…And The Wheels Keep Rolling On

And Are Now Recording a New Album

By Nick Schwab

Music is an art form that is often for disaffected youth. However, the Yellow Springs, Ohio band Wheels works as a sort of counterpoint to this belief.

Whether it be Iggy Pop screaming “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or Tupac’s “Thug Life” movement, the rebellion is often in the details and thought of as a common way to grow up in this country.

This band, however, rather plays “heart felt and deeply affecting” to get their audience to be touched, as if playing by the motto, “Music is only significant if it has your feelings driving it.”

To their guitarist, Connor Stratton, their band name is reflective of their youthful albeit wise music.

“Our music is constantly moving forward as we age and mature,” he tells, later adding that the members of Wheels are pretty young from 15 to 19 years old.

Since such positive emotions as love and heartbreak are so pure, Wheels doesn’t want to depress their listeners by expressing the sour side of life. Rather they want to be truthful and not melodramatic.

“I don’t think any negative emotions are really good,” states mandolin player Sam Salazar. “We want the listener to take in our music with respect to fragile emotions and make people feel good.”

Something that is always in a musician’s mind, though, is how to go about doing it. As Wheels might not be averse to being on a mainstream label, they see a downside to it that may be cautionary.

“I think by putting your music on a mainstream label and all the other people having input in the artists material, it does not become as much from the artist anymore when money becomes a big part of a musician’s career,” said Salazar. “It might make people forget where they came from and where they are going and what keeps them alive.”

Wheels guitarist, Jamie Scott Djembe, agrees.

“There is a grey area between where you are making money in order to make a living and making art to express yourself. The best artists do both.”

Their first album was called Fields on Fire and Stratton explains how he responded to it.

“I wasn’t in the band yet, but that album was one of the ways that helped me discover Wheels. I was a big fan before I joined.”

Salazar says he takes his inspiration from poetry into his songwriting.

“I’ve always been into poetry. Some of the poems I write can be transformed into songs,” he describes. “Abstracting ideas of my life really helps me.”

Guitarist Rory Papania agrees when talking about a song that he wrote called “Those Days” that was about a romantic relationship of the past that fell apart and really affected him.

The song shows this tender expression in its lyrics that sing:

“Picture of you and pictures of me, I think about them everyday/ Those days I left behind and I just don’t know what to say/ You think you got the face that everybody wants to see/ Well your laugh and all your love, that was good enough for me….We’ll I guess that’s not enough, I’ll just have to dig my grave.”

However, despite this song’s disappointment with relationships, Wheels will not abandon their listeners and have been working on a new album that they hope to release in August.

‘We were in a dead play zone and just began recording a few weeks ago,” tells Stratton. “A lot of times we’ve just been pulling songs together and now we have more than enough songs for one album and are now playing a game of elimination to make it the best it can be.”

So, what can listeners expect it will be?

“We are really hoping that the next album sets us up in stone and establishes us to our fans and shines a light on our potential,” explains Stratton.

Stratton then adds how this new album will sound different than Fields On Fire.

“The biggest difference between Fields On Fire and now is that album had traditional instruments and a folk sound,” he said. “Now we try to find as many ways we can to reach out to other types of music and find our groove.”

So, how does Stratton think it will turn out and has it been going well?

“We have been getting a lot of good feedback, so I think we are heading in the right direction,” he concludes.

Wheels plays at Canal Street Tavern on May 25th, with the Young Heirlooms and The Giant Steps.  Admission is $5 at the door, the doors open at 8pm and the show starts at 9.30pm.

Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at NickSchwab@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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