Originally published on Wonderland Magazine at: wonderlandmagazine.com/2016/04/new-noise-wesley-gonzalez/
Meet the ex-‘Let’s Wrestle’ frontman as he discusses what solo life has to offer.
Seen as one of the most underrated pop-punk bands, Let’s Wrestle bowed out last year with a final sold-out show at London’s 100 Club. Luckily, we didn’t have long to grieve before frontman Wesley Gonzalez announced his solo project. Wesley has joined the likes of Florence and the Machine and Lykke Li in partnering with Moshi Moshi Record Singles club. With a debut album on the way, Wesley is discovering the benefits of being a solo artist, with his personal style found on everything from the lyrics to production. There’s even a limited edition 7” vinyl of his debut AA single “I Spoke To Euan”, which is hardly surprising for someone working in a record shop.
The guitar-based music has been swept aside as Wesley offers a softer and more hypnotic sound in “I Spoke To Euan”. With an almost futuristic feel, it’s the tranquil sound of the piano that opens the song, an instrument Wesley self-taught himself to play. Though his sound may be eclectic, drawing comparisons from both Father John Misty and Sly and the Family Stone, his true skill is as a song-writer. His open and personal lyrics resonate with listeners, it’s easy to understand why when he explains his evocative inspiration, “I went to sleep and had a nightmare that woke me up crying uncontrollably, not really understanding why.” It’s this talent that makes Wesley a truly distinguishable artist, and one the world of pop really needs.
After having spent 10 years in pop-punk band Let’s Wrestle, was it important for you to distinguish your sound as a solo artist, and to make it different to the style of music you had been associated with?
I wouldn’t put it in that way, I think I just decided I fucking hated guitar-based indie music. There’s obviously still stuff that comes out that I like in that genre, but overall I feel it’s a waste of everyone’s time. There is no imagination in a lot of that music. There is nobody writing songs about real things, everybody is so terrified of showing their real selves that they’d rather write a bunch of lyrics that sound cool than take their personality into account. It wasn’t a conscious decision to move away from Let’s Wrestle, as I’m still proud of those records, it was more of a general that I needed to get the fuck away from everything that surrounded the band.
What differences have you encountered being a solo artist compared to being in a band?
Everything is easier, there’s nobody to tell me not to do something. I can’t see a point in time where I would want to be in a band again. Bands seem a bit old fashioned to me nowadays.
Your debut AA singe “I Spoke To Euan” is out soon, but does it feel strange discussing the idea of a debut single and doing ‘new music’ pieces when you’ve done music for so long?
I guess so, I’m glad for the reintroduction though. I’m an egomaniac, so any opportunity to talk about myself is great, especially after having a long time keeping to myself.
“I Spoke To Euan” is very honest lyrically, talking about your over-indulgence on tour. Does having more personal songs ever make it harder to share them?
No, I think it’s the opposite. I’m really excited that I have learnt to be more open about stuff. As long as it doesn’t come across too ‘poor me’ then I’m happy. I think if you’re preoccupied with making sure you don’t represent yourself fully, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you are given the opportunity to express yourself why not be honest with your emotions and allow yourself to be honest?
How has your approach to song writing changed over the years?
Openly expressing myself, I guess which I was discussing previously. Also, quitting guitar completely is a big part of it. When I decided I wanted to learn how to play piano properly, I taught myself by learning how to play Stevie Wonder and Al Green songs, which all have chord structures I’d not paid much attention to previously. There’s also a lot of emphasis on the bass notes and rhythm of the bass.
You have previously said your lyrics are about “feeling powerless as a young person in society”. What would you say is the biggest issue facing young people today?
Living in London is a huge part of it – being able to survive under Tory government is extremely strenuous. Saying that, being a Lefty, I notice most Liberals fighting with like-minded people about stupid bullshit, rather than unifying against a common goal; which is getting Tory government out. It’s infuriating to be young at this time because everything seems completely nihilistic. Nothing seems to be done for anyone
The accompanying video for the flip single “Come Through and See Me” was filmed at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. What made you decide to film it there?
I had an idea when we were making the first Let’s Wrestle LP that we should have all the press photos done at Madame Tussauds, like we were tourists. I told my friend Meilyr, who reminded me of the idea about a year ago. I looked into Madame Tussauds and realised the Blackpool one was cheaper and it was around the time of the illuminations, so me and my mate Danny went up and shot it. We made a conscious effort to make it look as empty as possible; it was surprisingly busy so it was amazing we managed to make the video with only shots of me in it.
Your songs have drawn influence from everything, with reminders of mid-70s music mixed in with electronic sounds. What appealed about making eclectic music rather than focusing on one genre?
I’ve always listened to tons of music and had eclectic taste. I work in a record shop now and used to when we started Let’s Wrestle, so I’ve never just enjoyed one genre. I’m only interested in making pop music and that’s all I want my music to be described as and that’s what I’ve said throughout the entirety of my musical life.
You’ve got a few festivals coming up, with Live at Leeds and Great Escape. What’s the difference of playing at a festival compared to being on tour?
I don’t know I haven’t done any of them yet! The whole show has been a completely new experience. I’m hardly playing any instruments, I’m mainly just singing. I’m dancing a lot and moving which I’ve not really done before, god knows how that’ll be at festivals. Let’s Wrestle never really did many festivals so I am very inexperienced; anyway, I reckon it’ll be wicked!
How’s creating your debut album been going?
Yeah all good. It’s all recorded, just needs a mix, it’s fucking bang tidy.