For the past three years, Music & Arts has held a Battle of the Bands, showcasing up and coming talent across the country. Sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery, Fender, Zildjian Company and P Mauriat North America, Music & Arts is excited to announce this year’s winner–Will Wood & The Tapeworms. Renier Fee, Director of Marketing at Music & Arts, sat down with Will Wood and here’s what we learned.
Tell me about young Will Wood .How did you get started in music?
My stepfather was a piano tuner and repairman until his young death from pernicious anemia. Growing up, I was surrounded by hammers, teeth, fingers, and keys. I would sit and watch for hours as he rewound wires, cobbled wooden shards back together, and pocketed stray pieces of ivory. Like a cross between a car mechanic and watchmaker, I would watch him masterfully navigate the innards of these imposing and beautifully intricate machines, and I suppose it began to program things into my brain. Being a distant relative of Sergei Rachmaninov, the famous piano virtuoso with a genetic disorder that gave him enormous hand flexibility and size, maybe it triggered a few dormant genes. When my stepfather introduced me to the layout of the keyboard, things clicked quickly.
Did you take piano lessons?
My stepfather initially gave me lessons in the garage, where he would keep pianos to restore, rebuild, or gather dust. Some of them were beyond help, but too beautifully crafted or historic to dispose of. He pulled his hair out trying to get me to play on a well-restored piano, but failed to keep me away from the broken-down honky tonk, the baby grandfather or the double-hammer pedal-stop upright chickering. Eventually he gave up on giving me lessons, I would play with heavy hands and shatter his hard work until he locked me out of the garage, which only forced me to sneak into local schools and churches to play their pianos until I almost knew what I was doing.
I’ve seen your music described many ways. Experimental. Avant-garde. Cabaret. What do you call it?
Whatever’s most convenient in the moment I’m being asked it. In interviews, where no one answer would be more pragmatic than another, I say this.
Your band line-up changed. How do you know when the chemistry is right with a new band member?
I’ve gone through more lineup changes than I have haircuts. And lineup changes are quite a lot like haircuts, in that you can’t be sure how you feel about the change until you’ve given it some time. Unfortunately, modern science has yet to give us a method of auditioning haircuts. Sometimes it’s a gamble. Sometimes you end up looking like a complete idiot without knowing it, sometimes everyone suddenly starts asking you out. Either way, it’s important to be careful, and to be patient; because it sucks to shave it all off and start from square one.
Your saxophone player, Matt Berger, is an employee in our Paramus, NJ, store How did you meet him?
I had a story and some interesting details written but Berger urged me to be more straightforward. So basically, he and Mike worked together and when our last saxophone player left Mike brought it up to Berger and we gave him an audition where I made him very uncomfortable but he was really good so now he’s in the band and we’re happy to have him. Happy, Berger? Jeez dude I had POETRY here.
What was it like to be a finalist and then win the 3rd annual Music & Arts’ Battle of the Bands?
It felt good to hold one of those giant checks you see on TV. To be perfectly honest, I felt like a hero. I felt like a champion. The quarterback of the winning team. I don’t win things, you see. I was in Atlantic City a few days ago and it took me three hours to completely ruin myself. I live the basement of a Korean restaurant outside my home town. I don’t get many opportunities to win, let alone actual wins. All I do is play piano and stuff packages all day. But hot damn did it feel genuinely wonderful to see how excited my bandmates got. I like to bury my fuzzy feelings under a buffer of incredulity, dry humor, and disinformation but in this situation I’m not gonna lie I was like a little boy on Christmas.
Your band took home top honors, which came with a Music & Arts gift card, Fender guitars and amps, and a P. Mauriat sax. What are you going to buy with the prize money?
You’re lucky it wasn’t cash, because if it had been I wouldn’t be able to answer this question honestly. We’ll be investing all this in making sure we only have the best equipment, the highest-quality gear we can possibly find, and all the supplies we need to make it all work. We’re getting ready to expand, to tour, and to sound tighter than anyone else (including our current selves) on the scene. I’ll make no illusions of my ambition- this is going towards world domination, amigo. I’ll wave to you from the top of the charts.
Are you working on new material or a new album?
Top-of-the-link 4k digital cameras, massive hollywood lights, nashville top 40 recording equipment, and the most talented musicians I’ve ever worked with, are all coming together for the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. I’m using footage and audio from my last two jam-packed sold-out shows to put together a very special piece of work. These shows were raved about by New Noise Magazine, The Star-Ledger, Dying Scene, and countless other local and national music publications- and there will be no confusion as to who’s coming up hardest and fastest once this project sees the light of day. A massive live album entitled “The Real Will Wood,” to be accompanied later by a concert film of a very unusual nature. Am I selling this or what?
Thanks for having us for this. Hope we can work together again soon. Oh and hey, go to willwoodandthetapeworms.com for music, merch, tour dates, and the fanspace for creeps who pay too much attention to me. You can also follow us on instagram, twitter, or snapchat at @tapewormsmusic, and like us on Facebook so you can become one of those creeps who pay too much attention to me. Much love.