From a melting pot of music ladles The Way Down Wanderers.
They’re a taste of this and a bite of that.
Pull up to the table when The Way Down Wanderers stir a heaping helping of their own style on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Founders Park in Johnson City as part of the Meet the Mountains Festival. Vintage Pistol leads Friday night’s music.
“We love festivals,” said Collin Krause, co-founder of The Way Down Wanderers. “We’re about to hit the road to Philadelphia today. Getting in the van, knowing we’re headed to festivals and people who are excited to have us there, we’re definitely excited.”
Established nearly a decade ago, The Way Down Wanderers grew from Krause’s friendship with Austin Thompson. Krause was 14, Thompson 19. Music provided a bond that built their band.
“We met at an art gallery in Peoria,” Krause, 22, said by phone from the band’s base in Peoria, Illinois. “We played our first show in December 2013. Musically, we were definitely not as tight then as we are now.”
Thus far, two albums swab the decks of The Way Down Wanderers. Their latest, “Illusions,” dropped early this year.
“It’s bluegrass for bluegrass fans, reggae for reggae fans, rock for rock fans,” Krause said. “But I don’t tell people we’re a bluegrass band. That’s not true.”
Instead and as best illustrated on The Way Down Wanderers’ new release, they’re an American melting pot band, containing multiple landscapes of sound. As if into a kettle, they brew styles as wildly divergent as bluegrass and reggae and it actually works.
“I like that, a melting pot,” Krause said. “One of my favorites on the record, ‘All My Words,’ is like that. We’ve been closing with that one in a lot of our live shows. People are usually losing their minds by the end.”
But how can such a thing actually make sense? Elements of pop and hip-hop, Beach Boys-style harmonies and pinches of jazz and folk swirl around in their pot in ways that may seem impossible to unite to uninitiated ears.
The Way Down Wanderers, they’re tofu and steak, an unforgettably wild meal of music.
“It goes to the song, what serves the song,” Krause said. “Austin wrote ‘All My Words.’ It has bluegrass and pop, but it also has a hip-hop feel to it. It’s an exciting process, being in the studio and having a song come to life.”
As opposed to stacks of like-genre-straddling bands, The Way Down Wanderers do not ascribe to jam band status. Their songs feature logical verses, choruses and finishes.
“We’re a song-based band,” Krause said. “We don’t take extremely long solos. We do a lot of three-part harmony. We’ve got a lot of songs with strong melodies. There’s a lot of hooks.”
On stage, The Way Down Wanderers earn their billing as one of America’s hottest bands. Like kids on cotton candy, they’re livewires in a circus of their own creation. Upon first taste, no one else compares.
“Take a chance,” Krause said. “Come on out!”