A Wilhelm Scream

Things have been picking up for New Bedford, Massachusetts' A Wilhelm Scream. Following the conclusion of their deal with Nitro, the boys signed to Paper + Plastick and released their self-recorded, self-produced, and self-titled EP. The EP was an immediate hit finding itself on several top-records/EPs-of-the-year lists. After a marathon run playing Soundwave in Australia, Sean Jain dialed-up guitarist/co-vocalist Trevor Reilly and chatted with him about Wilhelm's upcoming Canadian tour with Outbreak, the Soundwave experience, plans for a new album, and the creative engine that drives A Wilhelm Scream.

So you guys just finished up Soundwave in Australia as well as a show in New Zealand, how did those go?

Man it was the best ever (laughs). Definitely one of the best tours ever. Every time we go to Australia we always say that when we come home, but this time—cloud nine. The shows were incredible, the people were awesome and so receptive, everybody was singing-along, nobody was inhibited at any of the shows. Nobody was afraid or embarrassed to get down and party, and it was rad. Dude, there were so many awesome bands there—Faith No More was incredible, Jane’s addiction, Paramore was awesome, Sunny Day Real Estate was amazing, I can go on and on, Anvil was insane. I lit the drummer of Anvil’s joint for him which was awesome.

While he was playing?

No actually, after they had played. Like, one of the last shows we were scrambling, we were like, "Alright, we’ve gotta find all the bands we haven’t seen, we’ve gotta check ‘em out today!" So we went and saw Anvil—I figured there be mad bands on stage and stuff watching them but there was nobody, not like, one person. I was like, "Screw this," so we brought our crew and you know, we rolled really deep to Soundwave we rolled with like, a tour manager, a sound-guy, and a videographer, it was like eight of us. We taped the whole thing. Ben Thornley came with us, taped the whole thing and got awesome footage. He basically went with us to everything we did. Every day for us was action packed. But yeah, our whole crew went on stage, checked out Anvil and it was amazing. They were slaying it, this guy did like a five minute drum solo…he looked at the side of the stage and we’d make eye contact with all the dudes in the band and be like, "Hell yeah!" and then they’d, you know…bust out some crazy solos. It was a great rock experience, it was inspiring, it was almost inspiring as being on the tour in the first place. So yeah, smoked with him later on told him what I thought of his set. Super sweet dudes.

So you guys taped the whole Soundwave adventure?

Yeah, Ben Thornley, he did a bunch of videos for us. He did the, "5 to 9" video, "I Wipe My Ass with Showbiz," "Die While We’re Young" video, and most recently our, "Fun Time" video. He’s from Bolton, England and he’s just so talented and he’s done so much for us over the years so when we got the opportunity to go over we were like, "Hey Ben, how’d you like to come out to Australia?" and he’s like, "Oh yeah, good on ya," and we’re like, "Fuck yeah man, come on out!" It was great that we got the opportunity to bring him out to paradise, cause, I know that in England it was snowing and freezing, and I know that in New Bedford, Massachusetts it was the same deal, snowing and freezing, and I’m feeling it now…my whole head…it feels like I’m underwater right now.

Yeah, I guess you went from warm summer weather to cold winter weather.

Oh dude, it was like, ninety-eight degrees every day. Perth was over 100. It was brutal, but we all got tans, we got to stay in some really nice hotels so a lot of us got up early and went and worked out in the gym…it was a good feeling.

I think the whole experience was definitely a recharge. While I was out there, a bunch of ideas for songs came up and I was working on songs that I already had in the fire, it was just like, I dunno, that tour came at a great time. Like, in the dead of winter, let’s go to paradise for a couple months, play some awesome shows, hang out with some awesome bands, have some fun, and meet some cool people. We finally met the Four Year Strong guys, kicked it with them quite a bit—super nice dudes. I can’t believe we hadn’t met them yet, they live like an hour from here. But yeah…just awesome.

So yeah, going back to Ben, is some of his footage going to end up in a music video or a DVD?

Definitely. What Ben had in mind—of course, I think he had a good idea of what he wanted—but the thing about Ben is, his camera’s always on. So you never know when he’s filming. It’s not like he’s filming embarrassing stuff because, you know, we never act like dicks or anything so we’re not worried about getting captured as dicks you know? But like, he just catches us at every moment on tour and I think it will really show that—in his videos that—we really enjoy each other’s company. I really think that that’s going to come through and I think that’s really the most important theme about it all. I guess when you set out to do a video, you know…I’ve never directed a video, but I’ve spoken to Ben a lot about this kind of stuff ‘cause I’m very interested—because he’s so talented, you know what I mean? I want to know what makes him tick. So I was like, "Ben you know, what’s it like, do you have an idea of what you want it to be?" What I learned from Ben was that, you get everything, then you watch the footage later, and then you say, "Okay, that’s what we’ve been getting…that’s the story." I guess your footage tells you what the story is and then you just follow it and tell the best story you can.

We’ve worked with each other so much that it’s so normal for you to be talking to somebody and have a camera, you know what I mean? It’s so automatic at this point, because we’re so comfortable with Ben, being such great friends with him. The new thing this time though, was that Ben would take us individually and interview us so he’d have some dialogue to go over a lot of the footage that he was making, which is something that we haven’t really done before. Some of the questions that he asked me were like, "Tell me about Ray, tell me how you met Ray"—Ray being our manager. You know, we all started doing this whole music-biz-thing together and he’s always been in our corner so, you can imagine all the sappy, corny shit I said about one of my best friends. So, Ben definitely got some of the real stuff, I think it’s going to be really cool, and we’ve done so much footage with Ben that we’re stockpiling so much stuff that, when Wilhelm does come out with a DVD it’s gonna be epic. When we do finally put something out it’s just gonna be something that, hopefully, really takes advantage of whatever medium is hot. If it’s still Blu-ray then we’ll be doing something to capitalize on everything that Blu-ray can do.

So you guys have a tour coming up with Outbreak across central and eastern Canada, what are you looking forward to most?

We love coming to Canada. It’s great to be going up with Outbreak, they’ve got some serious balls—musically, you know, and we love playing with bands like that. I think its going to be a great tour, man. I’m really looking forward to watching all the bands every night. We’re definitely the type of band that we want to start the show, we want to have a beer right away, we want to watch the first band right away, we want our experience,—our party—to last…we want to start at seven and end at whenever. We want to end at question mark. That’s my long way around of saying that I’m stoked.

Canada is such a huge country from end to end and you guys have toured all over it…what is your favorite and least favorite parts to drive?

To drive, I would say the least favorite part to drive is right in the middle there where you’ve got to watch out for all the moose. That’s pretty scary. I’m knocking on wood right now. I don’t wish any band to see any moose or anything like that. I hope all the bands out there really pay attention, make sure that there’s more than one person awake, make sure the guy riding shotgun isn’t sleeping, make sure that you’re alert when you’re driving the middle of Canada because those moose are fucking bionic dude. Their legs alone are like, six and a half feet tall, it’s like a car going by as slow as he feels like going. I definitely almost plowed into one of those things at four in the morning and if that had happened, if I hadn’t pounded four coffees that night, we might have, then you might be interviewing me about something else!

That’s definitely the hairiest. The most pleasant, the best place to drive—I like driving on the West coast. Either extreme coasts I dig. I love the East coast as well and this tour’s going to be taking us to some really East coast places like north, I think we’re going pretty far up north too.

Yeah I think you guys are going to places like Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Yeah! Totally,…places we haven’t been in a long time, so I’m really looking forward to go out there because I know there’s a lot of beautiful country out there…there’s a lot of sweet stuff to see.

Do you have a favorite Canadian beer?

Beer? Um…I used to always love Kokanee…that was like the first beer that we had. We’ve been going to Canada, you know, since well before we were of legal age to drink in America. So, one of the first beers that I drank in a bar was Kokanee being eighteen years old or nineteen years old. I’ve always loved Kokanee since then. Is Alexander Keith’s Canadian as well?

Yes it is.

Yeah I like that one too (laughs). I like all the Canadian beers, they’re all strong and they’re all frosty and cold and that’s all I can really ask for, you know?

What’s your favorite song to play live off the new EP?

We started playing, "Fun Time" and that’s a real blast, but I gotta say, "Skid Rock" is the funnest just because that song really plays to all of our strengths. Brian gets to do his crazy tapping thing, and we finally unleash Mike’s guitar solo fury. I think that’s the most fun right now. Seeing the looks on the crowds faces’ when we start playing it, up until the very end. And that’s not a really short song you know? It’s kind of a lengthy, four-minute, song and it keeps peoples attention.

I understand you guys have a die-cut, gatefold vinyl version of your recently released EP coming out…is it going to be available on this tour?

I hope so. It was supposed to be done months ago. I’m glad you asked that because a lot of people have been asking like, "Wasn’t that supposed to come out in November?" We had everything ready, we had all the artwork and everything ready to go but since, like you said, we had die-cuts…this was the first release where we had the intention was for it to be on LP and then we were going to toss the CD inside it so the kids can go into their car and listen to it right there. We were just going to include the CD for free. The way it ended up working out was, we were always on tour so Vinnie was like, "Alright, we’ll get some CD copies for you guys to hold the fans over." So that’s why we’ve had these CD tour copies and also the version from Greece and the version from Germany, and the version from Australia, and we’ve had all those CDs and stuff but we’ve yet to see the vinyl. I can’t confirm or deny that we’ll have them for this tour but if we can make it happen, we’ll definitely have them. I guess though, it takes a while for vinyl to be manufactured and with all the shit that we have with it—we pulled out all the stops on it because we were like, "It’s just going to be on LP? Okay what sorts of wacky shit can we do with vinyl? Alright, let’s do it," and apparently if you want vinyl to play backwards on the back in a special spot then it takes like an extra month and a half to make sure that you do that. So when it finally does come out there’s going to be all kinds of fun wacky shit going on. I can’t wait to see it myself, I’m really stoked on it.

So with all your future touring coming up, Harvest of Hope, Canada, and Europe with Pennywise and Strike Anywhere, are there any plans to head back into the studio this year and do a full-length?

Yeah. The short answer is yeah. While we were on this tour, we got offered a couple other tours, and luckily for us, those tours are going to be just outside the time that we’re giving ourselves to write and record, so I think we’re kind of looking at June and July as really going for it, but like June and July kind of fragile (laughs). We’re hoping to be home for the summer because we haven’t been in a while and I think it would be pretty sweet to record an album in the summer.

Yeah totally, in your home town, when its beautiful and sunny out.

Hell yeah. I mean, the ideas are there, we’ve got like tons of ideas and I’ve got tons of lyric ideas just flooding up in me. We’re all in a great place right now and when you’re in a great place mentally the songs…I mean, you’ll have more songs then you’ll know what to do with.

Any idea if any of the songs from the EP will end up on the full-length?

That’s a good question because my whole intention for the song, "Fun Time" was to kind of have one version where its very stripped down with me singing it, and more of like a rock vibe. Like imagine if I was the lead singer of the band, the band would sound quite different, because Nuno is so much the voice of Wilhelm, even though it’s a lot of my work that he’s singing. It’s his personality, it’s his voice that’s on the songs. When a lot of these songs start, especially since I have the advantage of having a studio, I would do different versions of the songs just to get them written and then bring them to Wilhelm and then we give the Wilhelm sound to it.

I didn’t know that you wrote a lot of the lyrics, that’s pretty cool.

Yeah, I always have. I’ve always done the lion’s share of the writing for the band going back a long time. But yeah, what I was saying about the, "Fun Time" thing, I did an acoustic version. Basically I wrote the song the night before and I recorded it the next morning so it was kind of imperfect. So I made a CD of it and I passed it along and the guys were like, "Man I really love that song." So I was like, "Alright, let’s try it." So we did our version which was like, a medium-speed version whereas the original, when I wrote it, was like, "Whoa this guy is gonna fucking kill himself," you know? It sounds like I’m very bummed. Its like, I’m singing about, "All day long, I sing this song, and it’s driving me insane." And it sounds like I’ve got a razor in my hands while I’m singing these happy words.

That’s interesting, the version on the EP sounds pretty upbeat. There’s like a whole other side to it.

(laughs). Yeah I mean, the original version is called, "Super Happy Fun Time." The Wilhelm version is called, "Fun Time," and I’m sure the demo version will come out eventually and that will be called, "Super Happy Fun time," and when you hear it, you’ll see why. It can be a bit of a downer, but a catchy downer (laughs).

When I write songs and I bring them to the band, a lot of them end up sounding very alternative-rock just because that’s a lot of the stuff that really comes naturally to me. Like the Dinosaur Jr. in me comes out. In a lot of interviews, people will say, "What do the guys bring to the band?" and I’ll say, "The guys bring to the band what the band is, because the band is the band. The band is what makes our sound." I might have made the arrangement, I might have made the words, the melody, whatever, but regardless of all that shit, what your hearing is personalities of all five guys and what it sounds like when we play together. As I get older, I continually see how so many bands don’t work that way, how so many bands they go from the direction of just one guy and that’s fucking sad. That’s fucking sad to me, because you’re cheating every body out of some beauty that can really go down. Honestly, I feel like I have that best musicians in the world in my band and I’d be a complete fool not to let the beauty that comes out of their finger tips enhance my songs.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that you wrote most of the songs as well.

Well we’re in a new age, we’re definitely in a new age. We’ve come out of the whole age where everyone checked out the liner notes, because a lot of people are just hearing the band on the mp3’s and you don’t get all that information…you don’t know who’s recording it. That was like the magic of the beginning of my love affair with music, reading all the liner notes. You know, like "Who the fuck is this guy," "What does a producer do?" Those were questions that I had way early on and I feel like a lot of kids don’t really get that but I’m kind of digressing, go on.

So basically you stitch the skeleton together and then the rest of the band get together and add the, "body."

Yeah, exactly. You know how I relate to it, I basically relate to it like this, somebody’s gotta drive this fucking bus. Somebody’s got to drive it and that’s not always the fun part. But for me, it really is fun. It’s kind of like directing, like pointing things in a direction—that’s going to stoke me out and make me finish songs. It’s something that will give me that spark or that motivation and in order to do that, you really have to make yourself receptive to what everybody’s doing—to what Nick does on the drums. If he does something a little bit different, I do something a little bit different right along with him. There’s no room for real stubbornness and if I’ve got to be stubborn, then I’ll take twelve and a half minutes to explain why I feel we should do it a different way. I mean, I’ve been playing with these guys for so long that that they trust me. They trust me so much, we’ve done so many records this way together, that we all know what we’re good at and I really don’t mind the guys looking to me for where to go next, because I owe it to them to have an idea. At the same time, they owe it to themselves, and to me, and to the whole band to rock the fuck out and stoke each other out and get everybody psyched.

And that’s how you make good records right?

That’s how you make great records. That’s the whole secret right there, that’s the magic…it’s not a guy in his room alone, believe me. I’ve definitely been that guy alone…like the Ruiner record, our second record. That’s a guy in a room alone, and I gotta say, sure that came out good, but if I did that part 2, that would be a really bad record. It would be really bad and I’m the first one to admit it. I’m not going to go into a room, alone, and write a record again because I might not come out of that room. (laughs) They might carry me out of that room.

As I get older, you know, I’ve found out that there is enough room for everyone’s ideas and I really try to nurture everybody’s ideas to make everybody not afraid to bring up ideas because I know how daunting it is to bring your idea in front of four people. Even if they’re four of your brothers, its not always that easy.

Alrighty, last question, how do you respond to allegations that your new EP has been melting off peoples’ faces?

(laughs) Oh man, I don’t know if you can make the New England accent come out in print but all I can say to that is, "Guilty as charged."