he last time I saw Alex Wilder, he was decked out in John Lennon glasses, rocking a sold-out performance of A Day in The Life, a multimedia Beatles tribute show he helped create several years ago.
It’s just after 8 am when he arrives at the coffee shop in his hometown of Camden where we've agreed to meet to talk about his newest musical adventure: Mostly Brothers. He’s dressed decidedly less Lennon-like: a navy knit sweater, perfect for a foggy Maine morning, and square Burberry eyeglasses. He fetches himself a cup of coffee and a muffin, and smiles widely as we sit down to chat.
Wilder is home from Oberlin for the summer. Ohio’s a far cry from the coast of Maine where he grew up. Close ties with childhood friends had him eager to come back east for a while.
Mostly Brothers, in fact, is made up of mostly brothers — or at least, it was at the outset. When Wilder was a kid, he spent as often as he could at the musical home of Sean and Jamie Oshima, two brothers from Whitefield, Maine.
“This has been in some respects a lifelong thing.” Wilder begins, “I met Sean around 1st grade — he was the first one who got me singing harmony. We would sing rounds and stuff, harmony parts that he learned at home — he got me interested, at some level, in music as I know it. Sean’s younger brother Jamie also very musical, and they grew up in this amazing musical household in Whitefield.”, he pauses, smiling wildly with a tinge of nostalgia that is beyond his years, “I can’t stress enough the influence that’s had on me. Just being in that house was an incredible musical experience. There’s always someone singing, someone’s got a guitar,” he picks at his muffin, clearly hungry but very invested in the story he’s telling, so the choice to nosh or not to nosh is a difficult one. He continues, “So, Sean Jamie, his parents, they all completely influenced me growing up.”
He goes on to say that several years ago, the mostly brothers decided to make an official trio out of their dabbling, “At some level it still is,” he adds. “We decided to do some shows. They had some names floating around — and Mostly Brothers made sense of the three of us. It’s figurative and literal. The majority of us are brothers.”
When they added a couple of other bandmates, they were presented with a bit of an identity crisis, “We expanded it and called it Mostly Brothers and Co. for a while, which was a very literal take on it— but then people were like “oh we’re going to see your guys band, whatever it’s name was,” so we had to simplify it. I feel very warmly about Ness and Duncan. It’s family — as cliche as that may sound.”
That’s pretty much the vibe one gets walking into The Rockport Opera house while the band is rehearsing.
It’s just after 6:30 pm on a Friday night, and while there would normally be chairs set up this close to performers taking the stage, tonight they're pushed off to the sides. In the middle of what will soon morph into a dancefloor (albeit one that shakes — as I'll come to find out) are several pizza boxes.
Fuel, I reason.
In addition to Wilder, who is rocking out on the keyboard, I’m able to set my eyes upon the rest of the band, all of whom he spoke so highly of earlier in the week when we chatted. Sean and Jamie Oshima, Duncan Hall and Rock Ness might be “warming up”, but if this is just the rehearsal I'm already stoked for the main event. The Oshima brothers, as Wilder mentioned to me earlier, come from musical stock and as they bop around, changing instruments, alternating as frontman, the choreography amongst the entire band becomes apparent. Rock Ness and Duncan Hall are the formally “co” part, since they’re relatively new to the band, but they integrate seamlessly.
Soon I begin to realize that it’s not so much a choreography as an ongoing conversation of glances; the guys are good friends and for other bands, the intimacy with which they play music might put up a wall between them and their audience. In this case, it does quite the opposite: fostering just the kind of comfortable, easy-going — but thoroughly rockin’ — environment that had people dancing.
In fact, during their first set, I sent a quick video to a friend of my who lives out of state. She immediately responded with a picture of her glass of water, asking me if “the jams were so hot would she have to chug this”.
Hydrate before they gyrate! I responded, the good-time vibe having impacted my ability to be a proper journalist for the moment.
She then asked for the band’s name —
and where she could get their album.
In order to wrangle multiple cameras, I was up in the balcony for most of the evening, occasionally weaving my way through dancing bodies to snap some stills, and my vantage point allowed me to watch not just the band, but their audience. As their sets were an eclectic mix of covers and originals, some modern pop and rock tunes as well as some groovy classics (and even a waltz thrown in for good measure) so too was their audience.
It was a gradient of ages, the younger hip folk, presumably friends of the boys, closer to the front of the stage; their whoops and claps occasionally breaking through on tape. Toward the back there were a few older couples who were dancing the entire night, waltzing to songs that I never would have thought one could waltz to — but it was not only a testament to the musical arrangements (which, of course, the boys do themselves) but the atmosphere they created: it was truly danceable — even the slow jams.
The musicality of each band member, from the widest grinner of a drummer I've ever seen to the bass player who also, consequently, could whip out a cello at a moment’s notice, to the brothers and Wilder who took turns on vocals, keyboards, guitars both acoustic and electric and, at one point, a cheekily tossed trumpet of all things, is what made me feel like I was watching greatness unfold.
I found myself wondering, if Mostly Brothers sounded so good, so cohesive, on a small stage in a little town, with the occasional spot of feedback and pizza breath — how amazing would they sound on an album? On Spotify Sessions? On MTV Unplugged (is that still a thing?)
At the end of my interview with Wilder, we went across the street to the town green and I snapped a few pictures of the lad. I told him that, thus far, what I'd heard of the band gave me a vibe of Bastille, for which I had one of those “I heard them first” stories.
Before that band shot to stardom, I had heard a few of their very rough cuts on some deep internet message board and was immediately obsessed with their song, Laura Palmer. A year or so later, they were on the radio and sold-out tours. I always felt an affection toward them, knowing that I had liked them even when they were rough around the edges and, presumably, recording a demo in someone’s dirty basement.
I joked to Wilder, while taking a portrait, that maybe one day when Mostly Brothers shoots to international superstardom I'll be able to say that I did the very first profile of the band. Wilder gives me a small, gracious laugh; maybe he thinks that would be beyond their wildest dreams.
I think it’s well within their reach.
*Video footage courtesy of VStv.