If you’re a fan of groups like The Lumineers, Caamp, or Mt. Joy, Oklahoma-based Wilderado might just be the band for you.
Max Rainer, lead singer and guitarist, and Tyler Wimpee, guitarist and backup vocalist, met in college and began to write and play songs together. Justin Kila eventually joined the duo on drums. The group’s sound is a unique blend of indie, stomp-and-holler, and folk music, driven by electric guitars and Rainer’s daydreamy vocals.
The three first collaborated extensively in a small Malibu, Calif. neighborhood, which resulted in the band’s first two EPs, Misty Shrub and Latigo, both released in 2017. The tracks from these first two EPs clearly laid the groundwork for what Wilderado has grown into.
“Rubble to Rubble,” which was released on Latigo, is one of the band’s top songs on Spotify with over 17 million streams. It showcases a simple and warmly strummed acoustic guitar and is chock-full of rich imagery about helping a significant other and then seeing that bond blossom into something richer.
“Dogs,” from Misty Shrub, is a very lively song, with driving electric guitar accompanied by Rainer singing about long mornings and late nights.
“I can still hear my father’s voice / Telling me that I should slow down,” he sings toward the end of the song.
At this point, the guitar breaks down and gives way to a dreamlike synth, which gradually builds back up to a deafening array of drums and guitar until the song abruptly ends with another peaceful synth.
“Talking About Love to a Cigarette” is another song released in 2017 in a collection with other singles. It marks a contrast to much of Wilderado’s discography because of its subdued nature. Rainer sings about a relationship that he is unhappy in, while his vocals are accompanied by a somber piano and more ethereal synths. He ends the song by painting a lonely picture of himself.
“Found myself sitting by the water again / Talking about love to a cigarette / Both of us burning down / while the smoke goes on to rest,” Rainer sings.
The band released another EP, Favors, in 2018 and continued releasing singles until its debut album, Wilderado, came out in 2021.
From this self-titled project comes “Surefire,” the group’s most successful song to date. This track, with over 35 million streams on Spotify, spotlights a mellow but crunchy electric guitar, supported by a clear and repeated drumline. The lyrics find Rainer expressing his struggle with time, and as the chorus swells, he passionately sings.
“Oh my, oh my / Surefire, the setting sun is gonna set on me,” Rainer sings.
“Help Me Down” is another standout from Wilderado and is rich in lyrical imagery:
“I wish I had a stone / To throw at something real / A treasure of my own so I could feel / I dropped an anchor in the sand / And watched it drag on through the sea / The shackles are off my hand but I ain’t free,” Rainer sings.
The subdued energy of the song is created by a clear and bright acoustic guitar, which later gives way to a hazy and relaxing synth.
“Help me down, don’t pick me up / Give my hands a bit of luck / Just a way to hear I’ll love you while you’re gone / I need a way to hear I’ll love you while you’re gone,” Rainer sings to end the song.
On April 28, the band released a live album with 12 songs taken from some of its recent concerts, and these tracks provide not only new takes on its songs, but also a great insight into just how well Wilderado transitions from the studio to live shows.
So, if you’re in the mood for an up-and-coming band with folk influences and abstract, but thoughtful lyrics, then make sure to listen to Wilderado.
Update (5/1/2023, 4:50 p.m.): This article previously stated that Wilderado is “California-based and Oklahoma-born.” It has been updated to say that Wilderado is Oklahoma-based.