Stopping by the Maintenance Shop on Friday, April 13 at is the up-and-coming modern-folk band The Way Down Wanderers.
The quintet is comprised of Austin Thompson (guitar/ lead vocals), Collin Krause (mandolin/ lead vocals), John Merikoski (drums), John Williams (bass/ vocals) and Travis Kowalsky (banjo/ fiddle). They emerging band is based in Peoria, Illinois.
The five-piece act have been writing and performing together since 2015 and have since released an EP, "Wellspring," and a self-titled full-length studio album which came out in the summer of 2016. Throughout the band’s relatively young career, they have gained a fast-growing and loyal following and have been featured relevantly for their music and songwriting such as qualifying for the Official International Bluegrass Music Association Showcase 2016, becoming a finalist in the 2015 International Song Writing Competition, being highlighted on Songpickr's 2016 Best Songs Spotify Playlist, and many more.
The Way Down Wanderers have just returned to touring from taking a winter-long break after returning from performing all over the United Kingdom for the most part of November and December of last year. Thompson mentioned that although touring is exciting and incredible, the break has given the band a better environment to prepare for their upcoming album.
“Being home, you really have more space and more time to dive into things. I liked being able to get the chance to write new songs and to be able to have the time to really sit with them [the band] focus,” Thompson said.
More recently, The Way Down Wanderers participated in the "MerleFest On the Road" tour for the last month in order to promote the popular folk music festival. Also, in order to support their second album, the band launched a Patreon campaign in January of this year.
“The campaign is a little bit different from that of a Kickstarter or GoFundMe because there isn’t any hard merchandise involved,” Thompson explained. “It’s more of just content. So people get lots of content from the studio that we’ve just been in, lots of inside scoops on songs and lots of really cool notes. People also give us feedback on song ideas and titles. In exchange for what people give us, they get to tap into a lot of really cool behind the scenes stuff.”
For the band’s sophomore album, they have been working out of Los Angeles with producer David Schiffman. Thompson described their new music as more progressive than their debut record.
“We kind of get classified as a bluegrass or string band when we’ve always had a drummer or a bass player, stuff like that. For our first album we had electric stuff on there but with the second album, it leans more towards the Americana rock-country-folk vibe. I would say it’s much more of an evolved, mature record than the first [album] when it comes to the song material and the overall textures of our sound,” Thompson said.
The songwriting processes the quintet takes changes as the band grows and progresses according to Thompson.
“Early on it was just Collin and myself writing our songs. He and I would collaborate a little bit but the songs we brought in individually would more-or-less almost done. Lately we’ve been trying to be more collaborative. Collin and I bring skeletons of songs to the band and it gets more evolved from there. As a group we would address the song and where it’s at and then people start throwing out ideas,” Thompson said.
As a comparatively young band, they hope to work hard for their future in the music industry knowing that this is the life that is right for them. Their hard work shows itself in the fan base they have acquired so far, attracted by the band’s fresh take on folk music with additions of rock influences, the versatility of their sound and their vivid lyrics.
Thompson described their music as “staying true to American roots music while keeping a nice modern flair on it. We’ll do some bluegrass sounds but also rock out on it.”
The Way Down Wanderers hope for their audience to feel a connection to the band and to those in the world around them through their music that tries to convey relatable feelings.
“We write all of our songs, so each song has its own meaning and its own special place. Overall, it’s just a way for us to express who we are, what we feel and what we go through as well as to bring some light or inspiration in. We try to bring a movement through what we do,” Thompson said.
The band looks forward to returning to play on campus in a city that they have loved since their early days touring as a band, according to Thompson.
"We’re a pretty young band so I’m just ready to play for the audience there. I’m excited for young people to be into folk music or acoustic music. I’m always excited for the energy that the people in that city bring,” Thompson said.
Tickets are $8 with a student ID and $12 for the public. They are available for purchase at the M-Shop box office or online via Midwestix.