Meet Our Artist of the Month The Wayside Shakeup

The Wayside Shakeup are long overdue for the title of Artist of the Month. The group’s vast range of sounds and influences adds a unique flare to their music that sets them apart from their folk and alt-rock counterparts. Likewise, each song has its own character, and no two tracks on either their self-titled or most recent album Optimistic  sound alike. Amidst working on new music and preparing for their upcoming show at the North Star Bar, lead singer and founding member Rob Volansky talked to us about The Wayside Shakeup’s past and future.

Rock On Philly: How did The Wayside Shakeup begin?
Rob Volansky: Chris D’Antonio and I grew up in the same hometown — Haddon Township — but in different generations of the school system, so to speak. While Chris was working his way through the end of high school and into college, I was living overseas, first in Thailand and then in Japan. When I was on a stint home in 2003, through Chris’s brother and other mutual friends, we found ourselves face to face with acoustic guitars. Over the course of a few weeks, we jammed a lot and wrote what would become “Think About Tomorrow,” track 8 from our self-titled first album. Then I went away again. When I got back in 2007, we picked up where we left off. A couple guitars, a few songs, and some small-time gigs at coffee houses and corner bars grew as fellow Haddon Twp-er Eric Raible started sitting in on jams and helping to record tracks. Craigslist helped us find John McLeod on bass and Mike Leger on drums, and that lineup has been in place since 2012.

ROP: Is there a story behind your name?
RV: Ha. Yes. Chris and I were walking down South Street with our guitars, probably going to get a cheesesteak after playing an open mic. This was probably somewhere in 2008 or 2009. As we were standing on a corner, probably around 7th or 8th, a white limousine pulls up and sits at the light. The back window rolls down. A voice and a face that would be very familiar, particularly to Philadelphians — Sylvester Stallone — calls out: “Hey! Are you guys looking for a wayside shakeup?” Window goes up. Lights change. Limousine drives off. Was it Sly? And was that, indeed, what he said? There was probably a bit of alcohol involved, but that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Sylvester Stallone named our band.
ROP: Having been a band for over a decade, what do you feel has been The Wayside Shakeup’s greatest achievement thus far?
RV: Two things. The first, from a creative and personal perspective, is the completion and release of our 2013 album, Optimistic. It was the first team effort of that lineup that finally solidified in 2012, and it was a highly satisfying and enjoyable process, start to finish, to write it and record it and get it into the hands of our fans. We are extremely proud of that record. From a career-type perspective, the other thing we’re proud of is the fact that the title track from Optimistic got some airplay on WXPN. The song ended up on the radio through dogged promotional efforts, largely by Chris, and some guerilla campaigns by the band and our fans. It was a thrill to hear our tune coming out of the speakers in the car stereo. We hope that there is a lot more of that in the future.

ROP: How do you feel that The Wayside Shakeup’s past hiatus has influenced the band’s musical development and trajectory, if at all?
RV: We’re in the studio right now, which is why we haven’t been out and about as much. It’s important for us to zero in on the recording process to make sure the tracks meet and surpass the standards we’ve set with previous work. But as with any recording effort in this day and age, we’re kind of up in the air about the format in which to release the songs. We’re thinking about putting an EP and a few singles into the world through 2015 — probably late summer into early fall — and then following up with something longer in 2016. Also, the songs are still sort of percolating and sorting themselves out. We’ve got some funky stuff, some dreamy stuff, and some straight up Americana rock, so we’re trying to figure out what to do with it all. Stay tuned, in fact, for the first offering from all that, a funk track called “Private Party.”

ROP: Your music is unique in that it draws upon elements of pop, blues, and even a bit of country. How do you feel that the Philly music scene has influenced your sound?
RV: We love Philadelphia music, from the songwriting and production team of Gamble and Huff, to Hall & Oates, to G-Love, to Dr. Dog, to newer acts like Strand of Oaks and The War on Drugs. If you step back and look at that list, you’ll see pretty much the cross-section of our music. Beyond those big names, though, we’ve spent a lot of time huffing around to open mics, farmers markets, shows at smaller venues like Dobbs and Connie’s Ric Rac and Boot & Saddle. Playing and listening. On any given night at the open mic at Fergie’s or Time, for example, you might hear an acoustic guitar player, then a funk band, then some hip-hop, then a soul singer. You might even hear a stand-up comedian. We recorded a tune with Reed Kendall from Up The Chain, we’ve worked extensively with local mainstay Dave Downham at Gradwell House studios, we’ve shared the stage with New Sound Brass band. We pay attention to local artists of all shapes and sizes, and all of that goes into the songwriting soup of our band.

ROP: I thoroughly enjoy listening to your most recent single “Wear You Down.” It’s upbeat, infectious, and a prime candidate for the next alt rock radio hit. How is this release representative of The Wayside Shakeup’s future endeavors?
RV: Hey, thanks. For some reason we got it into our heads that we wanted to try to write a 6-minute single with a lot of bells and whistles, some high production value. We took our zany ideas to local South Jersey producer and engineer Jay Mage, and we bashed away at all kinds of drums and synths and percussion until we got what we wanted. How is this representative of our future? Well, for starters, while the new tracks we’re recording are all under the 4:00 mark (radio friendly!), we definitely were not afraid to explore some new territory sonically. Eric has a new keyboard and he’s been going a bit rogue with that, in the best possible way. Also, the band has matured as instrumentalists and as a recording entity, so the polish that you hear on “Wear You Down” is coming through on “Private Party” and the other stuff we’re laying down right now.
 
ROP: In light your upcoming show, which artist(s), local and beyond, would you most like to tour with?

RV: We’re playing with Those People and Post War Dream at North Star on June 5th, so let’s start there. The thing we like about both of those bands is that they hustle. They’re out there spreading the word on social media, and they’ve also taken the time and effort to release quality music into the world. It’s important for us to work with bands who have a similar approach and work ethic as we do, in addition to having similarities musically. As for who else we’d like to play with? Well, because of the diversity of the Philly music scene that we talked about, we have unfortunately found ourselves on some bills with bands that a) didn’t sound anything like us and b) obviously were not incredibly enthused about sharing the stage. It’s tough being a musician in Philly in a lot of ways, and we’re all in this together, so when we come across folks who like our music, and we like theirs (and I guess, more importantly, our respective fans like each other’s music), we try to latch onto them as much as possible. It’s hard with scheduling, but we do what we can. And who would we most like to go on tour with? Well, that’s easy: we’ll open up for Ryan Adams sitting in with Wilco, and then the 3/4 reunited Led Zeppelin with Jason Bonham on drums would play from 10 to midnight, and then the current iteration of The Grateful Dead would close the show until the wee hours of the morning. You can make that happen, can’t you?

ROP: We can certainly try, Rob!

Check out The Wayside Shakeup’s song “Optimistic” below! 

Click the banner below to get tickets to see The Wayside Shakeup at The North Star Bar on June 5!

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