Big Walnuts Yonder // Premier Guitar Feature

photo by Lucas Hodge

full article by Lucas Hodge via Premiere Guitar.

Karma—despite the John Lennon song—isn’t always instant, or as Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, Stooges) says, paraphrasing Orson Welles, “No wine before its time.” 

Some things take a while. 

Watt’s most recent project, Big Walnuts Yonder, is a case in point. The ensemble—an alternative supergroup of sorts—features Watt on bass, Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos) and Nels Cline (Wilco) on guitars, and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) on drums. The project was years in the making, from inception to realization, and given the busy touring and recording schedules of the parties involved, it’s amazing it ever came together at all. 

But it did, and praise the heavens, what a joyful noise it is. From the faux James Brown guitar breaks of the album’s opener, to the free sounds of “Flare Star Phantom,” to Cline’s righteous Beatles’ Revolver-era solo at the end of “I Got Marty Feldman Eyes,” Big Walnuts Yonder is a feast for the ears. For pedal geeks, it’s even better. Reinhart and Cline had about 70 pedals between them, according to Watt. (On the other hand, he plugged straight into an amp.) 

The project started with a conversation between Watt and Reinhart while on tour. “My band, Tera Melos, crossed paths with Watt and his band, the Missing Men, in Ireland,” Reinhart says. “We were playing a show together in Dublin and were hanging out backstage. Whenever you’re sitting around with Watt, you just have questions for the guy. He’s a legend. He told us Black Flag stories from the SST days. Hearing about the Minutemen and that whole world is really exciting for guys my age, in our mid-30s, who grew up on that stuff. I asked him about his record, Contemplating the Engine Room, which Nels plays on. I mentioned the song ‘The Boilerman’ because the guitar in that song is so ripping and crazy. I’d never heard guitar like that over that kind of music. I said, ‘Man that must have been crazy, Nels ripping over that.’ And Watt’s response was, ‘You want to know Nels? You’ve got to play with Nels.’ Then he said, ‘Let’s start a proj.’’’

“I’ve really gotten to the point where I’m not into genre any more. Music is music.” —Mike Watt

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EarthQuaker Devices Interview w/ Mike Watt of Big Walnuts Yonder, & the Minutemen

photo by Will Ragozzino

by Aaron Rogers  - full article via EarthQuaker Devices

“One Reporters Opinion” from the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime asks the listener an unusual question: “what can be romantic to mike watt?”

How should I know?

The question is never answered in any satisfying way; we’re just given a list of reasons why perhaps nothing is romantic to Mike Watt.

“he’s only a skeleton”

“his body’s a series of points with no height, length, or width”

At nearly two minutes long, “One Reporters Opinion” might as well be “Cygnus X-1” books one and two, as far as Minutemen songs are concerned. By the 1:04 mark, it’s hard to say for certain if Mike Watt exists, except that it says inside the album gatefold he plays bass. Well, okay then. Mike Watt plays bass. That much is clear. But how?

Lyrical ambiguities aside, the arrangement of “One Reporter’s Opinion” is a bit of fractured, free associative, stream-of-consciousness musical telepathy that’s neither rock nor jazz, and it definitely ain’t punk. Except it’s on SST Records, so it is punk. Right?

Only what punk band would open a song with thirty seconds of free jazz drumming before pulling anchor to lurch full steam ahead into a lumpy, lopsided groove that’s more Funkadelic-meets-Beefheart than it is “Nervous Breakdown?” And the bass playing is certifiably insane. Like, just all kinds of syncopated, string-skipping, octave-jumping, logic-defying nuts. It’s beautiful.

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Interview with Greg Saunier of Big Walnuts Yonder // Modern Drummer

On its self-titled debut, released this past May 5, the indie-rock collective Big Walnuts Yonder fuses wild time shifts, explosive punk tones, and unhinged improvisation on ten electrified, cohesive tracks. The veteran group, comprising bassist and vocalist Mike Watt (Minutemen, the Stooges), guitarist Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers), guitarist and vocalist Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos), and drummer Greg Saunier (Deerhof), loaded their debut with frenetic chops, free-jazz-influenced ventures, and sharp, daring moments. Modern Drummer asked Saunier about the recording process, the album’s metric twists, and more.

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Nick Reinhart Interview // Marcel's Music Journal

Big Walnuts Yonder–an incredible supergroup featuring Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Wilco’s Nels Cline, Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, and Tera Melos’ Nick Reinhart–just put out one of the most powerful and marvelously eclectic rock records of the year. Even though the band formed way back in 2008 and didn’t record the album until 2014, it still sounds raw and fresh as hell. The dirty funk of opener “All Against All” accurately portrays the LP’s unique blend of lo-fi math rock and noisy, throwback ‘90s skate punk, while the energetic “Raise the Drawbridges?” gloriously flaunts ear-piercing guitar licks and groove-heavy percussion.

Aside from recording seriously great music with Watt, Cline, and Saunier, Nick Reinhart has proved himself to be one of the most strikingly innovative guitarists in recent memory with his countless other bands and side projects. He is best known as the frontman of Sacramento-based experimental rock trio Tera Melos, who explored complex, mind-bending indie-math zones on their most recent release, 2013′s X’ed Out.

Reinhart has also worked with drummer Zach Hill in Bygones and Death Grips; played live in Rob Crow’s band Goblin Cock; and performed a series of engrossing, entirely improvised live sets with Dot Hacker’s Eric Gardner as Swollen Brain, all of which are discussed in our interview below (the power of collaboration is definitely key here).

 

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Big Walnuts Yonder Review // Dusted Magazine

Big Walnuts Yonder brings together four artists with enough in common to make sense, but not so much as to mark an innate direction. Mike Watt, Nels Cline, Greg Saunier, and Nick Reinhart make up a supergroup of the off-kilter for their self-titled debut, and they bring each of their strengths to the album while maintaining the sensibility of a band. The recordings are unsurprisingly unpredictable, and the sound of a group having fun while taking themselves seriously.

The album opens with a big bass groove, as if to confirm suspicions that it’s really Watt’s album, bringing some math and spaz to a Minutemen-based sound. The track shifts quickly, though. “All Against All” fits in with Watt’s work, but his bandmates bring their own sorts of textures to the track. Much of the album could play like this, a big game of name-the- primary-artist. “Flare Star Phantom” seems to offer everyone but Watt a turn, but as you play the game, the melding of the sounds becomes more apparent.

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Nels Cline on Big Walnuts Yonder, Wilco, MMW, The Allmans & More // JamBase

Welcome to another edition of The Art Of The Sit-In, where we mix it up with the scene’s most adventurous players and hear some stories from the road. For more, check out our recent interviews with John Medeski, Marc Brownstein, Mihali Savoulidis, Marcus King, Chris Wood, Andy Falco, Bruce Hornsby and many more. (A full archive of more than 40 The Art Of The Sit-In features is here.)

At least two great things happened when Nels Cline officially joined Wilco in 2004. One of America’s great alt-country bands found its jones for art-rock — an infusion that helped its live show evolve into the powerhouse it became, where visceral tension and improvisational fireworks exist just below what appears to be a placid surface.

Another was that a much bigger audience found its way to Cline, since the 1980s a buzzed-about guitarist and a musician’s musician plugged into everything from jazz, to punk, to alt-rock.

Stream Big Walnuts Yonder // Consequence Of Sound

Back in 2008,  Mike Watt of Minutemen and The Stooges and Tera MelosNick Reinhart came up with the idea for a collaborative project that would allow their creativity to stretch beyond what their mainstay outfits allowed them. It wasn’t hard to convince Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers) and Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) to join in on the project, but getting everyone together to record the thing was a different story. In 2014, the group finally got together under the banner Big Walnuts Yonder and recorded what would become their debut self-titled LP. On May 5th, the long journey will finally reach its conclusion when Big Walnut Yonder drops via Sargent House.

Watt wrote eight of the album’s 10 tracks, with Cline and Saunier each contributing one of their own. After months of emailing back and forth, the songs were recorded in a marathon three-day session with producer Tony Maimone at his Studio G in Brooklyn. “Basically we had to invent a new band on the spot which was different from what we had in our imaginations,” Saunier said in a press release. “[Big Walnuts Yonder] is not what you’d expect. You can put musicians together with an expectation or stereotype of what each person does, but everyone showed up to this to do what they CAN’T do, what they’re prevented from doing in other groups.”
 

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Big Walnuts Yonder announce self-titled album, premiere "Raise The Drawbridges?" via Consequence of Sound

 

This year has already seen its fair share of mighty supergroups, featuring various members of At The Drive-In, Melvins, Grandaddy, and Franz Ferdinand. Big Walnuts Yonder is a collection of similarly talented veteran musicians — Mike Watt (Minutemen, The Stooges), Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos) to be exact — but the chemistry and creative process behind the new outfit are decidedly of a different breed.

“It’s worlds colliding,” Watt explains of the four-piece, which draws in elements of “proto-punk, free jazz, power pop, experimental music, psych-rock and your first teenage acid trip all in one.” Big Walnuts Yonder’s beginnings date back to a 2008 conversation between Watt and Reinhart, but because of hectic, overlapping schedules, it hasn’t been easy to sit down and polish off an official album.

“We had planned it for so long,” recalls Saunier. “Then several years passed in which nothing occurred due to everyone’s schedules. It was 2-3 years of warm, leisurely prep time, then suddenly made in a panic with time and money on the line.” The resulting effort is the band’s self-titled debut, due out May 5th via Sargent House.

The LP was recorded in just three days over the summer of 2014 with the help of producer and former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone engineering at his Studio G in Brooklyn. Its collects 10 songs, eight of which started as “song forms” on Watt’s bass, then later fleshed out and added to by other band members; Saunier and Cline each contributed one track of their own to the final product. “I’m pretty sure the other guys didn’t have parts set before going into the studio,” says Reinhart. “But it’s interesting how a lot of the songs began as Mike Watt basslines, and everyone was able to pull songs and melodies out of them.”

The whole thing seemed to materialize in a way that was spontaneous, but also quite focused — a “concentrated sort of freakout,” according to Saunier. “We basically had to invent a new band on the spot. And, people might have a stereotype of what each person does, but we all showed up to do what we’re prevented from doing in other groups.”

As a first look at Big Walnuts Yonder, the group has shared “Raise the Drawbridges”, a track that captures an instance of police brutality. “He [Watt] takes the voice of an officer acting too tough and provoking conflict,” Saunier explains, “and then comments on the transparency of the officer’s fear and the futility of this dynamic.” Stream it down below.

To accompany the song premiere, Consequence of Sound is happy to present an expansive interview with Saunier, Reinhart, and Cline, in which each talks at length about Big Walnut Yonder’s formation, the importance of each member’s contributions to the album, and the newly released lead single. (Note: All questions were submitted by our one and only News Editor Ben Kaye.)