|Big Wilson River
|drunk dialing god
Devon Antonetti - May 4, 2012
Reaching instant intensity with the dual night and day vocals of Darrin Bradbury and Emma McLaughlin, Big Wilson River have charged up thrash folk streaming out from under them. The band released “Octopus” in 2011, showcasing their 90’s alternative influences and blues sensibilities in a major way. Songs like “Hemingway Had a Cat” and “Dandelion” highlight the band’s ability to engage listeners with screams and punches, both literal and sonic, especially with lyrics claiming to “drunk dial God.”
Through the seemingly aggressive sound, true fragility emerges on songs like “River Boat” and “Backyeard Passout Fest,” where Bradbury and McLaughlin plead to “just lie here/ I will be fine,” which seems entirely believable. For such a powerful combination of folk and heavy hits, Big Wilson River is the equivalent of a hundred smashed Mason jars over an old wooden back porch.
Deli recently listed you in the year end Best of NYC Emerging Artist poll. What kind of response did you all have to that?
Emma: That was some really great news that came right after releasing our last album to know that our work was paying off and that people were actually listening. We come from a close knit group of friends and fans in North Jersey and we're constantly trying to stay honest to what we do and where we come from, which can be a scary proposition when you put that out into the world. Everyone likes to be validated, especially in such a major way.
What was your experience playing SXSW? What is different about playing festivals than traditional shows?
SXSW was overwhelming but exciting. Personally I had a great time and saw a lot of awesome bands in the few days I was there. We also had a few friends there, which was great. At the end of the day though it can be a lot more gratifying playing in someone's basement or living room. Not so long ago we were playing acoustic, just me and Darrin, in an abandoned barn in Connecticut to a bunch of DIY kids. We like shows where we can really feel close and connected to an audience. Festivals can be a bit of a marathon. People have so many options. But big events like that are great because you can meet so many other musicians and creators and unique people. We love to meet people.
What were some of your Pre-BWR musical experiences? Lots of solo work, but any previous bands?
You can see if you take a look at Darrin's bandcamp where he dumps everything he does (http://darrinbradbury.bandcamp.com/) that he has been working for years and continuously writing regardless of his band status. I myself have been working on solo stuff (but not in great quantity or probably quality) for 4 or 5 years. I won't tell you about Darrin's early bands because he will probably get mad at me.
Many of our members also have side projects (People in Charge, Mount Moon) and our former members are also in great bands too: (Gypsy wig, Conor and the Stonehill Kids)
Is there any difference between Jersey and NYC crowds?
In my mind there are three crowds: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. Manhattan is a tough proving ground. There are lots of promoters looking to make a buck. But we have definitely played some awesome shows there too.
Brooklyn is great because the people are supportive, everyone appreciates creativity and risk.
New Jersey is our stomping ground. We're all from here, so it's comfortable. Also our NJ shows get a lot more rowdy, loud, exciting. Maybe it’s just because we're among friends, maybe it’s because Jersey kids just like to jump around more, but every time we play Maxwell's one of our band members gets hurt, and enjoys it.
How do you stay in touch with folk, rootsy sounds living in a big city? What newer bands do you draw inspiration from?
We're more from the suburbs than the city so I think you get that balance of being close to all this culture and opportunity without losing your ability to be introspective.
Darrin has spent a lot of time when he was growing up in the south and I don’t think he'll ever stop writing these John Prine-esque narratives, no matter what musical backdrop he’s a part of.
There is a lot of Townes and Prine rooted in what we do. But have all also been going through a big 90's phase right now with Pavement, Dinosaur Jr coming through on the new material. Also ELO… seriously. We are inspired by new bands, but I think we try not to allow what’s new and popular to really get into our music. We've have been doing this for years, and want to continue to do it for years. We try to stay honest to what we create. We aren't thinking about trends or what's new and cool.  I think part of that is to protect ourselves- we aren't the hippest folks, but we do alright.
Where have been your favorite places to play outside of New York City?
The Garage is the hub for our label, Trunk Rock Records, and we put on some awesome shows there. We once played on a converted airstream stage in Elmira, New York. We love to play Maxwell's- they are so great and supportive of New Jersey music. AS 220 in Providence is also a wonderful place, with great food and a great space.
And my personal dream come true was playing at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park. We've played there twice and we'll be playing there again in a month or so. Three words: punk rock bowling. Plus I love the Asbury music scene because it’s where I’m from.