In a world where the term “indie rock” can mean just about anything (any new rock music that doesn’t sound like Creed) Ola Podrida‘s David Wingo describes his indie sub-genre as “expansive, atmospheric folk-rock.”
Back in Austin after a chapter of playing and recording in New York, Wingo is the driving force behind Ola Podrida and the band’s latest record, 2009’s Belly of the Lion, which was recently released as a limited-edition vinyl. We spoke to him about the sound, the band and the songs before a recent hometown show.
So who is Ola Podrida? Is it a stage name for you? A band name?
David: I had made the first album on my own without having a band name; I was making music and put the band together, and it was like, “We need a name.” It’s a grey area. It became even more of a grey area once my New York band ended up splitting and everyone moved away. I recorded another record as Ola Podrida, but it wasn’t with the band that I thought of as being Ola Podrida. I had to make a decision; it felt weird putting a record out under that name when it wasn’t that band. So it’s both, for lack of a better answer.
The new record, Belly of the Lion, came out last year. How have the songs changed or stayed the same since?
David: For me, it’s been cool to record my record on my own, in my apartment in New York. I moved back here last year and put this new band together last fall. I haven’t even really listened to the recorded versions; the way we’ve reworked the songs for a live set is how I hear them now. There’s so much more going on on the record than we could do live because there’s so many tracks on there and live it’s just guitar, guitar, bass and drums. It’s been fun to see how some of the songs have devolved or evolved into something new.
Did you consider using electronic looping to make a “truer” live sound?
David: I thought about it, and we used to with the old setup when the band was in Brooklyn. We had a very lo-fi way of doing it: I had an iPod with these drums that I put in; when we were making the record I had just exported that into the iPod and used a volume pedal to raise them up when I needed them. But I was into this being a more organic thing with a live band.
When did you decide that you were going to be a musician?
David: In high school, I was always in a band, played guitar in high school, but I didn’t go to school for music. I wasn’t even really in a band in college; I was just four-tracking thing son my own. It was not something I pursued as much as maybe I wish I had. It didn’t seem like something I could do or a life I could lead until I started doing music for films with my friend David Gordon Green and I started seeing it as more than something I did for fun.
What does your creative process look like?
David: I’ve never written words first; it’s always been from the guitar and I’ll come up with a progression and melody that catches my ear, start honing some vocal melodies and it goes from there. Once I have an idea where the song’s going on an emotional or mood level, that will in form the lyrics. I’ll start thinking steam of consciousness, spouting out words. And something will catch my ear and I’ll start basing lyrics around that. It’ll lead me down a narrative, impressionistic path.
So how much of your material is based on personal experience?
David: At this point, hardly any of it comes from personal experience. That was the big breakthrough that I had. I had done music for films through my 20s and I was never really that happy with the lyrics I wrote, and they would always be confessional, first-person and it never really satisfied me. For me, it felt that if I wrote from experience that I had to keep things honest to what the thing was. With the first record I started with a few songs, “Jordanna” and “Day at the Beach” are more like painting a scene and telling a story but not necessarily a story that had anything to do with me. That was very liberating and it led to a big glut of songwriting once I discovered I enjoyed and was better at writing lyrics that way.