Senryu founder ponders transition on ‘Half Wild’ release
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A phone interview with Wil Wright, mastermind of the East Tennessee-based indie-pop band Senryu, is delayed briefly due to “gear emergency.”
The band is playing in Columbus, Ohio, on this particular night, and Wright has just discovered his pedal board has been left behind in Chicago. A fast load-out in the pouring rain the night before meant that it was overlooked, but Wright thinks fast on his feet, arranging for the board to be overnighted to the next tour stop — Pittsburgh, Pa. — and a few stop-gap measures are instituted for the Columbus show.
Such is the life of a DIY band that still, after 11 years, keeps grinding away at the music game. It’s not easy, and seeing fellow Knoxville-based bands achieve more commercial success with less time and effort under their belts can make a man question his commitment, Wright said.
“It makes you take inventory of your priorities, but so much of our priority is shown in the shows we choose and the people we’ve worked with,” he said. “We’ve sort of chased this always expanding family. Everywhere we’ve stopped on this tour, we find small pockets of what we see in Knoxville — people who know every single word, who make every show this immediate huge celebration. That’s what we’ve chased in lieu of network television and Lollapalooza, and being on a trip like this makes me appreciate it.”
That community has sustained Senryu since the band released its first album, “Stars and Garters,” in 2001. Over the next several years, Senryu became the vehicle for Wright’s musical exploration and experimentation, and the band’s work ethic has been a punishing one — album after album was released, all of them quite good, some amazing, but none up to the exacting standards Wright set for himself.
Until now, at least. Earlier this month, Senryu released “Half Wild,” and for the first time, Wright doesn’t feel as driven to get to work on the next project. That’s saying a lot.
“I have a ton of songs sitting there, but I promised myself if I ever made a record where I feel I got it right, I would ride the brakes a little bit,” he said. “We’re not going to try and record anything until the end of the year because we just want to give ‘Half Wild’ a chance to get to people. That’ll be a pretty big lull for us.”
And for good reason — just when the listener thinks it’s going to jump the tracks and turn into something so chaotic and crazy, Wright and co. reel it back in, making this record more nuanced, more complex, than anything the band has done in the past.
“It’s the same old energy, but it’s a little more rifle and a little less shotgun,” Wright said. “It has a lot to do with transition, and transition you kind of can’t help. The general concept is that every time something happens to you, it changes you. There’s the version of you before that, and the version of you after it. The album is sort of exploring that moment where you’re kind of both — the transition when you’re caught between the unspoiled and the experience.”
The experience is what he and his bandmates live for — that visceral, live-and-in-color connection to life and its mysteries and tragedies and celebrations, especially when close friends and fans are along for the ride.
“I think I would get tired of it pretty quick if it wasn’t the community and the kind of energy we’re a part of,” he said. “Everywhere we go, it’s a struggle to make it awesome, and it feels great.”