“In my mind, the rockiest songs that we wrote are still classified as soothing and sleepy,” shares Wilsen’s frontwoman, Tamsin Wilson, in conversation with Clash. The Brooklyn band is formed of a soft-spoken trio, whose hushed vocals and dreamy, atmospheric sounds are a gentle, caressing lullaby.
Take their latest album, ‘Ruiner,’ for example, released back in February. Delicate lyrics are strung together by Tamsin’s sweet harmonies melting into folky guitar chords and benign drums. The sophomore album features some deeper cuts from the band, with moody undertones coming to the forefront, but it’s still the type of music you’d want playing on an easy Sunday morning, with hints of optimism sprinkled throughout.
Wilsen has been refining their cathartic music since releasing their EP, ‘Sirens,’ seven years ago. The trio met at university but only formally united as a band once they moved to New York after graduation. After an opportunity to record in a friend’s space, Tamsin “scraped together any songs I had at the time” and ‘Sirens’ was born, presenting Wilsen’s dream-folk sound to the world.
Although the EP “came together with absolutely no expectation of it going anywhere,” it introduced a growing, loyal fanbase. The trio has been steadily on the rise in the indie scene for a while now, supporting acts like Daughter and Poliça, while grabbing slots at SXSW and The Great Escape Festival, but they’re still an up-and-coming act in the industry.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Speaking to Tamsin, the band seems more concerned about making music they’re proud of, rather than the number of streams. “Anything that [listeners] take away, it's really fulfilling for us,” she gushes. “If they resonate in any way, that's all we can hope.”
Deciding to do Wilsen fulltime was a scary decision for the band make, but it’s clearly so rewarding for the artist.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be given an opportunity to try,” Tamsin remarks. “I can't imagine what my 14-year-old self, or even my 22-year-old self, would [say]. [I] would just be ecstatic at the thought of what I've been able to do now. It really goes beyond what I ever imagined.”
Taking a risk is never easy, but so far, it’s paying off. Relaxing at her flat in New York, Tamsin has been listening to Angelo de Augustine, Lightning Bug, and Margaret Glaspy, devouring each artists’ catalog before moving onto the next. These calming, ethereal artists make the type of music that inspires the trio — introspective lyrics with weeping guitars. “I've always kind of gravitated towards the track nine on an album. That is, the slower, more stripped-down, one person on the guitar [song].”
Wilsen’s albums are, essentially, a collection of track nine tunes. “The songs come from more cathartic moments,” Tamsin explains. “I think that, just by default, makes them exist in the realm of introspection.”
The band is extremely self-aware, making their music immensely personal. Tracks like ‘Feeling Fancy’ deal with the little-known fact that Tamsin is quite shy and introverted, which she joked is evident her in “shaky hands and knees in utter terror” when she performs.
To combat stage fright, the band created new, simpler sounds for ‘Ruiner,’ making them better adapted for live performances. Transitioning away from classic indie-folk tracks, the album is full of upbeat and bedroom-pop tunes, inspired by Low, Sharon Van Etten, and Blonde Redhead. “I wanted to just be able to kick and shout and have a really fun time on stage,” Tamsin says of the simpler voicings and absence of alternate tuning.
Wilsen has only had one opportunity to perform the album live, having to halt their upcoming tour with Poliça. Tamsin joked was because she cursed the trio after their performance. “I walked offstage and I told the guys, ‘I could retire after that,’’’ she laughs. “It’s just that we’ve felt incredibly lucky, obviously, that things went over well. But I made the poor mistake of saying I could retire after that, and now we literally don't have any more shows.”
Although the album only came out three months ago, the band is already working on some music whilst isolating remotely and is looking forward to being able to hug their fans after their rescheduled shows — if and when the band can tour again. Tamsin shares excitedly, “I'm worried that I'm just gonna burst into tears of excitement onstage."
The future is looking a bit gloomy for artists to be able to tour, so even if Wilsen won’t be able to come to a city near you soon, at least their music is always available to offer a bit of sanctuary.
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Words: Caroline Edwards
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