You could call it a brilliant mistake. To hear The Wigg Report singer/guitarist Steve Mullaney tell it, it’s just a bold stroke of serendipity. “It’s all just an accident. I’m not a guitar player. I was never supposed to be a singer. I’m a drummer,” Mullaney says, reiterating the esteem generally granted the most replaceable band member.
After living in Boston and touring in bands for years, Mullaney moved to the Triangle eight years ago, but The Wigg Report began only about a year ago as an impromptu side project.
“I used to play in Rosa Begosa,” Mullaney explains. “At home, I’d be hanging out with my wife, (drummer) Christine (Fantini), and I’d play my guitar and she’d bang on the keyboards or drums.”
But this provided only the most basic elements. The addition of clarinet/saxophone player Ben Riseling provides the crucial last ingredient. Riseling had just moved in down the street, and in talking about music, casually mentioned having been a member of Beulah, one of Mullaney’s favorite bands. He asked Riseling to join The Wigg Report onstage for one song at one of their first gigs, and the results were so good, Riseling was enlisted as a full-time member.
“Ben’s great,” Mullaney reports. “Sometimes he’ll ask me what he should play. I’m like, ‘How should I know? I don’t play that instrument. I barely play this one!”
After recording an EP last year on Mullaney’s four-track, the band went into the studio this summer with Roland Ottwell (Malt Swagger) and James Lee of Sound Scripture Studios, recording three tracks with the former and 11 with the latter. “I wanted to work with a couple different people to try to get some different sounds,” he says.
The ever-unassuming Mullaney–between classes at his teaching gig–plans to release the new album at an Ooh La Latte show for the Durham Rocks compilation. He picked that date because he says he hates record release parties (he’s afraid no one will show), and he liked the idea of piggy-backing the events.
Entitled Seltzer (“Because that’s something people might associate with pop,” Mullaney says), it’s being released on the New York label Olive Juice.
The Wigg Report plays Ooh La Latte on Saturday, Nov. 20.
A Texan in Europe Revisited
(Bu Hanan Records)
New Chapel Hill resident (by way of Austin, Texas) John Ribo completes an odyssey begun in Lyon, France, in 1999 on a $70 analog four-track, with this, his debut album. Its pretty, low-key charms recall the rustic pop intimacy of Sparklehorse in their quieter moments or the sunny tones of a stripped-down Grandaddy. Like both acts, the gentle guitar melodies are sometimes accompanied by washes of ambient electronic tones as well as the well-deployed additional instrumentation, such as the wistful violin line of the loping “Cycles,” or the theremin on the jaunty, noisy pop tune “Just There” and the haunting “Ease.” Most of the tracks are spare, operating on a very successful less-is-more strategy. In fact, several of the best-realized tracks are straightforwardly folky in tone, such as the melancholy “One-way Train” and “Just A Boy Pt. I,” with its warm vocal harmonies. The album’s highlight, “Ma Tutrice,” manages a mesh of both approaches, with the rambling, bluesy acoustic guitar abetted by a bevy of effects that forge a rich gumbo of sounds, which somehow only reinforce the song’s happy, head-bobbing melody. A solid, friendly album whose moods move like weather through gray skies, cloudy mornings, little rainbows and bursts of sunshine.
Kapow! Music have their record release party Nov. 12 at De La Luz at Temple Ball.