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"It's a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity": Sitting Down with Wild Party Before Electrifying Show at Chicago's Lincoln Hall

Updated: May 21

On a rainy Chicago evening, walking into Lincoln Hall felt like stepping into a portal directly to the past. Wild Party, the four-piece band hailing from both Texas and California, will sometimes playfully describe themselves as "your favorite childhood band." For a statement told merely in jest online, it holds much more truth than they themselves may realize.

It was February of 2015 when I saw Wild Party for the first time and was instantly drawn to the classic indie-pop sound of the era, infused with a particular style of joy and radiance not yet fully tapped into within the genre. The lyrics were captivating, the instruments expansive and fluid, and the stage presence of Wild Party as a whole was vibrant and transporting. This attests to their longevity and to why, 10 years after the release of debut and cult-classic record, Phantom Pop, Lincoln Hall is still filled shoulder-to-shoulder with fans who know every single word. It was not only the talent on the stage, but the kindness and consideration shown off the stage that drew me to Wild Party all those years ago, and why seeing and speaking with them this time around felt as though absolutely no time had passed. I was a fan who, before she knew it, became a very old friend. It was in speaking to them backstage, as the crowd buzzed outside the doors in anticipation for their entrance, and in quietly noticing all their subtle humility as the evening progressed, that I realized this.

Wild Party, consisting of Lincoln Kreifels (vocals), Ethan Kaufmann (bass), Lucas Hughes (guitar), and Cary LaScala (drums), after four years of being on a hiatus, came back together in 2019 to release singles, "Recipe" and "Getaway" which would soon be part of 2023 EP, Get Up. Long-time fans eagerly emerged to support the band that had been away for so long, and the excitement began to build even more when the 10-year anniversary tour of Phantom Pop was announced. New fans only continued to join in in once being drawn in by the latest releases,

including the most recent singles, "Hatchet" and "I Just Think I'm Smart." It's nothing but a warm welcome for the band that soundtracked the high school years of so many.

Before they hit the stage in Chicago, Tonitruale was able to speak with Wild Party's Lincoln Kreifels and Cary LaScala about touring, a new album, and more!

This tour is to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Wild Party's debut record, Phantom Pop, which garnered millions of streams and a cult following. How do you reflect on the album now that a decade has passed?

LK: I told you no tough questions!

CS: That's a tough one.

LK: It is kind of tough like, I'm still really proud of what we put out ten years ago. Before it even came out, we were playing those songs for five years. So, even once it finally came out, it was already old to us. So, playing the same songs another ten years later, it feels like we've just been playing the same songs for fifteen years, a little bit. But I'm still really proud of what we did. [It's] a very accurate representation of just where we were as artists and musicians at the timejust a conglomeration of a lot of different styles that we grew up listening to are all kind of reflected in that album. There're so many feelings attached to it. I try to think of the positives, but I feel like there are failures attached to it as well because that's why we stopped playing for eight years. So, thinking back, I see the highs and the lows and now coming back ten years later, it kind of makes some of those lows disappear to an extent just because we maybe "failed" ten years ago in releasing the album. We weren't making enough money to really sustain ourselves, but that same album is what we're touring around now, ten years later celebrating the tenth anniversary of it and every night we have at least 100 or so people in just about every city in America that's singing along and smiling to the album, so it meant something to a lot of people. It might have taken awhile but looking back, I think it's a mixture of feelings, a mixture of nostalgia and pride and thankfulness. But also, I can't think about that album without thinking about the time away and the return as well and what it means now. So yeah, right now, today, [we're] just so thankful to come back to tour and play these shows to people that have waited so long and see how many people we've affected during that time.

CL: I will say, yeahwhat he said.

It's my understanding that a spike in streams triggered the reunion of the band after a brief split. Can you talk a bit about that:

LK: Yeah! Around 2018 is when we really started paying attention to the numbers and seeing our streams go up, mainly on Spotify. Shoutout Spotify, even though we only get paid a 100th of a cent, we'd be dead without 'em. So, we started writing again in 2018 and released a couple singles in 2019. We released our single, "Recipe" and "Getaway" that year. We had planned for a return that year, however, I had another son that year, then 2020 happened, and so things got delayed a little bit. Still, nonetheless, that growth in popularity through Spotify is a big reason why we came back. We disappeared because it wasn't financially a smart decision for us to pursue it. Mainly, my fault. I have a wife and now three sons. And so, it just didn't make sense for me to be leaving my family all the time to pursue something that just wasn't making much money at the time. But as it grew in popularity, it started to become more of a realistic pursuit. We really wanted to do it again, then 2020 happened, which set it back a little bit. Then, the big catalyst I think was in May of 2022. I got really sick. I have an autoimmune disorder where certain things can affect me out of nowhere. I don't really know what's going on with my body exactly—still trying to figure it out.

But in May of 2022, I got super sick, and my family actually went out of town. We were supposed to go on vacation, but I stayed home from vacation. I was home by myself, and my in-laws came over to check on me and they realized that I was super sick, and they checked me into a hospital and the hospital admitted me right away. They thought there was something serious going on with my liver, that it could fail. However, they didn't have any rooms or any beds at the hospital, so I was in a room with 20 or 30 other people, and we were all just in reclining chairs and I could not get comfortable. I couldn't get any rest and I was going to be there for at least another 24 hours, and so I went against doctor's orders, and I checked out just because I needed rest so [badly]. On my little release form, they put risks, and all they put in the risks category was death. That's all they put. That is what I was risking— death. They said my liver could fail and my heart could stop. And I definitely felt that. So, after I left, I was pretty scared after seeing that. I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. I couldn't eat for another eight days. I was just trying to drink water and throwing up all the water. But all my family was there for me. I actually went and met them where they were on vacation. I drove a couple hours with my mom—she actually picked me up and took me to where my family was on vacation. We all met, and I did my best to try and be on vacation with them, but I was still so sick and sleeping all the time. Whenever I would wake up, they would gather around and pray over me. I have a very religious family, religious background and just through that process I felt like I was riding this spiritual high even though physically I was just dead. I didn't know if I was going to survive or anything, but I felt close to God. I really feel that as I began to heal, it was sort of a miraculous healing and I just started to reflect on my life and how short it can be and what I'm living to do. And so, I think that I was given a voice to sing and the ability to write music and a passion to write music. Music has always been something I've pursued and really found my confidence in too, especially in my younger years; I always felt confident just because the music I listened to gave me confidence. So, there was always something there that I knew I wanted to pursue and so when I finally healed up from all that, I decided to give music another shot and at that same time, we'd actually received an offer to play a show in Seattle. It was a good offer and pretty good money to fly out and play a random show. So, we went for it in January of 2023. We all got together and flew out to Seattle to play a show. It was a sold-out show, 1,000 people. We were the headliner, but it was kind of a built-in audience with a few bands before us as well, but it went really well so it kind of rejuvenated all of us and made us realize that there was something there to pursue. And so, we booked our first ever headline tour in June of 2023. It started in California, and we came to Chicago, where we are now. We sold out Schubas that June and now we're back at Lincoln Hall—the slightly bigger venue of the two. But yeah, that was kind of the catalyst of it all. Sorry, another long answer there! But yeah, a lot of facets went into it—the growth on Spotify was huge to give us an idea of what to expect, then my sickness and my healing was huge in that regard too. Just realizing that music is something that I feel I'm obligated to pursue, and I'm really excited to pursue as well.

This show is the tail-end of an over five-month long cross-county tour. What has the experience been like? Any favorite memories?

LK: It's been amazing overall. [Even] the smallest show is memorable because there's people there that have waited just as long as anywhere else. I want to make sure that the smallest audience and every single person in that audience knows that I appreciate them equally with every city. When we were riding high on these tours, I think it's during sell-outs. [We've] sold out four shows in a row— Philly, New York, Boston, and D.C. We also sold out Charlotte on that tour which is a few nights before those four. But I think that's kind of the highlight. Just realizing that there's just a pretty good amount of people that are willing to come out to see us and it's something we can realistically pursue as a potential career. I hate to think about pursuing this for financial purposes because it's not about that, it really isn't. It shouldn't be about that at least. It's about spreading community and bringing happiness to people's lives. That's what we want to do. We want to just make sure we're writing music that helps people. We hear that over and over so that's another takeaway from all of these tours since we've came back. We run into people every single night who tell us how we've helped them through a certain time. 2020 is a big topic. 2020 was so hard for so many people, but I've heard it tons of times at this point of how our music has helped them through that so yeah, that's what we want to do for sure. Our music is supposed to help people with whatever they're going through.

Brand new single, "I Just Think I'm Smart came out today. What was the creative process behind this song and how does it feel having it out in the world?

LK: Pumped to have that one out! I'm really proud of that song. It began by Lucas having sent me a random track that I think he had sampled from one of his own tracks then put some guitar on top of it. Then I wrote the verse and the pre-chorus on top of that sample with guitar he sent me, and we thought it sounded cool. It was just the verse and the pre-chorus and that was kind of it. We took that to Ethan's studio, and he was thinking we need a chorus for it which we did and actually, I got a little high and I wrote the chorus. I felt really good about it immediately.

How has the reception for the song been?

LK: It's been good! We started playing it on the 3rd show this run. This is the Midwest run. So, we've done this 10th anniversary tour all year. We did the East Coast in January/February, then we did the West Coast in March/April, and Midwest just started a couple weeks ago. We just started playing "I Just Think I'm Smart" on this run in Wichita. Overall, I think it's been really good reception just in terms of me performing live and looking at the audience and how they're reacting and moving. I'm comparing to "Hatchet" which is the first single from the album that we're working on. "Hatchet" is really good too, but I think "I Just Think I'm Smart" has been better from a crowd reaction standpoint. So, I think it's been good overall!

A personal connection with fans, whether in person or via social media has always been a key point for Wild Party. Why do you find it important to cultivate these relationships with your audience and do you find it enhances the artistic and creative experience you have as a band?

LK: I definitely think that friends are more valuable than fans. I think that obviously, you want fans, but I think if we really want to have a positive effect in people's lives, then friendship is really where it's at. I think making sure people know that we really do care about them and want to know them and be there for them is infinitely more valuable than just having a one-sided fan relationship. That mutual exchange is really important to me and making sure people know that I love and appreciate them. I want to meet and connect with as many people as I can. As far as the artistic value I think that brings, I haven't thought about that much, but I think it can be valuable just to more intimately connect with people that connect to our music and see what they like about it and would like to see going forward.

CL: We'll [always] do this. I love meeting fans and connecting.

LK: It can be exhausting sometimes but I view that as a blessing. If it's exhausting, it means there's a lot and we're doing good. I think tonight will hopefully be like that. I think tonight will be our biggest headline show since we've been back, I'm hoping. Our record is like 300 in L.A., but it's close to that tonight. Hopefully I have a lot of people I get to meet tonight. Hopefully I have the stamina to sincerely show them my appreciation. Because that's what happens—and I do sincerely appreciate all of them—but when we're meeting a lot of people over and over, I think some of that authenticity kind of wears on you a little bit because you're like, "ok I want to meet you but I'm tired."

What was it like coming back together and creating again after being on a hiatus?

LK: Coming back, I think the big thing that I always think about is how much more appreciative I think the whole band is. We had a good amount of success really early on. Our third show ever was opening up The Wombats in the UK on a whole sold-out tour. So, we had some really good opportunities right away. And I was a kid; I was 19 when that happened. I don't think I really appreciated it totally so as time went on, looking back we all realized that those can be some of the best if not the best memories of our lives. So, when we decided to come back, I think we all had kind of come to that realization and just knew that we were going to make some more memories that could also end up being some of the best memories of our lives. And so, we all have this new appreciation for music and we've also all matured in a lot of ways too. We've all been through a lot. You know, I've got three kids now. So, I think, for me, raising kids is so difficult that being in a band is easy in a lot of ways. It's really not that easy. But it's easier than raising kids! Especially if you want to be a really good dad. It's harder for sure. But I think we all kind of had that realization. We've all gotten older, realized that it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we don't want to take for granted.

It's been a little over a year since the debut of EP, Get Up— a release that got fans very excited for the Wild Party comeback. Can fans expect any big projects in the near future?

LK: Yes, without a doubt! We are planning on releasing a new full-length album, I think it will be out January of next year. It could be out earlier; I think January is a safe bet. We've been writing and recording quite a bit. However, I feel like we keep getting better at writing, so we just want it to be as good as possible so we're not rushing it too much. But the plan is to continue to release singles. So, "I Just Think I'm Smart" came out today. "Hatchet" came out almost two months ago. We're going to release probably a couple more singles before the new album comes out. We haven't finished it yet. We have about half of it done and more than what we need written.

CL: And we're going to be going back into the studio.

LK: At the end of June, we'll be back in the studio recording some more.

You can keep up with Wild Party via their Instagram, X, and TikTok. Get tickets to see them in Oklahoma City, OK here or Austin, TX here.

Portrait photo of L. Kreifels by: Toby Aspects

Concerts photos by: Anaïs Turiello


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