Wombo is an indie rock band based in Kentucky. Their latest record Fairy Rust is out July 2022 on Fire Talk Records.
S.G. Goodman is a singer-songwriter from Kentucky; Sydney Chadwick and Joel Taylor (along with Cameron Lowe) are the also-Kentucky-based indie rock band Wombo. Wombo’s new record Fairy Rust is out tomorrow on Fire Talk, so the three friends hopped on a Zoom call to talk about it, and much more!
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music
S.G. Goodman: We should let the world know that we’ve crossed paths before. We’re all from Kentucky, and y’all have made your way to where I live in Murray several times. I think the first time I saw y’all play was in Paducah, Kentucky, and you covered “Psycho Killer.”
Sydney Chadwick: Oh, yeah.
S.G.: Do you ever do that anymore?
Sydney: No, we don’t really. We haven’t done a cover in a while, actually.
Joel Taylor: We covered 311 on 3/11 this year — “Amber.” That was the latest cover we ever did.
S.G.: Wow. Yeah, I mean, I don’t really like to do covers because I can’t remember words that well. It kind of sucks. So we’ve all been hitting the road pretty hot since we’ve been able to with the pandemic kind of wrapping up — what has it been like for y’all?
Sydney: I think stressful and enjoyable, through just everything. It’s been weird times; financially. gas is just horrendous. But we make the most of it and we have fun, you know? And I think that we just had been so starved for that experience. But now I feel like I’m at a point where after this tour that we’re about to do at the end of July and most of August, it kind of just feels like we can slow it down a little bit and start writing some more.
S.G.: I feel you on that. I’m at home for the first time in several months, just with press and shows, and this is my longest stretch I’m going to have at home until maybe December. And I feel the same way. I decided to say yes to pretty much everything after the pandemic, because I felt like I had so much ground to cover with kind of… I wouldn’t say I lost the record [2020’s Old Time Feeling] to the pandemic, but definitely it’s not getting the treatment that this record [this year’s Teeth Marks] is. But, yeah, I’m exhausted. [Laughs.]
Sydney: How many months were you on the road for?
S.G.: There were some smaller tours at the beginning of [last] year, so I would say I probably started playing out again in April more for tours that were multiple days instead of one-offs, and then we had festivals and a few things. But by August of last year, I was pretty much on the road solid — my last show of last year, I think, was December 28.
S.G.: It was pretty nuts. The first major tour I did last year was six weeks long with Madison Cunningham across the United States and into Canada. I personally think six weeks straight on the road is way too much.
Sydney: [Laughs.] Yeah, I agree. So do you have any rituals that you do to keep yourself grounded? I mean, you get used to it after a while, naturally. But still, it’s hard to stay healthy and maintain a sense of self.
S.G.: Yeah. For me, as much as I can be a social person, I’m not an extrovert, so I don’t get energy from being around other people. It’s depleting when I am. So as much as I love the people that I play music with and people who have played with before — it doesn’t matter who you are, I don’t want to be around you that much. [Laughs.]
Especially during that six week tour — you’re doing headlining stuff, I’m just starting to do some headlining stuff, but when you’re opening for people… the music industry kind of has a pay-your-dues mentality with what you’re given, which is normally not even enough to get a hotel room and get gas to go to the next town.
Sydney: I mean, we were getting offered, like, $250, $300 tops for opening shows, and that’s just not sustainable.
S.G.: A hundred percent. The thing that I think a lot of people don’t understand is you book these tours so far in advance, so even if at the position you are in now, maybe you could get more money, those numbers are still have been coming my way. And that’s not even enough to pay my band members or anything.
Sydney: Sometimes it’s better than others, but most of the time we’re still doing opening stuff.
S.G.: Yeah, same here. This fall will be my first actual headline run. And that brings on a different anxiety of selling tickets, because it’s a potential that you might have rather had a guarantee of $250. [Laughs.] But the worst part about the six week tour was — I mean, I toured in every variant of COVID and somehow nobody in my group or myself got sick, but I didn’t feel comfortable going into people’s houses because we were traveling all over the United States. So getting a hotel at that time was hard, because I had five people in one room.
So back to your question about rituals: I was gifted by a close friend of mine a set of AirPods.
Sydney: Oh, nice.
S.G.: I’m never up to date with technology, but I don’t know why I didn’t think that would be necessary. When I got those — that is something that I have to have on the road, because I can trick my brain into thinking that I’m by myself.
Sydney: That is such a good point. I don’t have AirPods, but one of my friends while we were at SXSW this year got Skullcandy earplugs, and she was like, “I already have a pair so you can have these.” And I was like, Wow, earplugs! I had gone on so many little tours without any earplugs of my own, just subjected to whatever we were listening to, or silence if everyone else had their earplugs in. And it was incredible on this last tour, being able to listen to a podcast and just close my eyes.
S.G.: Yeah. I thought I lost them back in December and went two days without them on the East Coast, and the first Walmart I saw, I was like, “We gotta stop.” If you want to be really financially irresponsible, just get two sets, because then if one dies, you can put in the other ones. But I got them cheap off of Facebook Marketplace, too, one time, if you’re not grossed out by putting somebody else’s ear pods in your ears. But you can clean them.
Sydney: Wipe it with some alcohol wipes or something.
S.G.: Yeah, get all that funk off there, but then enjoy yourself and pretend like you’re alone like I do.
Joel: Those are gonna come in handy because the the aux cord in the van went out, so no more aux.
S.G.: Oh, no. Yeah, in the van sometimes we’ll all listen to music together, but the current outfit that I’m running with, as far as band mates, it’s a very quiet situation. Which is just so good for me and my neuroses. [Laughs.]
Sydney: It’s becoming how we are too. People have this idea of bands touring together, being loud and rambunctious and everyone’s having fun all the time, but it’s really not sustainable. Most personalities that are making music or any type of art are kind of people that need space and alone time.
Sydney: We all are the same way in the band. I mean, sometimes we’ll all listen to music together, especially if we’re about to play with a band we’ve never heard of before, or just, “Hey, this is some new cool stuff I heard.” But otherwise, we all kind of keep to ourselves. We’re around each other for an entire month — I mean, that’s insane.
S.G.: Exactly. I know you all known each other for a long time, and I have historically only played with people that I’ve been playing with for years and years too. But there is a really, really good chance of being in too close quarters with people. And under the stress you’re talking about — I follow you guys on Instagram, and I remember y’all were playing Texas and then the next show was in Chicago. It was like your routing was really tough.
Sydney: [Laughs.] Yeah.
S.G.: I was just like, Holy shit, those poor babies. Because that’s what I think a lot of people don’t realize: Artists that are in our stage of artistry, as far as our comfort levels on the road, is you’re just surviving.
Sydney: Yeah, I used to have a rosy picture of me traveling in a band like a gypsy or something, and now I’m like, I gotta have all my comforts around me, you know? I’ve just developed little things that I do ritualistically to keep myself sane, because at this point in my life, I like my home; I have a lot of house plants that I worry about when I’m gone, and my cat.
S.G.: Oh, god, yeah. The AirPods are one way just to keep sane — it’s not really like my ritual on the road. I do have actual rituals, but I wanna hear your voice first, and then I’ll get into mine.
Sydney: I’m a little bit OCD — I have super sensitive skin and I gotta have my own pillowcase, and I got to keep things clean on my face and stuff. I literally will sometimes wash my face with water at a hotel, and I’m not used to it where it’s harder water and I’ll break out and get an itchy rash.
S.G.: Same thing for me.
Sydney: So I have a super gentle, low ingredient skincare thing that I do, and I’m super consistent with it. I used to wear a lot more makeup, especially on stage, and now I hardly wear anything. Like no foundation or anything, just because I feel more like myself and clean with not as much stuff on. And it helps keep that sensitivity down.
Also I got pancreatitis not that long ago, and I can’t drink alcohol anymore and different types of foods upset me. So now I literally am making a list of things that I think could be good snacks to bring along on the road to keep me comfortable and stuff. It’s sort of changing the way that we’re going to have food stops. Because that’s a situation to in America — you stop a lot at fast food places. So health and skincare is something really big about that keeps me sane. Also, I have to have at least two books and a journal. I journal a lot, which helps me stay grounded and stuff.
Joel: One of our rituals is hitting a Whole Foods, to feel healthy. The salad bar.
Sydney: Oh, I also love waking up before everyone else — for instance, we were in Chicago staying with a friend at his house, and everyone else was asleep and I just could not sleep anymore. So I left and just walked around the neighborhood by myself and found a coffee shop. I love waking up early, especially in hotels where you can just go sit in the breakfast room by yourself and read while you drink coffee and stuff.
S.G.: Yeah, a lot of those sound similar to mine, especially with the skin care routine. I actually have obsessive compulsive disorder, and so when my anxiety heightens, it can be really contradictory at some points. Like, I might freak out if I see one of my bandmates put their face on my pillow.
Sydney: I do the same thing!
S.G.: It’s just like, how rude! [Laughs.] And one time Stephen [Montgomery, drummer] — I saw him using my yoga mat, and I was like, “Oh, hell no.” I mean, he didn’t do enough yoga to sweat on it, he was just doing some hard stretches. But I was just like, “Your bare feet are on my place where my bare feet go.”
You’re the only girl in your outfit too — the guys I’m with are great, but they definitely have some different ideas of cleanliness and what’s appropriate and stuff. Like, I don’t want somebody sitting on my bed with their street clothes on, when you’ve been sitting out on a nasty venue parking lot. Like, get the fuck out of here! [Laughs.]
Sydney: I have to remind myself that I’m not making this up. My skin reacts to stuff in a very real way, so if we all throw our stuff in the back seat and somebody’s shoes land on top of my pillowcase — well, that means that when I lay my head on that pillowcase, I might break out in a rash because it’s got some stuff on it.
S.G.: It’s funny you bring this up, because this literally just happened to me. I was just in Bloomington a few days ago, and I look back there and my lovely guitarist Mikey was laying back on my pillow. Just with anxiety and struggling with some codependent behaviors and caring about other people’s emotions way too much, it took me a while to be able to tell him in a way that didn’t make me feel like a bad person. I looked back and smiled and I was like, “Please, this is just my pillow,” and put it between the van seats. But here’s my tip: Just put it in a garbage bag.
Sydney: Oh, that’s so smart.
S.G.: I’ve gotten to be a packing queen with certain stuff. And I think another thing that I do, just because with my obsessive compulsive disorder, it can really, really bother me to put my bare feet when the boys have taken a shower in the bathroom — I just get really wigged out. So I always, every tour I’m on, bring house shoes.
Sydney: So smart too. I’m writing this stuff down.
S.G.: Also, because obviously I’m not trying to look sexy for any of the boys, I’m kind of obsessed with matching separate pajamas. There’s something about coming in, washing your face, showering and stuff, and having your nighttime wear. It makes me feel like, OK, I am not at home, but I’m making something comforting for myself.
Sydney: I was thinking, touring is making me speak my mind more because it really brings you to the edge of your comfort zone. I never before realized all these little things about myself, like how OCD I can be about cleanliness sometimes, and how it can make me feel anxious. And then not wanting to seem rude to my bandmates about certain things, or seem like I’m griping on them all the time. But this is a very uncomfortable situation that you’re all in together; it is not luxurious, and you have to really advocate for yourself.
S.G.: Yeah. So with y’all being a full-on band, I’m guessing power dynamics and decision-making is more of a shared thing. And let me ask you this: Do y’all travel with a tour manager?
Joel: Never so far.
S.G.: Yeah, I can’t afford one. [Laughs.] I have struggled, too — I’ve definitely never been accused of being someone who doesn’t speak my mind. I’m a pretty direct person, but a lot of people don’t understand that it actually takes a lot of build up for me to do it. Even though I’m so direct with people that it can seem like I’m being harsh… For instance, I feel a lot of weight with trying to make a good impression on the people that I am opening for or my fans or the venues themselves, and so it’s put on me to say something if I see something that isn’t representative of me. And it really fucking hurts to do that. But, you know, it’s little stuff. Joel, since you’re the drummer, do you find it appropriate to be playing your drums while someone is miking your drum kit?
Joel: I try not to, especially if someone’s ears are a foot from your kick pedal. [Laughs.] It’s not ideal.
Sydney: I think sometimes he has, just not really thinking about that and practicing a little bit. I think when we’re all nervous, we can get a little careless with our sound. [Laughs.]
Joel: We’ve all been reprimanded. There’s not one of us that’s innocent.
S.G.: Yeah. Well, my thing is, I like people to use, if possible, their hand signals to talk to the sound guy. My drummer Stephen, who is one of my oldest friends and definitely oldest music contributors, I think is really itching just to play, and I can’t tell you in the 12 years we’ve played together how many times I’ve had to be like, “Stephen, can you not play your drums right now?” And it hurts me every time — it’s really a codependent behavior to be anxious about…
Sydney: Making somebody uncomfortable. I try not to put the pressure on myself so much. It’s easier because there’s only three of us and we’re more of an entity together, rather than me just being a front person. But at the end of the day, I am technically the front person and a lot of eyes are on me, so I do feel sort of pressured to make a good impression. But that is a codependent quality for sure.
It’s just nice to be able to talk to other people in bands and ask them questions about touring. Because now that we’ve been touring more, I’ve been scrambling around trying to figure out ways to make it more comfortable. It’s nice to hear that other people have little intricate things.