In this interview, Shadwick Wilde discusses
the pragmatics of being a rock star.
What place in your career do you feel you’re in?
I’ve been playing shows since I was 17, mostly punk bands at first. I’ve been doing Quiet Hollers for over five years, two of them as my full-time job. We’re about [to] release our third album, and it’s our first with a record label behind us. I literally signed the contract yesterday.
Why settle in Louisville?
I was very resistant, being moved here from Amsterdam as a teenager. But I fell into the punk scene, if not gracefully then enthusiastically, and eventually began to see Louisville as a home base from which touring the East Coast, Midwest, and South was affordable. Louisville also happens to be rich in internationally recognized talent, and known as an incubator of sort of weird and unique bands since at least the 1970s—Bonnie “Prince” Billy, My Morning Jacket, Slint, to drop a few names.
Does the music scene in Louisville foster community or competition?
Both, of course! I see a lot of artists actively building community and a healthy competition based upon trying to make better and better music.
OK, so you’re in Louisville, you form Quiet Hollers, and you develop a following. How does that momentum transfer to touring, playing festivals, promoting albums, etc?
We started touring pretty much immediately—even before we had t-shirts or CDs to sell, which I do not advise. That’s always been the main part of it, so we’ve seen our fan base grow in various markets, including our home base, which has always been the largest. But it wasn’t until our second album, funded entirely by our fans, that things got easier and doors began to open that had seemed closed before.
Oh? Why do you feel that you should have waited until after producing merch?
Most artists’ largest income stream is from merch sold at shows. Unless you have a large following already, you’ll need to sell merch like it’s your job...because it is. For the same reason, you wouldn’t advertise a store [that] didn’t have anything to sell.
Did touring come about because you were playing with other bands, or were you cold calling venues in various towns, or something else?
Early on, we would play anywhere that would let us. Back then we would get a message from somebody saying, “Come play my town,” and we’d just get in the van. Mostly, that’s still true; there are just a few more questions now.
I don’t want to necessarily get into the finances of things, but I do want to understand what life is like before a band is in a position to tour versus after. I would imagine that in the “before” stage everyone has day jobs and committing to the band is a conscious effort, if not a struggle.
We’ve all been living our lives with the goal of making music since young adulthood, and because of that we’re able to tour a few months out of the year and survive on side hustles when we have an extended stay at home. Aaron West, our violinist/multi-instrumentalist, teaches music lessons with a wide variety of age groups and instruments. Dave Chale, our drummer, owns a Dead Bird music studio here in Louisville and also plays drums in Wax Fang and Graffiti.
I’m curious as to how responsibilities are divided up. If you had no team (manager, publicist, booking agent, etc.), then how does a band share the responsibilities of the business aspects of the band?
Obviously, there is every imaginable combination of band members vs. responsibilities, and I’ve seen all kinds. In our case, it has fluctuated over our five or six years, but since it started as “my” project, I initially shouldered the tour booking, most of the driving, nagging band mates to drink water and get rest, negotiating (not good at this), apologizing, and other auxiliary duties, as is customary. Jim Bob has the jokes for morale, Jake is always a team player, and Dave— well, he just engineered and co-produced our new album, Amen Breaks, coming July 7th on Sonablast records.
And now that you have a team, what difference does that make for you personally and the band as a whole?
The best thing has been having more time to write and record. That’s been huge for me. Having a great publicist was a game changer.
Why was a publicist specifically a “game changer?”
Before we had a publicist, it was very difficult to get any press on our music or shows. Most press outlets are inundated with bands asking for their attention. Having somebody who works for you who says, “You should listen to these guys, and here’s why...” is probably much more effective than, “Please, oh please, listen to my band.” It was for us.
In an era of bands being able to find success without the interference of major labels, who traditionally handled all promotional and managerial responsibilities for musicians, how have you navigated the path of an independent musician just trying to sustain yourself, especially in the age of the internet?
I’ve tried to learn from the people who were doing what I wanted to do. I kept at it long enough to learn a lot on my own, and thankfully I’ve been privileged to have family and friends who always supported what I wanted to do in music.
The sound of your band has evolved over time, and even now is a collective of various genres. How does the changing aesthetics of your music impact the relationship with your audience?
Every show has a different audience, and maybe I feel like records should too? I think the only real purpose of genre in 2017 is to be able to describe music without music. I hope our fans feel the same way. I think they do.
How do you define success for Quiet Hollers? I ask this because I was recently speaking with the bassist of a band who kept repeating that his band had no illusions of grandeur because rock wasn’t what’s popular right now; EDM, along with rap and hip-hop, is what’s getting today’s attention.
I’ve defined success in a lot of different ways as I’ve grown up. I used to say it was when you didn’t have to carry your own gear anymore. I just turned 30 and I get to be a rock singer for my job. That’s success to me. As far as rock versus hip-hop, rap, EDM, etc...I think that innovative and exciting music will always capture the attention of the youth. If more rock bands were concerned with those principles, perhaps they would garner more attention. I don’t know.
Should that even be the goal, and who is to say?
Do you feel like you’re in a niche market? Or better yet, do you feel like popular culture influences opportunities on the indie level?
Everyone’s personal tastes are a niche market. I see all different kinds of people at our shows. I know I see our numbers spike when we get featured on a TV show, or [when] one of our songs finds its way onto a playlist, or (god forbid) an actual radio station. That’s part of trying to make it work. We’re all creating culture and hoping it becomes popular.
I suppose this is just for my curiosity, but I want to ask about the name of your band, or I suppose more broadly what goes into naming a band. I've come across bands with names that you just can’t take seriously, or [names] so generic that there's no way to find them if you do a Google search.
Some bands throw a dart at a dictionary. Our former guitarist’s girlfriend came up with the name Quiet Hollers and it stuck. It’s wordplay and it’s vaguely Southern, which is just so neatly apropos.
You’ve been touring as Quiet Hollers for a while, and you’ve been in several other bands, so I want you to ask to take a step back to reflect on your journey. Do you have an “I wish I knew then what I know now?”
I have about a million. I wish I had started taking it seriously at a younger age. I was very much the nihilist, and never thought it looked cool to care too much about anything, including music.
What’s on the agenda for Quiet Hollers?
Our third album, Amen Breaks, drops July 7th. We’re going to keep making records and playing shows, and then I guess we’ll either break up or die.
Shadwick Wilde is the lead guitarist and singer for Quiet Hollers, a Louisville based with an ever-changing sound. Formed in 2010, the band is set to release their third studio album, Amen Breaks, which is their first album released under the record label SonaBLAST! Amen Breaks releases on July 7th. Quiet Hollers is currently on tour.