The Wild Things
The Wild Things travel through the stars to The Red Side of the Moon with Trixie Mattel.
Bonding over our mutual love of Scott Pilgrim versus the World, lead vocalist, and all-around joy, Sydney Rae White of The Wild Things and I spent five minutes before the actual interview gushing. She details how her now-husband guitarist and actor Rob Kendrick developed a mutual love through the manga, movie, and soon-to-be animated series, citing how she very rarely finds people who understand her unadulterated love for the cult classic. And while we could have spent the entirety of our interview time talking about movies (seriously, we could have kept going), the conversation eventually made its way to music.
Rambunctious nostalgia rock, here to show you a good time (Sydney’s words, not mine), with heart, The Wild Things are on the fast track to success. Having already worked with some of the biggest names in the music business (Pete Townsend, The WHO, Trixie Mattel, and Kiss), people are beginning to take notice. Sydney continuously states throughout our conversation how lucky the band is to be given these opportunities and while luck may have something to do with it, there’s no denying the raw talent they possess. Their unique sound is a revitalizing take on the London punk-rock scene, carving their way and making a (well-deserved) place for themselves among the greats. As their audience grows, their confidence does, too, enabling them to continue to make the music they love, with the people that they love along the way.
In conversation with 1883 Magazine’s Dana Reboe, Sydney discusses The Wild Things, their collaboration with Trixie Mattel, her hopes for the band and so much more.
First off, before we get started: I love your sweater.
Oh, thank you. It’s my getting-cold-in-London-and-I’ve-just-come-back-from-walking-my-dog-on-my-day-off sweater.
How cold is it getting over there?
It’s not that cold. I’m always cold. It’s kind of embarrassing. So, I’m in like six layers at the minute.
Oh, my goodness.
Very, very attractive [laughter].
I’m in Toronto right now, and it should be getting cold but it’s pretty warm.
I love Toronto. I’ve been twice. Both times I was working, but I loved the city.
Do you have a favourite part of the city?
It’s been several years, but the whole city is stunning. I remember us going somewhere with a lot of vintage shops.
So, that means you and the band have to come back.
We are desperate to come back! We’ll make it happen!
Also, is that a Scott Pilgram pin on your sweater?
Good eye! My husband and I met and fell in love through Scott Pilgrim. It’s like a whole thing in our relationship and of course, if you’re in Canada, you would know. Isn’t Scott Pilgrim set in Canada?
It’s set in Toronto! If you ever get the chance to come again, check out TIFF Bell Lightbox. It’s a movie theatre in Toronto. They have Ramona’s original costume on the second or third floor of the building along with other movie memorabilia. I think you’d love it!
The guitarist in the band, Rob, we are actors. We were both so gutted that we didn’t even get the chance to audition. I wanted to be Kim Pine. I can’t drum, but I would learn. I love her. I did love Young Neil in the film as well. I mean, I loved him in the books, but he was so funny in the film. That film was amazing. It’s amazing to connect with somebody who knows Scott Pilgrim as well. Half the people in the UK are like, ‘Oh yeah, that movie with Michael Cera.’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s so much more than that!’ I’m so excited for the animated series as well.
And with the original film cast too. Are you kidding?
Unbelievable. I’ve been avoiding looking at trailers and stuff because I already know it’s going to be great. My body is ready.
I could gush about Scott Pilgrim all day!
Onto the interview and why we’re here! [laughter] What was your favourite thing about recording Red Side of the Moon and can you talk a little bit about how the collaboration came to be?
The best part of the whole recording process is the entire thing was basically a surprise for all of us. We had recorded it two days before we went out on tour. This was when we knew that Trixie was going to be a part of it. But originally, we weren’t expecting her to sing, or maybe she might play some guitar. We left on this month-long European tour, and we got the track back whilst we were on the road, and suddenly I’m listening to it for the first time. And she’s singing with me. That’s Trixie Mattel and my voice at the same time. It was like a Christmas present, and a birthday present wrapped all in one, to sing with your favourite artist. And the whole thing came about because of the internet.
Myself and the rest of The Wild Things we do this thing called the Singles Club. We sit down in our studio at home and we’ll do a verse and a chorus kind of short-form cover of a song that one of the members of the band really likes. And we’ve been putting these out for a little bit and we have like James Taylor one and he got in touch. And we were like, ‘People seem to be vibing with these.’ I have been a fan of Trixie since her season of Drag Race and we just put the song out. We think that somebody sent it to her because she’s obviously got millions of followers. We got a message from her that said, ‘I really like your voice, I’ve always imagined a girl singing this.’ We were driving to my mother-in-law’s house, and I was freaking out. And we just kind of got cheeky, we sent her a message asking, ‘Would you be down to record this properly?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah’ and that sort of set plan in motion. It wasn’t like ‘Let’s have your people write to our people’ it was just two artists bonding over a great song. Can we do something with it? It fits our profile as well because we’re a rock band, but some of our stuff is kind of funky when it gets softer. And yeah, the rest is kind of history. And then suddenly we were singing it together. So, thank you Instagram!
Take me back to the moment you two got into the recording booth. What was that moment like for you? Did you have to keep your inner fangirl in check?
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to swear but I’m going to anyway: I was shitting my pants. I remember having anxiety dreams for two solid weeks up until the day. We were in L.A. for a week, and we were actually doing stuff with Tommy Thayer from Kiss as well. We were out there on this kind of weird, surreal, star-studded studio visit thing. Just working with amazing people. And Trixie had said on Instagram, ‘Oh, I could be free for an hour on Labor Day.’ We were like, ‘Well, we will book a studio. If you could show up that would be great.’ And she was like, ‘Sure.’ But, I don’t know. It’s the British in us, we have to confirm at least five times before we believe you [laughs]. We got to the studio, we set it up. My brother, he’s in the band and the producer as well, he was kind of setting everything up and doing his thing. I was just standing in the studio and suddenly the door burst open, there wasn’t a knock or anything. She ran over and gave me a big hug and I was like, ‘Oh cool on the same level.’ This is great. We spent most of the two hours we were in there chatting rubbish. It was amazing. Two artists just coming in, singing a song they love. It was almost like we’d known each other for longer than just speaking on Instagram. She’s great.
You know that quote ‘Never meet your heroes?’ Sometimes it works out.
That’s what I’ve been saying! Our friend circle are obviously massive fans of Trixie as well. They asked, ‘What was she like?’ And I said, ‘Never meet your heroes except for Trixie Mattel because they’re the exception to the rule.’
You said working with Trixie has been one of the biggest highlights of the year for you. What are some other highlights? And is there something on your bucket list as a musician you’d like to cross off?
We’ve been exceedingly lucky from March last year until now. Hopefully, it will continue. Our first big show after COVID was at the Royal Albert Hall and then our first ever show in America, which was last year, was at Madison Square Garden. We’ve been really lucky to be ticking off these things as we go. One of the things on my bucket list was to go on a tour bus. We did that this year, which was loads of fun. One of my other bucket list items was to perform at 02. Which we did in July of this year with Kiss. I think my bucket list was really ticked with Trixie if I’m honest. A few people have asked, ‘She’s a drag queen and you’re a rock band. How does that work?’ And my answer is, ‘What’s more punk than drag?’ We’re on tour right now, and we’ve been going around these different towns in the UK we’ve never played before. And we played Red Side of the Moon because we’ve just released it. And it’s a beautiful song, it fits in with our set. And the amazing thing is seeing the number of people that were fans of her and fans of ours, completely come together. It’s just so pure. I think my bucket list is pretty topped up for a while. I’ll get back to you if I think of anything else. Oh! Maybe playing on the Scott Pilgram anime soundtrack!
Let’s manifest that because it would be awesome! What about Red Side of the Moon resonated with you so much as an artist?
The first time I hear a song I don’t necessarily listen to the lyrics. That’s not because of any other reason than I’ve grown up learning music and so I really listened to the music, and it immediately hit me; this kind of simplistic but stunning kind of country, folky, song. I hadn’t expected that to be done by her. It took me by surprise at first. It’s one of those songs that I would just listen to if I was a bit, you know, moody or blue. But when I got my act together and listened to the lyrics, they were heartbreakingly beautiful. Especially for somebody in the music industry who spends so much time away from people that you love, watching people that you love from afar. I think it resonated with the other members of the band room and our crew, watching them be away from their significant others. That sense of longing. It’s difficult to describe this kind of strange longing but it hit and funnily enough, it hits more now than it did the first time. I’ve listened to it so much. The older I get, the more heartbreaking it kind of is. It’s just a stunning song.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as a musician over time?
That’s a good question. I’ve become a lot more at ease with making mistakes and not getting embarrassed on stage. Especially in the big venues that we’ve been so lucky to play in. I used to feel like I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Whereas now, I think it just makes the show real. I’ll never forget in our first American show at MSG (Madison Square Garden), we started playing one of our songs called Paradise and I came in too soon, which would have meant everybody else would have had to catch up. It would have been fine because they’re very good musicians, but it would have been you know, a cluster fuck. So, rather than make the rest of the guys catch up, I was like, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it properly. Yeah, let’s start again guys.’ And afterward, when we were meeting people at the merch thing, they were like, ‘Wow, that was so cool. It was a real show.’ People respected us for it. I think the main thing I’ve learned is not to be afraid to make mistakes, because everybody’s a human being at the end of the day. Our big thing during our shows is to make people feel like they’re part of the band, even if they’re not onstage with us. They’re experiencing this with us. So yeah, owning your mistakes, having fun, and not having such an ego about being perfect.
Absolutely, that’s a big life lesson that can be applied to everything.
I applied it to my whole life. If I trip on the street now? Own it. If you own it, you have confidence and you’re not ashamed of it. That goes for the little things and the big things, you know? You have to go into life with that attitude.
What motivates you to keep making music?
Another good question. You’re good at this.
I think what motivates me is obviously the idea that in the future I can get towards the end of my life saying, ‘I lived the dream that I set out to do’, which I know sounds really, really strange and really silly, but I love this kind of balance in my life where I’ve got the performing life and then I get to go home to my dog on my days off and go for a walk around my neighbourhood, you know? I think the real motivation is wanting to keep doing this with my band. And my crew. I’m closest with them more than anybody in the entire world, but I do get to do it with my husband and brother. And if I can keep doing this and keep working with them consistently for the rest of my life, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re playing to 12 people or 12,000 I’ll be the happiest person in the world. Getting to work with incredible artists like Trixie along the way is one hell of an added bonus, but it is a bonus, nonetheless.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t listened to it before?
Rambunctious London loud rock, which is not the shortest description [laughter], okay, how about rock music that makes you feel a bit nostalgic, but will also make you have a good time? Also, not a short tagline [more laughter]. Nostalgic rock with fun?
You know that’s going to be the headline of the article now, right?
You can see why I didn’t go into an advertising career. Jesus, okay, we’re nostalgic London rock with—
Just doesn’t get any better or shorter, does it? Fuck. We’re here to show you a good time [laughs] I’m so sorry. My husband and I write lyrics together, but I always make sure he gets the last say and this is why. Do you know what? Just pick from the words I said and put them in any order you want. The rest of the band aren’t here to filter me out. Blame them. I’m blaming them.
I’ll make a note of that. What advice would you give to up-and-coming bands that you wish someone had given you?
Two things. Make sure you’re doing it with people that you love but you’re not afraid to say shit to. If you’re trying to tiptoe around each other the whole thing is going to implode. That’s number one. And the second one, which is a complete and utter cliche, but it’s the truth, is: don’t stop. When you first start, you think your songs are going to be the hottest shit on the planet. They are not. Songwriting is a muscle. You know, it takes time, and it took us a long time to learn. Our latest record, it’s not out yet, was produced by Pete Townsend. I remember very distinctly sending him a bunch of songs when we first started and I said, ‘Pete, you’re a rock genius. Tell me what you think of our music?’ And he literally sent me an email back saying, ‘Why are you sending me this shit?’ Then he sort of came back and was like, ‘Look, go keep working on it. That’s the only way it’s going to get better.’ And we did. Don’t stop, don’t give up. There will be gigs where you perform to the bar staff. It doesn’t matter. Keep going because it’s still experience and it’s still something out of your comfort zone. And, if you’re sticking to my first rule, which is doing it with people that you love, it doesn’t matter. Because you’re all having fun anyway.
And my last question, what is something you would like to manifest for yourself in the future? As a musician, and as a person?
I can safely speak for all of us when I say we would love to manifest doing a lot more stuff Stateside. Our music, again, going back to my amazing taglines [laughter], has an element of Americana about it. We are so inspired by a lot of US musicians and rock and even the scenery there. It can give so much inspiration without you having to do anything apart from looking at what’s in front of you. So, I think we would like to manifest spending a lot more time your way. That’s the dream.
Red Side of the Moon featuring Trixie Mattel is out now.
Interview Dana Reboe