Three years have come and gone since we’ve touched base with Wall of Trophies. A lot has happened on both sides of the conversation since then. We’ve all moved, done things that have showcased our inner strength and created along the way. Me, a bunch of words online. Wall of Trophies? Their 2019 release, Semaphore. We linked up to talk about the past few years shaping the present, and what’s next for their future.
Kendra: Since we last spoke you’ve crossed venues off your bucket lists, got critical praise for your debut, and had some moves. How do you feel all of that helped shape what’s found on Semaphore?
Wall of Trophies: We actually think it hampered us for a while. Our last album was certainly not a best seller, but it had a pretty filled-out sound that earned us some passionate fans. Meanwhile, we were just getting to make Wall of Trophies music together in person for the first time, adapting it for live situations, and dealing with entirely new dynamics in our lives. We felt we wanted our sound to evolve but had to mentally get over the thought of disappointing anyone who liked the old album.
For a long time, we felt we had a collection of songs that wasn’t a “Wall of Trophies” album until we adjusted our perception of what that meant. It was probably about 6 months after we had the skeleton of this album we could really appreciate that it was a different, cohesive message that was going to be its own thing. It feels like the most important thing we could’ve made for ourselves—we stretch every which way here, broadening the palette of what Wall of Trophies can be. I don’t think we have a single preconception of what the next album will sound like, so we can just make the music we want to. It’s really freeing.
Kendra: Could you compare and contrast what it was like to work in the same space for part of the writing process versus remotely this time around?
Wall of Trophies: A bit back we read an interview with Brian Eno where he compared music recording with the early days of cinema—in essence, that the first movies were just recorded plays—but that cinema really took off when it moved beyond that constraint. Music and rock music, in particular, has been in a place where that live authenticity is still valued in recordings—and I think it’s safe to say we oscillate between the “we must be able to play everything live” side and the “let’s add four different guitar parts here” side.
We don’t really think either is “wrong,” but we’ve always leaned more toward the “live” side in Wall of Trophies—in part because we are also a live act. But writing the “live” way conceptually (and remotely) is entirely different than practically writing that way in a room together. Being together made us more spontaneous. It led to arrangements that were more stripped down, and keyed on the interplay of one or two parts—usually molding a synth to match Brittany’s emotion or that freight-train rhythm in her guitar parts. These songs consequently felt a lot more personal and “in the moment” to us.
Kendra: What I appreciated was that your signature haunting almost melancholy sound was not lost. Where do you go to mentally to find that emotiveness?
Wall of Trophies: The great thing about being so close to each other is that we can key on and identify with each other’s emotions; even without always knowing the specifics. I (Will) find Brittany’s voice to wear her emotions so bare that I can always craft an environment that plays off and amplifies them. It’s honestly incredibly mentally taxing to try to wear someone else’s emotions for hours. We are always drained when we finish writing and often long after—but we can’t imagine writing another way.
Kendra: I really enjoyed the lead single, “Something” for its subtle but endearing message that I took away from it which was to just go for something without really mapping it out. Do you feel like we’ve become a society that fails to seize the day because we’re too busy thinking of the outcomes and whatnot?
Wall of Trophies: Yes, we do! It can be paralyzing. And it’s crushing to see that weight, in any way, helping convince people they can’t do it. In part, that “something” to go for, for all of us, is a fulfilling life. We wrote that song after a friend (and fan of the band) committed suicide. It’s daunting to talk to someone in that mental state struggling to see the big picture. You want to tell them to just grab what’s next to them and start putting the puzzle together.
Kendra: Then there’s “The District.” Being partially bound to DC, was there any political inspo that went into that one?
Wall of Trophies: Absolutely, yes. Like a lot of our songs, this one came out of a really powerful specific feeling–and we focused on that feeling more than calling arms against the person who inspired it. It’s more liberating to not give them that power and to focus on the relatable and enduring feeling for us. We know people will get the message.
Kendra: What’s on the books now that the album is out? Touring?
Wall of Trophies: While we are excited about our album release, we are also excited to start writing new music. Writing our second album was a longer process than our previous projects mostly due to life’s wonderful interruptions…babies. Touring is not an easy option for us currently due to said babies and distance. But hopefully, it will be an option again soon. For now, we can say with absolute certainty that a third album is in our future and we are ready for it.