One lesson Alexander Beggins says he and his musical partner in Wild Child, Kelsey Wilson, learned early in their careers was not to get their hopes up about anything. That seems logical enough for a duo that started their group without really considering Wild Child a professional endeavor.
The two met when they played in the backing band for Danish indie act Migrant. The first time they tried to write together, they came up with three songs.
Even when that song pool grew to about 15 tunes and some musician friends joined in to back singer/ukulele player Beggins and singer/fiddle player Wilson on Pillow Talk, their first album as Wild Child, they tried to keep things casual.
“We had zero intentions to do anything with it, ever,” says Wilson, who joined Beggins for this recent phone interview. “It was kind of like this is so easy and so fun, let’s just do it.”
After the first album was released, though, Beggins and Wilson pretty much had to start thinking of Wild Child as something more than a hobby. Pillow Talk was getting positive reviews on some notable online blogs, while a song from the album rose to No. 1 on the music promotion site Hype Machine. This created enough of a buzz that the William Morris Agency approached the duo to sign a booking deal and Universal Records started making noise about a record deal.
As it turned out, neither deal panned out. But the group pushed on, releasing a well-received second album, The Runaround, in 2013, then signing with Dualtone Records to release the 2015 album Fools, which continued Wild Child’s growth, both musically and in terms of popularity. Now with Expectations, the group looks ready for their close-up.
The latest album keeps the acoustic folk-pop foundation of the first three albums, but finds Wild Child’s music growing bolder, and at times bigger and louder, while boasting the lovely pop melodies that have always helped make the group’s music so charming.
“Think It Over” and “Back & Forth” bring a peppy energy to the album, with their Motown-ish/R&B overtones and frisky grooves that give both songs nice momentum. “Eggshells,” “Leave It Alone,” and “My Town” all start softly, but build to fairly lush crescendos. The striking title track starts out swaying gently before turning stormy in the chorus, especially the final time around when Wilson lets loose vocally, pushing the sound toward distortion and showing a flash of aggression rarely heard before in the group’s music.
In making Expectations, Beggins and Wilson chose an unconventional approach to record the songs for the album.
Instead of working with a producer and recording the album in a single session, the duo reached out to a half-dozen artists/producers they admired to see if they would like to co-write and produce songs. The list included such notable artists as Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie), Scott McMickens (Dr. Dog), Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and Adrian Quesada (Groupo Fantasma).
Beggins and Wilson were even thinking outside of the box on how the songs would be released to the public.
“We were kind of really frustrated with the music industry. There just are a lot of rules,” Beggins says. “Like you’ve got to have this amount of time allowed for press. You need this many singles. You have to wait a full album cycle before you can release something else. You have to release it at this time in order to play these festivals. There are just so many rules that have nothing to do with the music you’re making. Our initial thought was why don’t we just, like instead of picking a producer and making an album and following all the rules, let’s work with anyone that we reach out to that says yes, do a couple of songs with each of them and then for the next two years, just release a song a month and just who cares what happens?”
But as the recording sessions went on, it became clear the songs should form an album.
Now, not only does Wild Child have a charmer of a new album, the group’s lineup, Wilson says, has solidified with the arrival of drummer Tom Myers and bassist Tyler Osmond, who join Sadie Wilfe (cello), Matt Bradshaw (keyboards/trumpet) and Cody Ackors (guitar/trombone) in Wild Child.
The professionalism and growing musical abilities of the group should be apparent in Wild Child’s live shows, as the group tackles what shapes up to be an adventurous set list that will go well beyond songs from Expectations.
“We’ve been pulling out old songs that we haven’t played before and kind of changing up the songs that we have been playing for a long time and throwing in new ones,” Wilson says. “We even have songs that aren’t [released], that will be on the next record, that we’ve been playing. We’re really quick writers, and once we write a song we just want to play it as soon as possible.”
On the Bill: Wild Child —with Whitacre. 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver.
— with Batty Jr. 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver.