On the Web: The Wigg Report

Saturday, Apr. 21, 9 p.m.
305 South
305 S. Dillard St., Durham
919-682-2594, www.305southantimall.com

Here’s the origin of The Wigg Report in “See Dick Run” speak, courtesy of Wigg Reporter Ben Riseling: “Christine and Stephen started playing in their laundry room. Ben was an annoyed neighbor who started stalking them until they let him play.”

Thus united, they strip their sound down to just this side of skeletalStephen Mullaney’s briskly strummed guitar, Christine Fantini’s rudimentary drum kit, Riseling’s equal-partner horns and synthand drive it with boundless energy both friendly and, at times, almost ferocious. It’s a delivery that’s arguably the essence of punk, a term that also fits this Durham trio’s knack for what they call “guerrilla gigging.”

An exchange with the Independent fleshed out some of the details. The music’s just fine as it is, thank you.

Independent Weekly: The Wigg Report, Afghan Wigs and the Whigs–please compare and contrast. (For that last one, I was thinking of the scrappy rock band out of Athens, Ga., but the political party could work just as well.)

Wigg Report: Well, Rick. Just as Stephen Douglas represented the Whigs in the heralded debates against Abraham Lincoln, pre-Republican Party mind you…. Actually we’ve never heard any of those other bands you mention.

IW: What’s the most off-the-wall or wide-of-the-mark description you’ve ever heard or read of The Wigg Report? How about the description that seemed to be most in line with what you hear in your head?

WR: Stephen doesn’t want to share with you what he hears in his head. Make the hurting stop. Actually, we’re really blown away by how many references people have to us that are so varied. We’ve had everything from Guided By Voices to Beat Happening to Pixies. To be compared to any band someone likes is frankly very flattering.

IW: What are the best things about Durham, speaking in general music terms and also from a musician’s perspective?

WR: It feels like a lot of bands are moving to Durham to be part of the scene here. The living is affordable and there are jobs. Hard for many to believe, possibly, but whether it’s the Coffeehouse, 305 South, Broad Street Cafe, the new Bull City HQ or just one of our regular guerilla gigs on a street corner we do, people really come out to see you play here. Bands can move here and be part of a very accepting scene very quickly. Durham rules, but if you’d like us to play your town, we’ll play it too!

IW: What do you three do when you’re not serving as the “house punk band on Sesame Street“? (I liked that so much I wanted to be sure to get it in here.)

WR: We work our day jobs. Pot luckin’ with our creative director, Rachel Goodwin. Fish. Hangin’ with neighbors. Kickin’ the can. Go see other bands. You know, the usual.

IW: Ben, how would you describe the role of your saxophone and clarinet in The Wigg Report’s sound? Certainly more (the late) Mark Sandman in Morphine than Tower of Power Horn Section….

WR (specifically Ben): I write almost all my lines after I hear Christine and Stephen’s vocal lines; well, Christine’s mostly because Stephen’s a liability. Seriously, how long are we going to carry him? He’s got great socks, what can I say? I just fill in the chord and then concentrate on the bass line. I came from a band that played Tower of Power horn lines, and playing punk (very new to me) and playing minimalist tones is a lot more challenging for me.

IW: You used the word “minimalist” to describe the tones, and it’s a word that can be applied to the whole band as well. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being minimalists in a music world where bigger is usually seen as being better?

WR: Well now we feel very small. Seriously, we feel our stripped-down unorthodox instrumentation is a constant creative challenge. We can make a pretty big complex sound with just acoustic instruments, a stripped-down drum set with no kick, and a sax playing the bass line standing on a street corner. It’s fun to accomplish that. A lot of bands might come together with some sense of how they want to sound. Honestly, though we’ve come from other bands, The Wigg Report is just a constant happy accident. We’re still having a great time.

IW: Can you explain the concept of guerrilla gigging?

WR: Sure. People don’t let us in their clubs anymore. The stations can’t fit us into their whole college radio agenda. Actually, XDU and KNC have always given us and a ton of local bands support for a long time. Seriously, when we first started playing we didn’t think anyone would like us, but we felt we were worthy for the streets. So we’d just set up on the street, give away our CDs and most people still won’t take them. One highlight: We were playing on the porch of South Bank and an old man came out of his car and gave us 10 bucks. We’ve played out in front of clubs in Raleigh and been invited inside and paid with beer and invited back to play anytime. Guerrilla shows make you incredibly tight because there is nothing to hide behind.

IW: Ben, I just realized that you played on my favorite pop-ish record of 1999, Beulah’s When Your Heartstrings Break. Tell me a little about all of your backgrounds in other bands and those experiences.

WR: You know we’ve all played in a lot of bands. That experience can just teach you hopefully to just relax about the hype machine. The politics in past bands are not here. It is a serious challenge to just keep having fun, and we do it. When is the Indy lunch hour so we can do a guerrilla show for you guys?

Rick Cornell

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