Features, Print December 16, 2019

Wildermiss: Star-Faced but Grounded

by Valerie Vampola

The tour was off to a rough start. A mechanic looked at Wildermiss’ van in Kalamazoo, Michigan where the band was playing their first gig of the tour: She definitely needed to go to the shop in the morning.

So instead of being en route to The Auricle in Canton, Ohio, they were van shopping. A canceled show and a few thousand dollars later, Denver’s Wildermiss were back on the road playing their 4th career tour last month, which brought them all the late-night drives, truck stops and 99-cent pizza slices at 3am you’d expect from life on the road as an ambitious young band.

In many ways, Wildermiss made it big a couple years ago with their first album Lost With You. It had a breakout hit and they got regular rotation on 93.3 KTCL, performances at Red Rocks and a slot on Last Call With Carson Daly. But they’re not exactly flying in private jets when outside the comfort of Colorado. In fact, they’re still driving vans that suck. Wildermiss haven’t forgotten where they came from because they can’t afford it yet. And that’s reflected in their new album In My Mind.

Wildermiss from left: Josh Hester, Emma Cole, Caleb Thoemke, Seth Beamer
Photos by Scott McCormick

This, their sophomore release, stays true to the indie pop-rock ways they established on their debut Lost With You, which featured the aforementioned breakout hit “Carry Your Heart.” The guitar riffs that open up In My Mind’s lead-off track “Star-Faced,” are bright and melodic, a keystone sound of theirs, supporting singer / bass keyboardist Emma Cole. Cole balances her vocal texture between breathy and floaty to an aggressive pop-punk attitude which matches the band’s energy.

Though true to their ways, no two tracks on the new record sound the same. “Fake” breaks up the general upbeat feel of the album with a spacey power-ballad. “Paralyzed” has an acoustic aesthetic within the track, pulling them away from their heavy, electric rock tendencies. Drummer Caleb Thoemke breaks up his grooves and experiments with his stick technique, keeping sections of the songs distinguished. All of these choices indicate growth and synergy within the quartet, perhaps best displayed on the single “Hell or High Water.”

Long time fans will find a real treat on the last track of the album, where the band placed the song “Girl,” a tune they played at their very first show. The song went through many incarnations and versions of itself, including titles changes. It never felt complete, and it almost didn’t make the cut on the new album.

“We wanted to keep working on it until it was … [satisfyingly] reinvented for this album,” said vocalist Cole in an interview for BandWagon.

The song opens with an echo of the lyrics “it’s only in my mind.” When Wildermiss wrote the song (before their first show, it turns out) it was titled “In My Mind.” On their setlists, they always short-handed the title as “Girl,” until that became the official title. This detail is just one example of dozens the band has diligently labored over, chiseled away at or simply stumbled upon while working to finalize the vision of the release.

High water or no, Wildermiss have hit the road in support of their newest, In My Mind,
with Colorado shows in Golden January 16 and at Washington’s in Fort Collins January 18.
Photo by Scott McCormick

A year-long project like creating an album is a lot of work and can feel like old news to the artist once it is finally put out, but just how In My Mind is new to long-time listeners, Wildermiss can still be new to other audiences.

On their first tour in early 2018 supporting The Oh Hellos, they wanted to find the best way to speak to and attract the fans of the headliners while outside Colorado. Now, as they pass through cities like Chicago and New York City as the headliners, they continue to meet more and more people who know them. “It’s fun seeing the fans who remember us as we grow a following,” said Cole.

As their tour continues west into the new year, they will visit new audiences at the old stomping grounds of Cole and guitarist Josh Hester. Cole moved to Colorado from Tucson, Arizona when she was pretty young, while Hester left Houston, Texas in his early 20’s. They hope their respective connections to their hometown roots will draw in new fans from old acquaintances. “We’ll see if any elementary school friends remember me and come out,” Cole remarked.

The Wildermiss fanbase steadily grows as they play new venues across the country, but shows in the Denver and the Northern Colorado area still always feel like an amazing homecoming. No matter where they’re from or how far they continue to go, Colorado still carries their heart and Denver – if only in their minds while on tour – remains their true home.

Wildermiss celebrate the release of In My Mind with a continued tour of the southwest in the new year, as well as headlining appearances in Golden on January 16 and at Washington’s in Fort Collins on January 18 with Slow Caves & The Still Tide. Full tour dates at wildermiss.com