The WRS - Live at Rockerill REMASTERED
Article by Adam Davidson
Hailing from the unlikely locale of Charleroi in Belgium, The WRS are a powerful trio who combine garage rock psychedelia with progressive instrumental sections for a punchy, expansive sound. Their influences range from the classic to the modern, combining elements of differing styles in their music. They’ve not been together too long, but already have their 2nd studio album in the works, plus a live release - Live At Rockerill - ready for release through Mystery Jack Recordings.
The WRS are led by Nacho, who I spoke with recently. His main instrument is guitar but also dabbles in synths and provides vocals. The rest of the band are Jaime on bass and synths and Benja on drums. The boys have known each other for years, first meeting at school. Their move into being a band happened gradually - “We have been playing music together for years, and three years ago, we said why not make a band?” This natural bond brought about by years of friendship is evident in the band’s music.
Their sound brings a healthy amount of trippy vibes, kept in check with scratchy, frantic guitar riffs. Some sections, like the intro to Magic Powder, or the rising majestic tempo of Byzance, seem to stretch out to the horizon, building tension as the seconds turn into minutes. On the other hand, songs such as Spit and 3’s for Lalala, are straightforward bangers, those heavy-delay guitar chords bringing everything back down to earth with head-nodding simplicity. This mix of styles blends sweetly to form something that will be instantly familiar and appealing to those people who came to Mystery Jack for the King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard vinyl.
The length of their compositions allow The WRS to get comfortable with their songs as they ebb and flow. What ties all these varied sections together is the raw energy of the band. They don’t drop their pace throughout. The band are most at home when they’re jamming out a section, going over and over the same measure with soloing and improvisation. They leave the audience constantly on alert, ready for the next thoughtful drifting section or that final crushing riff. The WRS is mainly an instrumental group; there are wailing, distorted vocals on most songs but these are altered to such an extent that they may as well be another instrument.
So what does The WRS stand for? “‘WRS’ is a contraction of ‘Wires.’ This comes from the fact that at the beginning, we had cables all over the place, and a lot of cables often did not work or then did not work well!” The band’s influences vary between members. They are inspired by folk, metal, punk and rock, with admiration for bands such as Osees, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Night Beats. All of this mixes together to inform their sound.
Live At Rockerill comes from a time when gigs were allowed, and Corona was just a brand of beer. It came about casually enough - “It was recorded on August 8th, 2019. Our friend who is the sound engineer of The Rockerill recorded us directly from the output of his mixing desk. This was just to be able to listen to ourselves later.” This soundboard recording developed into the live album they are about to release. Nacho was enthusiastic about the concept of a live album from The WRS. “Concerts are life! We love to play live, that's why we make music. Sharing the atmosphere of concerts, chatting around the bar with people afterwards, that's what we love. Our first album was also recorded live but in the studio without overdubs. I think that recording live is the best way to bring out the energy of The WRS. Also, we know MJR's love for live recording, so it makes sense to work with them.”
Nacho runs his own label, Time Room Records. It’s something he’s always wanted to do. “Time Room Records was created at the end of 2020, but I've been thinking about it for a long time to create my own indie label. After taking care of a lot of things for the first WRS album, I said to myself ‘why not make my own label?’” There’s a lot of hard work involved, especially as Time Room Records has been involved in several projects in it’s short existence. But as the only person involved, Nacho gets to call all the shots and drive the label in the direction he wants.
The collaboration with Mystery Jack Recordings happened naturally. “I discovered Mystery Jack Records via a mutual friend Gilles Lostalé, who produces linocuts. He made some for Mystery Jack, but also for me too. He told me about them while I was doing a Teenage Gizzard release for Time Room.” The first project on the slate in this partnership is Live At Rockerill, which actually is the work of at least four different labels. “We decided to collaborate on the release of a WRS live album, which will be co-produced with two other labels - Salty Dog Records in Australia and Rockerill Records in Belgium.” There are more projects proposed between Mystery Jack and Time Room, so this is just the beginning for what could be an exciting joint venture between the two labels.
The music business is dominated by a handful of large corporations, who get the lion’s share of profit from album releases and tours. The independent side of the industry is still doing well, though. Survival has always been the prime objective of any smaller label, but these organisations are finding a good niche for themselves. Nacho had a few words on that before we wrapped up. “In my eyes, small independent labels are even more important than ever today. Because of COVID everything is stuck. But I find that allows people to discover smaller bands, and also to bring life to the local scene.” It’s a sentiment that will resonate with a lot of people lately - We’ve had plenty of time to sit and think in the last year, so we might as well get out there and discover new music.
There’s more love put into the independent part of the industry, too. That will hopefully mean that in the near future, independent labels will have a bigger role to play. “The small indie labels are often the project of super passionate people, who want to share their love of music and offer quality content. In the post-COVID world the small independent labels will never have been more important to continue the promotion of underground music.”