Smile Politely

We The Animals: From the dirtiest alleys of Urbana

We The Animals is a band full of life, excitement, and musical talent, no doubt. They describe their music as “100% all-natural dirty disco”, which is derived from “the dirtiest alleys in Urbana”. The band is made up of some locals that have been around the music scene for quite some time: Mark Wyman of Take Care and Barrowe on guitar, Mikael Brackett of The Annas and Midstress (both RIP), Joe Funderburk, as well as Kayla Brown (who has an amazing voice, which goes without saying). Not a lot of disappointment to be had here with this outfit.

I had the opportunity to chat with Wyman — and I enjoyed every second of our half-hour conversation. Here’s how the interview went.

Smile Politely: How did you guys all come together to form the group?

Mark Wyman: I’m originally from Danville, and ended up here in Champaign because of all the music going on here.  I was able to meet Kayla through the music scene, her being a good singer, and me being an incestuous guitar player, it just naturally happened. 

Mikael and Joe came into the picture later. Kayla and I first started playing with Kayla’s brother, Dave. We knew Joe was open to the idea of being our drummer, and he is a steady working drummer in town here, so we knew he would be a great fit and learn our songs quickly; he is so diverse and dynamic on the drums. Mikael didn’t think he was good enough to play with us, he was wrong. He had been a friend prior to, as he was in a punk band that used to play with me in Take Care, so we knew each other from that. He was looking to play more music and wanted to start going again. It was just good timing really, that’s how a lot of things seem to play out with us.

SP: Who came up with the name of the band, and what is its significance?

Wyman: Kayla came up with the name. She heard a reference to it used one time, but it really has no direct meaning or conceptual idea around the band. We get that question a lot, but she just heard it and we went with it. 

SP: Do you write most your own music?

Wyman: I usually come up with guitar rifts, especially as of late. When the band first formed, we revamped Kayla’s songs to fit rock band format. I wasn’t used to writing in traditional format (chorus/verse). We started bringing new stuff to the table, just a lot of rifts I have had and have worked on collaborating on them all.

SP: Can you tell me a little about your debut recording, Danger Demo?

Wyman: We went into Pogo Studio here in Champaign with James Treichler from Dirty Feathers, and the drummer for Elsinore. We knocked it out that night; it was all basic tracking. We then took it to his basement to do vocals. We got that done and then I started mixing it for cd and internet. We released it March 7th, and we lined it up to be released the Wednesday before one of our shows at Cowboy Monkey with the Claudets, a band from Chicago. We are looking to record more next month.

SP: Since you are a local band, where is your favorite place to play?

Wyman: Outside in the beer garden of Mike ‘N Molly’s is one of my favorites. Highdive is another favorite. They have always been very to us, we’ve had well received shows there. Also on that list would be Cowboy Monkey. We are all looking forward to playing outside.

SP: What are your favorite kinds of audiences?

Wyman: I like people right in front of me. I really like younger crowds that are full of energy. Anybody who is willing to listen and show attention is great. It feels pretty good that we haven’t run into disruptive crowds. I’d have to say, Champaign audiences are the most polite, in my opinion.

SP: Where do yourselves (as a band) in a few years?

Wyman: As a band, we are taking one step at a time. I would love to see us playing a lot, like 90 to 100 days a year; most of us consider music as something we would take on as a career. We are looking in to be a professional band more and more. It’s like, when we travel all the way to Chicago or St. Louis, we should probably be able to make a living out of it. You know, we’re not 21 anymore. We’re taking steps toward being professional. We are making well educated decisions on shows; and we have a decent amount of money saved to record, and a decent engineer to work with our product. We want to be something we think would be well received in the future. We are always on the search for help and guidance, constantly looking for people who know what they’re doing. We are taking steps towards making it as full time as possible; as we want it to be.

SP: What’s one word you’d use to describe the band?

Wyman: HAIR! [laughs] Joe right now has an outgrown mohawk. I haven’t had a haircut in at least ten months. Kayla just got some of her hair cut off, and Mikael’s hair is a red lion’s manes that’s a little lower than his shoulder, I think, I don’t know, I try not to pay attention.

SP: Are there any funny stories you’d like to share with readers?

Wyman: Here’s one that comes to mind. This story is kind of how things have always gone for me. We had a show in Lafayette, Indiana, so we borrowed a van from out buddy. There was probably eight to ten inches of snow on the ground and it was zero below outside. We shouldn’t have gone, considering the road and the weather, but we went anyways, cause that’s what we do. A trip that probably should have taken us a little over an hour, turned into a trip of over two and a half hours. But we had so much fun. We had a blast. It was a dumb and smart decision to go. It was super dangerous considering the weather conditions, but in my head it was the point of getting over a hump together as a group. We found out we can get along together. We found out we could travel together. It was our first out of town show and it was difficult making the decision if we should go or not when all’s we wanted to do was go. We wanted to perform. We were excited!

SP: Anything you’d like to leave with us?

Wyman: Let them know we plan on recording over the summer at Earth Analog. Also, we do have some pretty exciting news, for now though we have to keep that on the down low, but we are excited about it and can’t wait to share.

We The Animals can be seen on tonight at Mike ‘N Molly’s at 9 p.m. with Gloom Balloon, Christopher the Conquered, and Isaac Arms.

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