Allston, MA, has been the hub of the hippest music for quite some time now. It’s a part of Boston I used to visit quite frequently and for good reason. The section of Boston is cut off from the rest of city, houses a number of college students attending prestigious universities (BC and BU), contains several delicious burrito joints, and has even earned the nickname Allston Rock City. Music should be getting made here, because it’s a very young and happening part of the city. The community and the art within it are enough to help a band find themselves and integrate within the culture of the city. You Can Be a Wesley are doing just that, having formed in a Boston University dorm room, now moving up the hill to neighboring Brighton, where they reside in the self-appointed Wesley House. Their catchy and friendly brand of indie music definitely ties in with what is going on in today’s music scene on a larger scale, the Northeast’s answer to what’s been going on. There are definitely elements that are reminiscent of bands like Deerhunter, Beach House, and Best Coast. It’s that mellow, low-key brand of grunge-esque music that’s gaining steam.
“It’s really cool because we have a group of friends that are all artists in some way,” singer/guitarist Saara Untracht-Oakner tells me over the phone. “All of our friends are in Boston bands, so we go to each other’s shows, and party, and hang out, and support each other. Our bassist even built a woodshop in our basement.” The group is composed of four members, three of whom met at BU. Their most recent member, a drummer by the name of Dylan Ramsey, a student at the ever-competitive Berklee College of Music, was hired via Facebook while he was out in the Pacific Northwest. He then packed up his stuff, moved in with them, and the band has been living together ever since.
Having a band house has always sounded like a dream, and Untracht-Oakner explained how they are living that lifestyle perfectly. For one, they’re always on the same vibe. “We put all our records on a big shelf in the living room,” she explains. “It’s cool we all live together, so when we get into an album, everyone gets into it.” And second, they are always just dicking around on their instruments together in the same place where they sleep. “Right now we’re playing in our living room,” she says gloomily. “We got kicked out of our practice space; a bunch of punks destroyed it. It’s convenient, but we can’t play late at night. We usually sit down, one or two, jam on a little riff we made up, or start from scratch.”
It is here that the band creates their blissfully catchy tunes. “We’ll have a bunch of parts, and just build a structure with them,” she says. “Winston, our bassist, comes up with some harmonies, and I come up with the melody.” Once she has the melody, a very unique part of the process takes place. “I’ll take the melody and a sound to go with it, and let words just come out, and try to build lyrics around those words and those feelings.” Rather than write lyrics line for line, she focuses them around the sound of a certain word.
On songs like “Creatures”, the band layers instruments perfectly as the verses rattle off, building upon each other. Once they reach the chorus, it’s like a triumphant fanfare; the vocals soar, and the instruments explode with this sort of aggressive freedom. “Stuck in a Battle” is a bit grungier, with a little bit of snarl in the vocals, almost reminiscent of Sir Billy Idol, but the chorus is almost like cries of desperation. The juxtaposing moods make for a good track, as well as the obscenely catchy guitar solo in the middle (note that two are going on at once). Then there’s the soothing “Wildlife”, which sounds like summer nights in the Northeast countryside, visions of driving around with friends, parties, and summer barbecues.
The band took three years to record their first LP, Heard Like Us, but they are eager to continue to put out new material. They are currently working on a new EP and have even slowed down the touring for now to write more. Last summer, the group completed a diabolical tour, heading as far north as Canada and as far east as Illinois, even being able to score a slot at Maine’s Nateva Festival. They have no plans of stopping anytime soon. “I’d like to make this my day job,” Untracht-Oakner says. “Simply put, because it’s fun, and I’m with my best friends, can travel, meet tons of people. We like to say take over the world, but that’s what everyone says. We all just want to play music as our jobs and be able to put out albums people can talk about.”