Brooklyn Band Wilder Maker Brings Dynamic Indie Rock Mélange to Woodward Theater

The group — whose inspirations range from Velvet Underground to Dr. John to Ethiopian music — comes to Cincinnati this Friday for local group Soften's EP release show

click to enlarge Wilder Maker - Photo: Annie Del Hierro
Photo: Annie Del Hierro
Wilder Maker
Wilder Maker may hail from Brooklyn and have traits that would be at home in Greenwich Village — like wiry, Velvet Underground-esque guitar lines — but they’re not just stuck in an urban mindset. The band, led by founder Gabriel Birnbaum, melds together influences from Dr. John (R.I.P.) to ’70s Bob Dylan to Debo Band, the renowned Ethiopian music group in which Birnbaum plays tenor saxophone. Thanks to the talents of Birnbaum and his collaborators, those sounds never clash.

“I prefer to be able to be as flexible as I want in terms of style,” Birnbaum says.

For Wilder Maker’s upcoming tour, which includes a stop this Friday, June 14, at Cincinnati's Woodward Theater in support of local Shoegaze band Soften’s EP release show (click here for ticket info), Birnbaum will be joined by Dandy McDowell on bass and Sean Mullins on drums. McDowell, who also plays with Blood Orange and Amen Dunes, is subbing for Nick Jost, who’s preparing to release a new album with Savannah, Georgia Sludge Metal outfit Baroness. Katie Von Schleicher, who sang and played keyboards, left earlier this year to focus on her own project.

Birnbaum says that the backgrounds of his collaborators help.

“Those people usually are working musicians who do a lot of sideman gigs and, in order to make a living that way, almost all those people play different kinds of music,” he says.

Also present in Wilder Maker’s sound is a deep affection for Country music.

“There’s such a deep simplicity to a lot of it. There’s a great economy of words. It’s so American,” Birnbaum says. “It’s this very beautiful American artform, and I love feeling like I’m connected to that when I’m writing songs.”

For Wilder Maker’s most recent album, last year’s Zion, Birnbaum took a new approach where he wrote the lyrics separate from the music, a practice he says allowed him to be more emotionally honest.

“I wanted to write the language, the lyrics for the songs as if they weren’t songs and see if I would feel more honest about them and be able to say things that were more interesting to me,” he says.

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