Recording by any means necessary

  • Weege and the Wondertwins. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 6/10/2021 9:56:25 AM

During the days of lockdown, many bands spent time recording new music, but none did it in quite the manner that Weege & the Wondertwins did. The group, which is led by vocalist Lexi Weege and also features identical twins Tom DelNegro on guitar and AJ DelNegro on bass, with Kade Parkin on drums and Nick Ferrara on guitar, recorded its new self-titled album in a homemade studio in a cabin in the woods.

It was an unconventional and perhaps risky way to make a record, but for Weege & the Wondertwins, it couldn’t have worked out better. Making music in this new and different way resulted in the band taking its sound in some new and exciting directions and making what may be the group’s best album to date.

Prior to the pandemic, Weege & the Wondertwins spent a great deal of time touring throughout the country. The group was on tour in Texas in March of 2020 when the world started shutting down. Weege recalled that the trip home was a rather harrowing one. Once the group made it back to the Northampton area, they all hunkered down together and started writing.

It wasn’t long before they had enough material to start recording.

“We had enough material for a few albums before the world had started opening up again, but no studios were booking time,” wrote Weege in an email exchange. “AJ and I had a box of dead stock tape in our basement we had acquired at an estate sale last year. We happened to have an engineer pal and old friend on our street who had a tape machine for it and decided to take a crack at DIY recording.”

This proved to be quite an ambitious undertaking. They found an old cabin in Easthampton and quickly assembled a recording studio, then recorded the album in three days.

“It was extremely hands-on in a way I had never experienced — a lot of trial by error, for sure,” said Weege of making the album “In a lot of ways, you are at the mercy of the equipment. Our engineer, Mike Desmond and his assistant Miranda Miller were like mad scientists, finding solutions for problems with whatever we had laying around.”

The resulting album, “Weege & the Wondertwins,” the group’s third, was released on June 1. It’s a bit more raw than the previous releases, but the performances are excellent. Recording under such a tight schedule seemed to allow the band to capture the passion and energy of its dynamic live performances. And while the band’s music has always defied easy labeling, this time, the group takes genre-blurring even further, making this their most stylistically varied work to date.

The disc opens with “Left Out,” a snappy tune with a New Orleans-styled groove about being stuck at home. It’s the perfect introduction to the 10 songs here, and a nice way to begin this wild ride of varying emotions and genres.

“Hand to Mouth” immediately transports the listener back to a good ‘ole honky-tonk, while the acoustic-driven “Drown Your Sorrows,” about drinking away your misery, has a folk edge to it. The most unusual track here is “Wafflehaus,” written by guitarist Tom DelNegro. Its quirky lyrics about breakfast foods and shifting tempos would make it sound right at home on a Phish album.

When the band released its sophomore album, “Do I Seem Weird Lately?” in 2019, it marked a change for the group, as it was more of a collaborative effort with the DelNegro twins becoming more involved in both the singing and songwriting. All of the band members contribute even more to “Weege & the Wondertwins.” In addition to the vocals, the songs here are full of sinewy guitars and inventive bass and drum fills that make for a more dynamic and layered listen.

Weege agrees that her bandmates add sonic touches that help make this album different from the previous two.

“One of the great differences in this record from our others is the addition of our new drummer, Kade Parkin,” explained Weege. “He has a background in fusion, jazz and world music which has been so fun to incorporate into what we’ve been writing. His attention to detail is astounding and has turned all of us onto so many different types of music.

“Also on this record are two songs by guitar player Nick Ferrara, who’s been with us for quite a few years now but had never written for the records,” she added. “His contributions ‘What Am I to You’ and ‘Drown These Sorrows’ are pretty fantastic.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Weege’s vocals, which have accurately been described before as “acrobatic.” Weege has the ability to shift from being a bluesy torch singer to a full-out rocker, all in the same song. She’s blessed with a deep, jazzy voice and an incredible range and a knack for distinct phrasing. The showpiece here is “I Wanna Be Your Man,” on which she sings lines like “Let me love you until I die” in a voice full of desperation, sounding like she’s reaching deep into her soul to channel the likes of Bessie Smith and Amy Winehouse.

Weege said the song is her favorite on the album.

“It was the last track of the night on our second night in session, so I feel like the performance is locked-in in all the right ways,” she said. “I also love ‘Counting.’ Tom and I wrote it together. I also am super in love with all the harmonies on ‘Disappointed.’ The boys did an incredible job — they sound like birds.”

Since her vocals are so spot-on, I asked if she was inspired by any particular artist while making the album.

“I spent most of the pandemic listening to ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ by Joe Cocker. When things seemed bleak early on in 2020, it really got me through,” she answered. “AJ turned me onto Elton John during this pandemic, especially ‘Honky Chateau’ — a great album (with) wonderful vocal performances and super cool arrangements.”

The band’s members wrote so much during the pandemic they have enough material for another album and hope to get back into the studio as soon as they can. But for now, they are happy with “Weege & the Wondertwins.” If you are looking for some new music to be your soundtrack for these hot days, you won’t go wrong with this one.

“I’m really proud of it. We made it ourselves with love, and I really feel that it does capture who we are — rowdy, hardworking hooligans,” said Weege of the album.

“It’s wild thinking that Tom, AJ and I and I got together almost five years ago. We’ve gotten to travel the country together, build an awesome band with people we love and have some wild adventures. I’m looking forward to what comes next,” Weege said.

“Weege & the Wondertwins” is available on all streaming services. You can catch the band live every Wednesday evening through the summer at Spoleto restaurant in Northampton.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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