Study Break: Wanderers & Wolves’ ‘Down in the Water’ EP review

Wanderers & Wolves' debut EP was the highlight of a release party Saturday at 1078 Gallery. Photo courtesy of drummer Joe Stone

The lasting impression made by local rock band Wanderers & Wolves‘ debut EP, “Down in the Water,” is “Damn, these guys love Band of Skulls.”

The first three tracks on the EP, released Saturday at 1078 Gallery, bear an uncanny resemblance to the band, much to its detriment.

Wanderers & Wolves don’t necessarily take anything from Band of Skulls, it’s just that they are obviously a heavy influence and the two flow from the same classic blues-rock vein.

This similarity is most evident in song writing and structure. Simple, effective chord progressions under “where have I heard that before?” guitar riffs are staples in both bands’ repertoires, but Band of Skulls’ is tighter, dirtier and more adventurous.

Of course, it is unfair to compare an established, professional band to Wanderers & Wolves, which is barely a year old.

But the undeniable imprint of the former is impossible to un-hear on the latter. When that happens, comparisons are inevitable, whether fair or not.

Thus, the importance of identity.

In addition to Band of Skulls, clear influences on the EP include Led Zeppelin, The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Green Day.

Amid the sound-a-likes, lead singer and bassist Gabriel Reyes brings integrity to the band’s overall sound. His vocals are so familiar sounding that they don’t sound familiar at all. There’s an instinct to lump them in a certain category, but Reyes changes his style up just enough throughout the EP that none of the labels quite fit.

The rest of the band, however, featuring Christian Crandall on guitar and Joe Stone on drums, is a different story. The duo can play, there’s no doubt about it, but they don’t always offer anything to take away from their playing.

Whenever it sounds like the band wants to get into a groove, they don’t. When Crandall is soloing, it doesn’t feel like Crandall playing Crandall, it feels like Crandall playing Jack White or Jimmy Page.

On the fourth track, Stone unleashes his inner Tre Cool as the rest of the band hones in on Led Zeppelin. Green Day wins over Zeppelin heading into the fifth track, though, which also includes the EP’s best moment.

Around the 1 1/2 minute mark, the track dams emotion in a final Green Day facsimile before draining into a half-time version of the previous section. It is a breath of fresh air after drowning in the dryness of the first four tracks; a welcome, creative decision and suitable outro to the EP.

Wanderers & Wolves would do well to let these influences be influences and write songs as versions of themselves instead someone else.

Trevor Whitney can be reached at [email protected] or @nicegrandmas on Twitter.