Eccentric is the first word that comes to mind when attempting to describe Will Wood And The Tapeworms, and that fails to do much justice. The band has been making waves in the local scene for roughly a year, drawing attention to themselves through their bizarre stage antics, compelling live energy, and strong use of visual art, which puts them in a league of their own (and rightfully so).
The group’s ringleader, Glen Rock native Will Wood, started writing music in his early teens, originally playing piano at various cafes as a solo artist. He also performed in several local bands, including Jamface, Strange Thick, and A Verbal Equinox. But the entity that is Will Wood And The Tapeworms came on a little later.
“Eventually, it came down to shit or get off the pot. Was I going to be a musician or not? Was I going to keep my songs to myself or go out there and give it a shot? I think to an extent I was afraid of what would happen if I actually tried,” Wood says.
Early last year he decided to take that leap. Calling upon a slew of musicians, artists, and friends to fill the roles of a back-up band, he entered the studio with a handful of his favorite songs. The result was Everything Is A Lot, which was independently released in May under the name Will Wood And The Tapeworms.
“Will Wood And The Tapeworms is my band, and it is the most important thing in my life,” he says. “The Tapeworms [which currently consists of bassist Jon Maisto, guitarist Mike Bottiglieri, and saxophonist David Higgs] are my best friends, and these songs are my best friends. It is the outlet by which I release everything emotionally.”
For 2016, the plan is to keep expanding. In December they launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund their latest LP, which features guest appearances by Cheska Colombo of A Verbal Equinox, Reese Van Riper, Jerry Jones of Trophy Scars, Alex Nauth of Foxy Shazam, and fill-in drummer Matt Olson of Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration.
“What’s different about this band is that I’m no longer pigeonholing myself into a genre. I’m no longer waiting to use a song because there are no preconceived notions about what this band is supposed to be. This project is like if it came from me, I can put it there.”
Recently, the frontman sat down to discuss the new album, his artistic influences, and what goes into creating a Tapeworms’ song.
Why choose to piece together a band as opposed to continue playing as a solo artist? Was there a specific reason?
There are a number of reasons. I really enjoy playing solo because I get to have complete control. I get to stop mid song and yell at the audience. And sometimes they love it, I don’t know why, but it opens the whole thing up into dada. I can scream nonsense and it’s like, “Yep, that’s Will Wood.” I always liked that about performing solo, but when I write a song I’m not just picturing piano and vocals in my head, I’m hearing other things, and I’ve always wanted to see what happened if I put those things there. On top of that, people connect better with a band. It sees a wider audience and it ends up being a lot more bombastic.
What do you consider to be your biggest influences, musically?
I think I was more influenced by things that weren’t music. Drugs are an example of that. Not that I really do drugs anymore, but to say that hallucinogens were not absolutely instrumental in forming who I am today would be a lie. I also always liked Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch… I liked surrealism whenever it reared its head, whether that be in film or music. But musically, it’s always been world music. French jazz, music from the 1940s, and of course all the avant-garde and experimental bands that I’m a big fan of, like Man Man and Mr. Bungle. But I still think the Beatles and Billy Joel were my biggest influences [musically]. I don’t think it’s so much that I like a lot of weird music but the combination of it all.
What can you tell me about the new album?
In fact, we are finishing up at Backroom Studios in Rockaway now. We’re working on a new record called Self-ish with producer Kevin Antreassian of The Dillinger Escape Plan. It’s going to be a very strange and very unique record that’s different from the last one.
How will it be different?
The last one was really all over the place and although this one is too, the last one was really a singer-songwriter record. It has that sound to it. There was some swing jazz in it, folk influences, and even some pop influences, but it was still very much a singer-songwriter’s record. This record has none of those things. It has completely broken through the other side and is 100% wacky. I have a lot I can say about it and all of it would come off as narcissistic because that’s how strongly I feel about this album. I also didn’t get as much time with these songs as I did with Everything Is A Lot.
Do you feel that affects Self-ish?
Well, songs are like people. You don’t know everything about them that you can the first time you meet. It takes a while to really get to know a song even if you’ve been playing it over and over again. You develop new feelings towards it and learn new things about it—there is always something new to learn. Sometimes you relearn why you were friends in the first place, or sometimes you learn that maybe this guy was a bad influence on you—whatever it is. With these songs, I have really yet to get to know them. I’m still at the party. So I think this makes the songs weirder. I’m very proud of them but they’re not songs like the way the last record were songs. They’re a bit more progressive, a bit more avant-garde. I think people are going to be surprised when they hear it because we’ve displayed we’re capable of being out there, but we’re about to challenge those notions. I think this music is really going to freak people out.
Any idea when it will come out?
I don’t want to make any promises or say too much about it because I need to give myself a little room. The last record I announced the release date before we were even done recording which was a mistake, a rookie mistake, but what can I say? I was a rookie. I’m still a rookie. I want to give myself a little bit of wiggle room. But probably an early summer release, with any luck.
I also wanted to ask about your writing process.
Oh, I would like to know a little more about that too (laughs). Every song is different. Some songs you stitch together from old pieces of music that you’ve acquired throughout your life, some songs you sit down and half an hour later you have a masterpiece, and some songs you revisit five minutes at a time for year and at the end you have a piece of shit that you don’t want to use. I’ve written probably about 200 songs, probably more, and only about 30 of them are any good. I tried to take inventory recently and I counted 100, but I knew there were tons more because if you go back to when I was 13 I was writing like five songs a week and half of them were about my boner. I haven’t always been a good musician (laughs). I wish I knew more about the way I write songs, but I feel that every time I write I learn something new, then the next one is entirely different and I have to relearn all over again. Then I realize, “Oh wait! There is no pattern!” and I fall into writer’s block for the next six months.
For more information on Will Wood And The Tapeworms, head over to willwoodandthetapeworms.com, or visit willwoodandthetapeworms.bandcamp.com.