After five long years releasing disparate singles and various EPs, the Tulsa-based Wilderado finally released their self-titled album, Wilderado, in October of 2021. Though the band already has widespread recognition and credibility—opening for The 1975, Mt. Joy, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise in the past—their previous performance set lists were confined to a few short songs from whatever EP they released that year, often playing a 30-minute time slot.
Since their formation in California in 2015 (though the members themselves call Tulsa home), the group has always done a sort of rinse-and-repeat touring cycle. They’d hangout in garages or crowded recording studios, write and record a slew of songs, and put four or five of the best ones on an EP. Then they’d hit the road, either as an opener for bigger bands or playing venues on their own. Much of the money they’d make from touring would go into future studio sessions, where the band would again record another EP. That’s how 2017’s Latigo EP was funded and created, as was 2018’s Favors. The result is a road-weathered band who understands the ins and outs of touring. They sound great live, have a wonderful stage presence, and have been to their touring cities a half dozen times at this point. You get the sense that they made music for themselves, first and foremost, and loved the process of refining their sound across small stages all over the country.
In 2022, Wilderado is preparing for their long-awaited breakout year. But instead of playing a handful of songs off EPs, the band has a full-album to work with—and then some. Wilderado’s full-length release gave fans everything they wanted and more: catchy, jam-heavy rock songs (“Surefire”) and slower, more thoughtful builds (“The Window”). The project is a culmination of the sound they’ve crafted over the years, an easy blend of indie and rock, with an Americana twang and electric flair. They’re just as likely to court your average indieheads as they are country fans. But the songs themselves don’t sound meticulously crafted or overcooked; they sound rugged and universal: an authentic sound that’s born from strong lyricism and skilled instrumentation.
The band just concluded their first major tour, joined by Florida-based Flipturn. I was fortunate enough to catch Wilderado at their Chicago stop, where they played a sold-out show at Schubas. For context, Schubas is a small, intimate venue, holding around 200 people. The band has tens of millions of streams on Spotify, and over a million monthly listeners. I was taken aback that they were playing a venue so small, when in my mind they could have easily played at one of Chicago’s larger spots. Keep in mind they’ve already played festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, and are playing San Francisco’s Outsidelands later this year.
Wilderado opened their set with “Stranger” and “Astronaut,” and proceeded to play Wilderado almost from top to bottom. Their vocalist, Max Rainer, sounds impeccable live, and Tyler Wimpee (guitar) and Justin Kila (drums) had beautiful moments where they stole the show.
Later on in the set, Wilderado performed three songs from Favors, the EP that more or less took them from underground, bar-playing band to emerging indie sensation. Though Favors was only four songs long, each one is great in its own right. “Sorrow” starts off gently enough, only to build to a crash near the halfway point, amplified by smashing drums, Rainer belting out one long note, and a jam-worthy guitar crescendo. At the end of the EP is “Favors,” one of those songs where Rainer’s three-part-harmony-sound falls squarely into the Americana realm. It builds and builds but never falters, and has a subtle, raspy croon to it. Considering their music as a whole, the band doesn’t really deviate from project to project, but they manage to find new depths and sticky melodies in every song. Simply put, there’s a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy in Wilderado.
Closing out their set, Wilderado finished with “Surefire,” a crowd-favorite off their album. Every single person in the crowd joined in for this one, hands raised, singing along. What the venue lacked in terms of capacity, Wilderado more than made up for it with this song, nearly bringing the roof down with the pure energy in the room. It was one of those rare, euphoric instances where the band sounds even better in-person, a testament to the fact that their sound is meant to be shared and seen, as well as heard live.
If you don’t have Wilderado on your radar yet, now’s your chance to add them to your summer playlists before they get catapulted into the limelight.