When last we spoke with the Wild Reeds, in October 2015, the locally rooted Americana quintet’s members were still adjusting to life as full-time focused musicians, having recently quit distracting day jobs after acquiring a manager and booking agent who kept them on the road. Flash forward to 2017, and they’re busier than ever, thanks in part to influential NPR host Bob Boilen, who created the Tiny Desk series where the Wild Reeds have guested. They’re headlining at Teragram Ballroom in Downtown LA this Saturday.
Bandleader Kinsey Lee and guitarists Mackenzie Howe and Sharon Silva still take turns singing lead, the latter playing acoustic and electric guitar as Howe and Lee trade banjo and harmonium duties, and their smoothly braided harmonies remain at the forefront. But as their new album “The World We Built” shows, they’ve come a long way from the acoustic strumminess of their 2010 trio debut, “Songs for the Morning, Afternoon and Evening,” made when they were still San Gabriel Valley college students. For one thing, the formal addition in late 2012 of bassist Nick Phakpiseth and drummer Nick Jones has given their music more rhythmic heft and inspired broader songwriting ideas. Where 2014’s “Blind and Brave” was sincerely flavored by Appalachian folk, the polished confidence and arrangements heard on “The World We Built” (and last year’s “Best Wishes” EP) invite comparisons to more pop-oriented peers like Oregon trio Joseph and Swedish duo First Aid Kit.
Faith in their music, and in their DIY ethos, has paid off for the Wild Reeds, though new songs like “Capable” acknowledge the aggravations as well as the thrills of establishing independence in a widening world: “My anger surrounds me like a coat when I shiver/ I let it surround me with these thoughts often so bitter/ But friend, if you’d help me I think I’d make it through this winter/ ’Cause you said I’m capable of so much more/ Than these people give me credit for.” “Patience” surges with melodic determination, while “Not an Option” hints at the compromises demanded by road life (“My house cries when I leave/ All my fingerprints on the doors they turn pink”).
Then there’s lead-off single “Only Songs”:
“The only thing that saves me are these songs I sing, baby
You can’t save me from anything
Not from my twisted mind or wasted time
From heartache or all my mistakes
Not from the world and its dark ways”
That may prove to be the band’s signature tune, with its harmonized camaraderie, sing-along chorus and uplifting message: the transcendent power of a good song. n
The Wild Reeds play Teragram Ballroom, 1234 W. 7th St., Downtown LA, at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20; $15. Info: (213) 689-9100. Thewildreedsmusic.com, teragramballroom.com