Life is unabashedly beautiful for Wheat founders (and Taunton natives) Brendan Harney and Scott Levesque. That sentiment echoes throughout their latest release, White Ink, Black Ink (The Rebel Group) — which is surprising considering their track record with major and indie labels over their dozen years in the business. Harney (drums/keys) and Levesque (vocals/guitar) have spent the past decade creating a unique collage of melodic, indiefied folk seasoned with alt-pop hooks and a dash of melancholy (U2 and Snow Patrol come to mind) dating back to their 1998 debut Medeiros. After the acclaimed '99 release Hope and Adams, Wheat jumped ship to a London label which soon folded, went into indie limbo, then made the big jump to Aware Records (via Columbia), who botched the release of Per Second, Per Second, Per Second . . . Every Second (including the minor hit "I Met a Girl"). Wheat was dropped and released Everyday I Said a Prayer for Kathy and Made a One-Inch Square on Empyrean Records in 2007, only to have fans up in arms over a pre-ordered EP the label never sent out. The Rebel Group has reissued the first two albums in a deluxe pack with a disc of rare/unreleased material titled 30-Minute Theatrik (available at WheatMusic.com). Tour dates continue to trickle in, including a show at Great Scott in Allston on August 1.
The decidedly uplifting vibe on White Ink is not the sardonic wink one would understandably expect at this point — Levesque and Harney genuinely love making records, clearly evidenced by our email exchange last week:
WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU VISITED (OR PLAYED) IN PROVIDENCE?
SCOTT: I love Providence, great city with amazing culture. We haven't played there in quite some time.
BRENDAN: I'm in Providence all the time, seems like my home away from home. Love the city and the food, plus the fact that you can walk pretty much anywhere. And I just love the vibe — feels small and big at the same time. We recorded our first record there and the basic tracks for our second as well. Good times.
I HAVE TO ASK BECAUSE I HAVEN'T READ IT ANYWHERE ELSE — WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE BAND NAME?
SCOTT: The name came from our first bass player Ken [Madaras]. We fell in love with the word's beauty and everything it didn't say about what the music is, or was to become.
HOW ABOUT THE UNIQUE ALBUM TITLES AND IS WHITE INK, BLACK INK A DECLARATION TO A SIMPLER APPROACH FOR WHEAT THIS TIME AROUND?
SCOTT: As far as the titles go, we always have let them be a part of the record, meaning in most cases they were there before or during the actual writing. We see them as an important part of the songs and a summation of the thoughts therein.
BRENDAN: The album titles always kinda tell us what the record is gonna be about. It's the thing we keep in our heads to keep the ship in the right direction. The new album title reflects how we wanted to approach the songwriting and recording. The process was much quicker than usual for us, and that just really kept the flow and the vibe strong, and pretty pure. We tried to work fast and get the idea down before we could fuck it up or filter it or worse.
BRENDAN WAS RECENTLY QUOTED SAYING, "WE LOVE POP, BUT WE ALSO LOVE STRANGE AND DIFFICULT BEAUTY." COULD YOU ELABORATE?
BRENDAN: We love beauty, but it's so much better when it feels like you've never seen that particular beauty before. So, in trying to get to something both beautiful and new, we end up with Wheat.
SCOTT: We love staying excited and challenged, and we're always trying to shake up what we do. We tried real hard to break out of the rock dinosaur mold. But we have always tried to avoid being different just for the sake of being different.
I READ AN INTERVIEW WHERE SCOTT SAID, "I'M WAY BLESSED, MY CUP CONSTANTLY RUN OVER AND OVER." THAT SENTIMENT IS SEEMINGLY FROWNED UPON BY THE INDIE SET AND SURPRISED ME CONSIDERING YOUR NIGHTMARISH TRACK RECORD WITH LABELS.
SCOTT: It's all been a gift. I have been able to travel abroad, release five records, sign with the man, had a few people listen and watch, etc. All the while having a complete and utterly fulfilling personal life. All of my boyhood rock 'n' roll dreams have come true, without all of the bullshit.
BRENDAN: Yeah man, the indie rock idea of being downcast and cynical just ain't where we're at. Life is full of beauty and meaning.