A chat with The Collection at Shaky Knees Fest

A chat with The Collection at Shaky Knees Fest

The Collection is an amazing seven-piece band hailing from Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Their wild live shows and upbeat blend of pop rock have earned them a 2019 NPR Tiny Desk judges pick, as well as a recent opening spot with Larkin Poe. Their latest single, “Get Lost”, was released a few weeks ago and they are hard at work on their next album.

In our special artist-on-artist interview, we had the chance to chat about all things The Collection. 

This year, at Shaky Knees Festival, myself and guest journalist/alternative musician Anastasia Elliot had the opportunity to sit down with lead singer David Wimbish. Here is what he said on The Collection’s new album, upcoming tour schedules and everything in between.

TSM: Is this your first Shaky Knees?

  • DW: Yes it is! It’s been a dream for a while, so it’s nice to be here.

AE: Where are you from?

  • The band is spread across North Carolina, from Asheville all the way to Raleigh. Some of us live in a small beautiful town called Saxapahaw that is like an hour away from anything else. It has like one tiny building and a great music venue, where many big names have played. 

AE: How do y’all rehearse if you are so spread out?

  • It sucks. We meet in Winston Salem, where a couple of people live. It’s like a couple of hours for each person to get there.

AE: How often?

  • Once a week. 

AE: That’s dedication! 

  • Yeah, we try to make it happen. When we are doing tours, it’s more like we rehearse for a few days and then go off, but when we are at home, we try to do it at least once a week. It’s a lot.

AE: Did you start the band with the current members?

  • It has shifted a lot. It started as a collective between 15 and 20 people that would play depending on when. In those days, I just wrote a lot of music and would hand people sheet music. It was like ‘Oh cool, you used to play flute in high school. Here’s some flute sheet music, join in!’ So, it was a lot more chaotic. We would do shows and there would be like 15 people onstage and it was insane.

AE: Is that why the band is called ‘The Collection?’

  • Yeah, sort of! It was a collection of people. We would have a string section and a brass section and woodwind. It’s not a very deep name for sure.
  • It was very un-tourable for many people. We did a few tours with 12 people, but it was too insane. It just felt like we were in a school bus. We paired it down and it’s morphed and changed, but we have been this group of people for the last few years. 

TSM: You guys have released three albums independently. Is that a difficult process without record label support or has it been easier to do things like that?

  • I don’t know that we know the difference just because we haven’t done it with a label. I mean it hasn’t been easy. We are in some conversations with some labels at the moment, which feels cool. We have a new record in the works, so maybe we will find out. I assume it’s easier having a team of people, but in some ways, it has been nice to do what we feel we want to do and not have other people’s input to consider. 

AE: Did you build your grass roots following through live shows?

  • I don’t know. I think we got lucky a few times. We put up our first EP on NoiseTrade; it used to be this site where you could download music for free before Spotify or any streaming services. You just had to give your email address. I think we just got on there at the right time with this EP and had so many downloads and then we had so many people’s email addresses, which allowed us to tour. I think that was one of our lucky things that helped us get going. And then, we built from there. It always feels like a lot of rehearsal and a bit of luck. 

TSM: Obviously, the band’s name is The Collection. Do you personally collect anything?

  • That’s a good question! I do really collect instruments. I have like five accordions and weird old organs and keyboards. I used to have probably a hundred instruments in my house and I’ve had to pair down, depending on where I live. Especially, if I am in a Goodwill and find an old 80s keyboard that doesn’t have a cable, I am just going to take it home for 10 bucks and find a way to make it work. I don’t know if that’s very interesting. I don’t collect stamps or spoons or anything like that. 

AE: That’s okay. You gave a very ‘musician’s’ answer!

  • It’s what I have time to focus on at the moment. 

AE: What is your songwriting process? Do you write alone or with your band?

  • I do write initially alone, so I usually have the bones of the song. My whole kitchen/dining room situation is just a piano, so I like to make coffee and sit at the piano in my underwear for two hours and see what comes. Then, I will create a demo by myself — sometimes with a bunch of instruments or sometimes not. It depends on how the song comes together.
  • A lot of our new stuff has been a lot more me creating a beat on the computer and singing over it till something comes and then I give it to the band and we try and work together as much as we can in person — sometimes digitally — fleshing out all of the parts. That’s where things morph and change to become what we sound like as a group and then, sometimes, I’m like a dictator saying, ‘No this part needs to stay, I’m sorry!’

AE: That’s important!

  • Yeah, depending on how I’m feeling. It always feels so sweet when they can take something I thought would be a certain way and add to it and it’s different and so embodied with how each of them play, while still maintaining its direction. That’s really sweet.

AE: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

  • We sometimes blast the Space Jam theme song and get pumped up with it. Before every show, we just do a little ‘hands in’ and say whatever goofy thing comes off the top of our heads. It helps us get into a fun, goofy place. Otherwise, it’s just me crouching in the van and warming up my voice and trying to hide from people a little bit. 

TSM: Are there any bands this weekend at Shaky Knees that you are excited to see?

  • My birthday is tomorrow and seeing Run The Jewels is just the biggest gift. I know a lot of the band is really excited about seeing IDLES, too. 

TSM: If you could put on your own festival and have three headlining bands, who would you pick?

  • That is a great, great question. Okay, I’ll start with a classic. If I could get Tom Waits, that would be an absolute dream. [Then] someone a little lesser known, I would say, Holly Humberstone. And, then probably Jay-Z. A big mix.

AE: How did you fill your quarantine time during COVID? Did you work on new music?

  • Yeah, we did! Right before COVID, we were in the process of finishing up a new album; we brought it to our team and they told us we could do a lot better. It was a big kick in the butt, because we were crushing it. During COVID was this big process of scrapping an entire record and trying to write as much music as I possibly could. I wrote something like 60 songs in the past year and a half. 

AE: Do you agree with what they said? Do you think the album you’re finishing now is better?

  • Oh, 100%. It’s truly a hundred times better. It was such a good push. They asked me if I was really making the kind of music I want to make. When you’re in the routine of touring and stuff, I feel like you don’t always think about that, because you’re just doing your thing and it’s fun. All of us kind of had this revelation that we don’t listen to the kind of music we make or bands that sound similar to us. Why don’t we start pushing into what feels like truly us?
  • So, it brought up a lot of questions and changes. I think a lot of the people that already listen to us will still feel comfortable with it, but it’s a big step into who we are and what we like. There are a lot more keyboards and electric textures with more pop melodies, in a way. It feels like fun to me and also a little more serious. 

TSM: What do you guys have coming up next?

  • We have a bunch of headlining shows for like three weeks. After that, we will be finishing up the new album and we already have a bunch of tour dates scheduled for the Spring. There will be a ton of touring!

The Collection – “Get Lost” official video

Cover photo by Casey Serrano

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