"We wanted to be the guys who are living their lives alongside the fans who love their music"
Hey everybody, meet Wilder..
A new band from Stephen Ramos and Nick Sturz, previously a part of Hearts Like Lions, the duo are setting about to create their perfect soundtrack. And with debut EP 'Bad Bad Luck', they have done just that. A vibrant blend of party-starting pop-punk, introspective emo and plenty of pop sensibility, it's a great first step on what is sure to be a fascinating journey.
To get the lowdown, we chatted to the pair about their aims and ambitions and how it feels to be starting over a decade after they met..
How exactly did Wilder. come to be?
Stephen: “It’s a pretty crazy story overall. Me and Nick met each other initially around 2011 when our old band Hearts Like Lions started. We met through church, and we could hone in on the exact music we wanted to play at that point. 2019 was then the moment that we started to decide what we wanted to do next. We were signed to Tooth & Nail Records, and we found ourselves in an ideal moment where we could walk from our record deal. That was when we realised we could stay as Hearts Like Lions or do something completely new. The other guys in the band were fading out of the music scene, and it left us back in the spot that we started with really.
“So that’s when we decided to change it all up. It wasn’t that we weren’t playing music that we didn’t want to. It was more about the amount of work that would have to change an existing band into something that it wasn’t. That’s how Wilder. came to be. We were just in the moment, and now we’re enjoying writing songs differently and freshly. We don’t have to worry that we’re carrying on any legacy. Wilder. to us is about getting wild, and that’s the whole purpose. Doing what we want in whatever way we want to do it.”
In that decade of making music together, you’ve also learnt so much more than you knew when you started. So on the surface, it may feel like you’ve gone back to the start again, but in reality, you’ve picked up so many skills and ideas along the way to make this band work how you want it to…
Stephen: “It’s funny to even think about the process of which we made things with the old band. We did everything super last minute. Wilder. is the complete opposite of that vibe. We’re able to come up with things on the spot and run with them, but we will let those ideas change so many times until we’re happy. We were set to go into the studio with five songs, but a week before our time, we started working on another new song as well. That song was ‘Oh No’, and it’s a moment where we both said, ‘This is ‘Wilder.’. It’s all about being able to work like that.”
So what exactly did you want a typical Wilder. song to encompass? There’s that desire to let loose and be wild, but what are the other components you aim for?
Stephen: "It might sound funny or cheesy, but we’re all about making party music. If you can play a show with all your friends there or you’re at a party, and you want everybody to have a good time, that’s what we are aiming for."
Nick: "I think of things in terms of how the music and the instrumentals sound. So I wanted us to move away from the big half-time emo sound and go for something more upbeat, similar to what we have been listening to personally. We still wanted to have a bit of emo in there because the lyrics are still in your face and melancholy, though. But a friend of ours described the sound as Dance Emo, which we think fits pretty nicely."
That’s something that the genre lacks more than you realise. Something that represents too different actions and emotions simultaneously and can be played in the most joyful or melancholic situations, you’re covering all ground and creating something unique…
Stephen: "The thing is that with Hearts Like Lions, we learned a lot. We spent ten years living in that. One of my biggest takeaways from the experience was that if you want to be in a band that you play in for more than fun, you need to have your own thing. And that’s what I’ve wanted the most when going into this. To me, this is it. This is what we have been working towards this whole time. Now it all makes sense."
Nick: "I remember feeling how significant a change it was at the end of Hearts Like Lions. We were really in a dry spot. For total ambiguity, we were looking to break out of the Christian scene, to be honest. We were getting pigeonholed because of it. That may have been what we were shooting for initially, but now we’re almost 30, and we feel different now. We needed to reflect where we were, but as you see with so many other bands, people only say that initial version of you and won’t translate over. For us, the clean slate allowed us to overhaul not just the band but who we were. That felt much better than just changing things over slowly."
So what would you say were the common themes and threads that made their way through the collection of songs that you wrote?
Stephen: "We wanted to keep the same theme that we had with Hearts Like Lions, which was for everything to be as authentic as possible. We wanted to make sure that nothing was being held back and everything was as relatable as it could be. We tried to keep that and then balance it with how different the sounds are from what we are saying. I’ve always admired that sort of sneakiness in music. You can get people to sing along to something catchy, and people will have no idea what the words mean to you.
"We just wanted every song to represent who me and Nick are as people. We’re both a bit crazy and weird but also real and open and honest. We’ve always used that mentality throughout our time in music. We wanted to be the guys who are living their lives alongside the fans who love their music."
You want to be the band that you wish you had when you were younger. And to have the chance to be that for somebody else is such a special opportunity…
Stephen: "Absolutely. We just want to normalise the fact that everybody is human. You may be coming to one of our shows, but we’re just the same as you. It’s definitely a mentality that helped us to grow with Hearts Like Lions because we met so many awesome friends out on the road, and we want to continue that vibe with this."
So now you’ve made these steps and created the first piece of this new journey. How are you feeling about things as you look towards the future?
Stephen: "It’s definitely all about shows for us. We’re looking to book our debut show for around October, and making sure that as many people as possible get to hear us."
Nick: "The last time we played together as Hearts Like Lions was in 2019, so we’re ready to get out there and do all of the touring that we want to do. We want to do it different to how we used to do it, not just jumping in a van and going for it. We want to be more particular differently we play and how those shows go, because we want them to be really good for the people there—not just rolling up on Day 25 of a 27-date tour and saying, ‘Right, perfect'. We want to make it pop. I think it’s really important to nail those first few shows, and that’s what we aim to do.”