uninitiated in today’s digital age.
“Vinyl sounds mechanically made, and that’s what happens when you make music,” he said.
Yep—the sounds of plucking, strumming, and thumping are as physical as it gets. Ask any fast picker with sore fingers, and they’ll tell you that for sure.
According to Eklund, many are making the transition, and oddly, it is inadvertently spurred by digital.
“They sell like hotcakes,” he said of the band’s vinyl release. “They are much more seductive to the buyer because they’re larger, they’re more fun. I think there is a resurgence of people buying vinyl. CDs are almost passe at this point because people are gonna stream.”
While many older bluegrass fans are in the habit of purchasing CDs of their favorite bluegrass artists, the resurgence of vinyl makes sense. If one wants a quick and easy listen, digital download is best, and that’s, of course, fine. If the focus is on a deeper and more sensory approach to all aspects of music, vinyl beats the CD format hands down for its fans.
The nostalgia of pressing music in vinyl is meaningful on a personal level to The Wrecklunds.
“A lot of these songs we love and play, they came from listening to vinyl that’s in our collection,” Eklund said. They started with records of those old favorites, such as The Stanley Brothers and Jim and Jesse. It’s those old songs that form the “traditional” part of their “traditionally modern.” And what The Wrecklunds create today delivers the “modern” part of the equation. The band is quite prolific and already has a vast catalog of original music that relies not only on those old influences but also on other roots forms.
“We are bringing other influences, other roots music, such as blues and country,” Eklund said. “We still have the older tunes in our sets, but we’ve gone into writing songs that are current and modern.
They’ve even toyed with the idea of someday adding more non-traditional instruments into the mix, including drums, which Eklund said would bring “a bigger sound.”
For now, though, The Wrecklunds are most focused on releasing new music and opening new avenues through touring.
They’re working right now on a live album and on another that will include all-original material. The band’s prolific nature is because they all write, but Eklund said the process of selecting the best of that material comes naturally. He said they know they have a keeper “when we’re playing a song and it hits everybody when we all feel it.”
Eklund’s bandmates include Eric Drobny (bass, vocals); Brandt Miller (banjo, guitar, vocals); Mark Swaim (mandolin, guitar, vocals); and newest member, Kyle O’Brien (fiddle, vocals).
In addition to working on two albums, they’ll be blazing new paths this spring.
“In April, we’ll hit the west coast, start in San Diego and then go up,” Eklund said. “We want to develop new markets out there.”
For this guitarist, however, the standard of measurement seems to be found in less tangible things, such as simply putting out records with the highest quality the band can muster, along with following an inner drive to become better.
“We’re all pretty serious about making music,” Eklund said. “We’re trying to get to higher and higher levels within ourselves.”