The guys from Weinland tell us how they became the poster children for Beard Rock.
Adam: My name is Adam Shearer and I play the guitar and sing in Weinland.
Ian: My name is Ian Lyles and I play drums and occasionally the banjo.
Rory: I'm Rory Brown and I play the bass.
Adam: And occasionally the bells.
Rory: And occasionally the bells.
Meghan: So Weinland is one of your middle names if I'm not mistaken.
Adam: It is.
Meghan: How did that come to represent you guys as a recording group?
Adam: Like a lot of bands, it started just as a bedroom recording project with an acoustic guitar and singing. And my name is John Adam Weinland Shearer and I go by Adam Shearer, that's what my parents called me and that's what I answer to. So I created a song-writing pen name that was John Weinland. It was my little cowboy song-writing alias. And when the band formed and our line-up solidified we didn't want it to sound like one person. So we wanted more of a band name and we decided the best way to transition to a band name but not to lose ground on the record that we'd already made under the name John Weinland was to just drop the John and call it Weinland. So people would still find us.
Meghan: Can you guys tell me a little bit about your major influences?
Rory: You hit it direct with Elliott Smith and just the stark, singer-songwriter music where everything is stripped away and you can hear the song. Content to the song rather than just huge sound the whole time.
Meghan: I think it's interesting that you have six members?
Adam: We have five all-the-time members. There are eight of us depending on what's happening.
Meghan: And you would also call that a stripped away sound?
Ian: It's dynamic. It runs the gamut from whisper quiet to melt-your-face-off loud in the same song.
Rory: We'll have a song where Rantz will just sit there for three minutes, play a huge guitar solo at the end and then he's done.
Adam: We do a lot of that in our composition. Where instruments are introduced specifically to emphasize the meaning of the song. So in that song we were just sound-checking, which is called "̣I'm Sure It Helps', Aaron, our multi-instrumentalists role is to play this distorted, loud, intense guitar-solo and that wraps up his part. It's introduced and explodes because the song explodes and then it goes away. So I think that's how we manage to keep things to where we think that there's a lot of space in the songs with that many people. People are comfortable playing a specific role to serve the song.
Meghan: And you have just collected members since you started writing by yourself in your basement?
Adam: Yeah. I met Aaron when we both worked in a mental health facility helping kids that don't have families and have mental health issues. We started playing music together for the kids. We were trying to teach them to get interested in music. He was a real bluegrass person and I was writing acoustic guitar folk songs. We eventually started playing together and started the band. We used to go play at this grocery store in our neighborhood in the aisles on Friday nights. They had an open-mic night. We would go play a couple cover songs and a couple songs that I had written.
Meghan: Sounds like a cool grocery store.
Adam: Yeah. And Rory and I went to junior high and high school together and we needed a bass player so he sold one of his guitars and started learning how to play bass.
Rory: I had to get in on that grocery store action.
Adam: Once we had a bass player we were too big for Ross Island Grocery. I met Ian because in college he got ditched at a party at our house and was stuck without a car there for three days over Thanksgiving break. He didn't know anybody and he just slept on the couch. Eventually we reconnected after school at a show. Four years later. We were getting ready to let go of our drummer at the time and looking for somebody else. Paul who plays the piano was a reference. It was a new member every six or seven months for the first two years of the band and we haven't had any personnel changes since then.
Meghan: So you are still the exclusive song-writer or do you guys all collaborate now?
Adam: The songs all start somewhere and often they'll start with me but everybody writes their own parts and we all arrange and the sound of the song is very much a group process. What's really cool about our new record, Breaks In The Sun, is that one of the songs started entirely with our piano player, Paul. It's called "̣The Piano Hymn'. It's the last track on the record. It was super-cool. It's totally different than all of our other songs because it comes from different origins. We all put our different flavors and tastes to it and it changes and becomes a Weinland song. But it started there. There are two other songs on there where we collaborated in the initial writing of the melody of the music. It changes things; it gives those songs a different feel. It's pretty cool. It's starting to be more of a collaborative process from start to finish. Where it's always been collaborative. Now it's the whole distance. And that comes from being together now for two years without any changes.
Meghan: While we're on the topic of Breaks in the Sun, how do you feel like it's different from your earlier records?
Adam: Well, I think the primary difference is that we're way better. We've been doing nothing but playing music for over a year so we've got a lot more tricks up our sleeves. That record was really spontaneous; it was recorded as the songs were written. So we had little themes and stuff when we went in and starting playing. With a lot of the songs we would go in and start recording a song and at the end of the day we'd have a fully tracked song that didn't exist the day before. It was really exciting because we were capturing those moments at inception. When the songs were being written, we captured the magic of that moment. It comes off really cool. The whole record was recorded in seventeen days. Seventeen fourteen-hour days practically sleeping and passing out in the studio. Whereas, our last record La Lamentor was recorded over the course of a year in four different two week sessions. So this record is very much a snippet of where the band is right now and what we sound like right now. It's different from the other records for that reason.
Meghan: Do you feel like the quicker recording process lends more of a raw sound to Breaks in the Sun or do you feel the opposite is true?
Adam: We're going over this a lot. We're already talking about what we're going to do for the next record. We're talking about demo-ing it first and having everybody sit with the songs before we play them together. Which is the opposite of Breaks in the Sun where we all had to learn the songs afterward. None of us knew how to play them once the record was done. You couldn't remember. "What did I play on that? I have no idea because I made it up, I recorded it and then I moved on." So yeah, in general, the way we play those songs now, we're much more confident and easy in their delivery. So there is some rawness on the record that wouldn't be there if we recorded it now. That's definitely true. But I also think that that's cool about the record. That's the neat part about it. But we're already talking about trying to do something different for the next one. That's part of what's validating about being a musician. Changing things and trying to do it different and get that excitement out of the art that you're making.
Meghan: Entertainment Weekly tagged you guys as a "beard rock band." Are you aware of that?
Meghan: What do you make of that?
Adam: Heart Magazine called us five beardos.
Ian: I've never had a beard in my life.
Adam: Ian's the only one without a beard. So do you want to field this one, beardless drummer?
Ian: I just hide back there.
Adam: We just did a regional tour in Oregon and Washington that was really fun. We told one of the audiences one night - I don't even remember how it came up - that we had realized that beard is a genre now. If you have a beard, you are automatically lumped into this group of beard people.
Meghan: The indie singer-songwriters?
Adam: Yeah. And so we're practically beard-rock.
Recorded At: Cafe du Nord, San Francisco
Date: June 3, 2009