Will and the Wonts: Their Santa Fe Roots
Will and the Won’ts have been through a number of members throughout the years, but it looks like they’ve finally found the right combination. Moving from Santa Fe to L.A. to pursue his dream of music, Will Risbourg, the “Will” of Will and the Won’ts, tells Progressive Man all about how the current line-up came to be, his musical heroes, and his roots influenced music. If you want to get a feel for their music before reading on, listen to their single, “In the Presence of Wolves.”
It’s great to get a chance to learn more about you guys. Tell us a little about how the band came together and where you’re from.
WATW: Well, I came to L.A. from Santa Fe, NM to go to Musician’s Institute to study music. I formed about 5 or 6 different versions of the band, and eventually some people began to stick around. Andrew (Drummer) and Gui (Bassist) played with me when we won the school’s version of a Battle of The Bands.
I’ve known Matt (Keys) for some time as we have played together in a few of our friend’s projects, but he has only recently started his career as a “Won’t”. Lately, our friend Sarah Grace has been singing background vocals as well. My friend Anne will also be tracking piano on the album we are going to record in February. The lineup of the band has often consisted of special guests or part-time memberships, but I think Andrew, Gui, Matt and I have begun to form a solid foundation to build upon.
How did you guys come up with your name?
WATW: Actually, I can’t give credit to anyone who is in the band for the name. My first bass player actually came up with it while we were at In-n-Out. He’s now a part-time comedian/musician in Oregon.
What genre of music would you say you are and what made you want to go in that direction?
WATW: I’ve been attracted to roots music since I was in my early teens. Santa Fe’s culture definitely lends itself to that musical style, and it was something that I was surrounded by when I was growing up. My dad is a big folk music fan, and is somewhat of an amateur musicologist. He taught me a lot about the evolution of music throughout history and how those folk traditions from around the world have come together to create modern American popular music. Ideally, I would like to fit our music into that process, and hopefully contribute to it.
What are some of the bands you look up to and try to emulate?
WATW: I have a short list of musical heroes, but I study them (and their influences) fairly deeply. The Beatles were the first band that really sparked my interest in playing music. They were master craftsmen in the art of songwriting, and their charm really won me over.
Bob Dylan came next. I remember subscribing to the opinion that Dylan couldn’t sing at a young age, but when I was about 16, I finally gave him a chance and was truly blown away by what I heard. It was like he had captured every thought, every attitude, and every feeling that I had ever had. Studying Dylan has truly been a life-defining experience for me.
More recently, I’ve developed a great deal of respect for Jack White. His understanding of roots music is very inspiring to me, and I think that his dedication to pure emotional expression is almost unparalleled.
What projects do you have lined up? Are you recording anything new right now or lining up show dates?
WATW: We’re headed into the studio to make our first full-length album in early February. We also have a show at Club Moscow in Boardner’s this Wednesday (1/23). Check out our Facebook page for updates on these kinds of things.
What would you say is the band’s favorite track to play and listen to? Why?
WATW: I don’t think any of us could choose…
Are there any particular themes you try to stick to when writing music and lyrics?
WATW: It’s just got to be honest. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when people are not genuine in their music. I feel like as long as I write something that’s true to me, then it will be a success. The trick is to figure out how to express that truth in a way that is easily communicable.
What’s one of your favorite memories during the time you guys have been together?
WATW: Winning that competition was pretty nice. I tend to just cherish the whole experience rather than specific moments.
The tracks you recorded live at Revolution Studios are great. What made you decide to do that?
WATW: My friend Zane Wood works there, and he actually played bass on those tracks. They were running a promotion that allowed bands to come in and record three songs live. It was really affordable and we all love Danny Balistocky (Owner of Revolution 9 Studios) so we jumped at the opportunity.
It was a lot of fun, and it taught us that live recording was something that we were capable of.
Where can people go to find your music?
WATW: We’re hoping to have a website up soon, but if you want to follow our activities, check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/willandthewonts. Check out a few of our videos at youtube.com/willandthewonts. You can also purchase a few of our demos (including the Live at Revolution 9 Studios demos) at willandthewonts.bandcamp.com.