Since releasing their second full-length album, Sonder, in June, The Wrecks have been feeling some déjà vu in the best sense of the term.
“When we did our tour this summer, we had our biggest shows we’ve ever done. We played to like 1,200 people in Dallas, Texas, and that was a moment I couldn’t have ever actually really pictured,” singer/guitarist/songwriter Nick Anderson said in a mid-September phone interview. “You have these large aspirations and do it all for the success of it and try to grow and do this or that, but until you’re actually headlining in front of more than a thousand people in multiple cities across the country, you can’t prepare yourself for that.... It exceeded every [expectation] I could have imagined.
“It felt like the first tour we’d ever done again, with that type of excitement,” he said. “Everything feels exciting in the way it did the first year we were a band. It’s really nice to have that feeling again and just to feel like the sky’s the limit.”
It’s not like Anderson and his bandmates — bassist Aaron Kelley, guitarist Nicholas “Schmizz” Schmidt and drummer Bill Nally — have ever been on the edge of disaster, but there have been a few adventures and potential setbacks during what is still a young career, considering the band has only been together since 2015.
The Wrecks formed about a year after Anderson moved from his childhood home in Wellsville, New York, first to San Diego before relocating to Los Angeles. It’s there that Kelley did an internship with Richard and Stefanie Reines, former owners of Drive-Thru Records who were then working in artist management.
Kelley introduced Anderson to the Reineses, who became key early industry contacts, setting up co-writing sessions for Anderson and introducing him to musicians they managed.
It was during this time that The Wrecks formed, with New Jersey natives Nally and Schmidt and guitarist Harrison Nussbaum (who left the group in 2016) completing the original lineup. The Wrecks hadn’t even been a band for a week when a friend who did housekeeping at a home that had a studio invited them to use the studio at night for three days while the homeowner — who wasn’t asked for permission — was out of town.
Things got quite hairy on the third night when the homeowner returned early, and the band and producer Andrew D’Angelo had to rush to pack their equipment, driving away just as the homeowner’s car became visible in the rearview mirror.
The next day, D’Angelo realized he’d failed to download the three finished tracks to his computer, so that night, he snuck back into the home studio — with the owner asleep in the house — and downloaded the songs, managing to escape undetected.
Looking back, Anderson said, aside from the narrow escape, the band wasn’t nervous about being caught using the studio.
“I think we just had this naïveté that allowed us to feel comfortable enough and make it happen,” Anderson said. “I think we shut off the paranoid parts of our brains just because we had a mission to get something done and there wasn’t a lot of time to be worried about it.”
The three songs became the band’s debut EP, We Are The Wrecks. Released initially to the internet in 2016, the EP included a single “Favorite Liar” that Richard Reines, through his industry contacts, got added to Alt Nation and Spotify playlists before it eventually gained radio play and, at last count, had 42 million streams on Spotify.
Having signed to Another Century Records, the band next went into a Los Angeles studio with a producer to make a second EP, Panic Vertigo. The session went well enough, but the results left a lot to be desired.
Feeling, in Anderson’s words, that the songs were “a little too poppy, but not poppy in an interesting way; too indie, but not like in a cool indie way,” the band rejected the EP and went on to re-record Panic Vertigo themselves, releasing it in 2018.
This set the stage for a new record deal, with Big Noise Records, and The Wrecks’ full-length debut album, Infinitely Ordinary. Despite being released into the teeth of the pandemic shutdown in May 2020, the album produced a pair of alt-rock singles, “Freaking Out” and “Fvck Somebody,” and further elevated awareness of the group.
With touring plans canceled, Anderson started work on Sonder. He had split with a girlfriend, and that gave him the creative fuel to write and record an album that thoughtfully and cleverly reflects on his breakup and the still-raw emotions that came with it.
The title song “Sonder” became a catalyst for this highly personal project. The word means the realization that everybody around you, even strangers, is living a life just as complex as yours. Anderson felt he embraced this idea in everyday life, but that wasn’t the case with his ex.
“It was like, do you see just what’s in your immediate surroundings or can you conceptualize the fact that there are people outside of your immediate family and friends or your immediate circle that matter, that are valuable, that deserve respect, that deserve your attention, consideration and understanding and your empathy and compassion?” Anderson explained. “Is that a concept that’s hard to grasp or understand, or do you even care? It was really the ‘do you even care’ part that I ended up realizing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was like, ‘You don’t care.’ So that word for me, it was almost like if this isn’t something you understand or that you can relate to, maybe we just look at the world differently.”
Throughout Sonder’s 11 songs, Anderson addresses various facets of the breakup, slipping in stinging references to other issues (like political beliefs and daddy issues) without wallowing in self-pity.
Musically, Anderson created The Wrecks’ best and most diverse collection of songs yet. Of course, there are songs like “Sonder,” “I Love This Part” and “Dystopia” that retain the rocking but melodic guitar-based pop of the earlier releases. But “Lone Survivor” brings a grooving R&B feel to its pop sound, while “Where Are You Now?” is an airy ballad with a punchy chorus and guest vocals from musician girlhouse. “Don’t Be Scared” pumps punk adrenaline, while “Ugly Side” is an energetic, largely acoustic folk-pop tune.
“It wasn’t like, I wasn’t really trying to do that,” Anderson said of Sonder’s diversity. “I never want to make the same song twice, that’s for certain. But yeah, it wasn’t until later that I [looked at the album] and wow, these are all over the place. But I knew that I was still producing them, so there was something, some kind of intangible thing that ties them all together. Even if I’m doing a different vocal approach or the production is in a totally different genre, there would be something that tied it together and I just had to trust that.”
It’s a safe bet that The Wrecks will feature songs from Sonder on their fall tour, but Anderson said nothing is set in stone when it comes to the band’s nightly set list.
“We did want to expand the set a little bit and try some stuff we haven’t played yet,” he said. “We kind of keep things pretty spontaneous, so we’re not sure yet what we’re going to do.”