According to Wing Dam bassist/vocalist Sara Autrey: “Wing Dam is this spot on the river where he [guitarist Austin Talley] grew up. The wing dam is where he would go to, like, smoke up or bring a girl to make-out and have drinks. It was just like a naughty time nature zone.”
Which is cool, but Naughty Time Nature Zone would have also been a suitable band name for the 90s-influenced, fuzzy noise pop trio.
Baltimore’s Wing Dam have been making music as a band for about six years now and have released three albums since 2013 on Friends Records. If the name sounds familiar it’s because you’re a super smart, observant and hip purveyor of good music. And also maybe because you often hear Wing Dam mentioned in the same breaths as many other notable B’more indie bands, most likely label mates Future Islands, whom Wing Dam has toured with a few times.
“They call it Smalltimore for a reason,” Sara tells me, when asked about the Future Islands connection. “The arts community and music scene is super close knit to begin with. I used to live with the guy who recorded Future Islands and I used to go to all their solo-project shows. Our drummer [Abram Sanders] went to college with all of those dudes in North Carolina. They’re in a band with Abe called The Snails [a kind of weird, very cool little super group you should look up]. Our bands are very much so intertwined socially as well and they keep asking us to go on tour with them. Which is rad.”
But before Wing Dam was popping out critically acclaimed jams that fit somewhere between grunge and sunny indie pop, there were just folks that liked to play music and had more bands and solo projects than I care to type out. And at least 1/3 of the Wing Dam story starts with Sara. And Sara’s story starts in the most unlikely of places: Newport News. And that is exactly why Wing Dam fit Norfolk in on this seven day tour.
“I love that area for that nostalgic reason,” Sara explains. “I don’t know… I like torture so I like to come back to Newport News. But it’s nice to come down to Norfolk and play near home.”
So how did a nice girl from Newport News end up becoming the electrifying front-person for a very brazen and – let’s be honest – fucking loud trio that is ingrained in the Baltimore music scene? Well, she’s just a pretty rad girl and there’s all kinds of back-story.
“I grew up in Newport News,” she says. “I kinda did a short stint in Richmond. I went to VCU, but I failed out. I studied music, but I didn’t really care about classical performance. I was really into learning guitar and writing music. So I dropped out and moved back to Newport News. I lived there until I was 21 and moved to West Virginia –“
Now, this part is important. While in West Virginia, Sara was in a band called Bitch Cave (“it was really good, I got to open up for Japanther”), but that’s a whole other article so you should just look it up. There’s a rap project in here somewhere, too, but back to West Virginia.
-“where I met a bunch of Baltimore people coming through West Virginia on tour. And I was like ‘oh shit, all these people’s bands are amazing.’ So I went to Baltimore because, honestly, playing music and performing music live is the only thing I really care about in this world. So I came to Baltimore and I’ve been here for like seven years, making it happen.”
Sara, of course, had a solo project in Baltimore called Which Magic (she’s into puns, I think) and that’s still going, but now it’s just Wing Dam playing Which Magic songs because, as she explains, “it’s all so incestuous.” And so that brings us here to the all-important Wing Dam origin story. Are you ready?
“So Austin started it as solo project. He got Abe to play drums and that started going well so they were like ‘hey, girl, you wanna suck at bass for us?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, bitches!’ So then I learned how to play bass with them and I just kept doing it and it’s been like six years.”
And before our conversation devolved into both of us gushing over Miley Cyrus, I did ask Sara to give us a little idea of what to expect from a Wing Dam set. I saw them last year at Thank You with Suburban Living and You’re Jovian so I know what to expect, but I like Sara’s answer better:
“From a Wing Dam show, you can expect the vibrations from our set to rearrange the molecules in your body.”
Also, probably some awkward banter.
The show is tonight at Charlie’s. Starts at 7. For more info, go here.