Ryan Escolopio - Vocals, Guitar J. D. Tennyson - Guitar, Vocals Mike Schoolden - Bass, Vocals Aaron Escolopio - Drums
Mechanicsville, Maryland isn't exactly a breeding ground for rock bands. Cover band, maybe. Country act, even. But not rock groups who administer hook-heavy melodies that bounce through the brain like ping-pong balls and linger long after the air's gone quiet. The tobacco fields and Amish communities just seem incompatible with all that.
It is the kind of place, though, that elicits dreams of escape, of getting out, and for JD and Ryan, that was incentive enough for starting Wakefield. Three years and thousands of hours of rehearsals later, the grade-school friends along with Ryan's brother Aaron and cousin Mike drop AMERICAN MADE, an album of insouciant, and sometimes poignant songs strung together by rising and falling guitar riffs, staccato drum beats, and three-part harmonies. The album opens with bite, kicking off with the fierce guitar strains of "Sold Out" (not to mention its sardonic lyrics: We're in it for the money/and all the groupie honeys/so we sold out). It slips from the straightforward punk-pop morsel, "Un-sweet Sixteen" to the ska-tinged, celebrity-jabbing, "Infamous. " The quick-pulsed first single, "Say You Will" is a rollicking love story of sorts inspired by the film, Scream. "Get your heart broken a few times and the tragedy begins to unfold" says 18-year-old Ryan. Heard together, AMERCAN MADE is a patchwork of vivid snapshots painted into tidy four-minute spaces.
The slow pace of life in St. Mary's County, Maryland may encourage laziness, but for the two founders of Wakefield, those wide-open spaces sparked their ambition. When JD got his first drum kit in the seventh grade, he got the itch to perform. For Ryan, a veteran of local talent shows since kindergarten the gnawing took hold even earlier. "My dad was in a Journey and Chicago cover band, " says Ryan. "Music was everywhere growing up. From Garth Brooks to Shania Twain or Butch Walker and Blink 182. " After meeting in school and discovering their mutual affinity for bands as diverse as Green Day, the Police, and Slipknot, Ryan and JD formed their own cover band. "We covered Rage Against the Machine and the Deftones, " recalls JD. There wasn't anywhere to play for 14-year-olds, so after begging their parents for equipment funding, they found alternative venues. "We'd play birthday parties, garages, anywhere anyone would let us, " they laugh. Occasionally their band, Soar ("It was misspelled; it was supposed to be Sore, " groans Ryan) played with local celebrities, Good Charlotte, in which Ryan's older brother was the drummer. A fan base was created.
Cover songs, as they will, eventually lost their luster, and JD couldn't stand being trapped behind his kit. "I'd be back there watching Ryan going nuts on stage, and the other guys just picking their noses. " He promptly switched to guitar. Ryan's cousin, Mike, a guitarist in a group a few towns over, agreed to take over bass duties. Aaron, as fate would have it, decided to part ways with Good Charlotte. Thus Wakefield was born. Well, not exactly. "We were originally going to be called the Ninja Penguins, " cringes JD. Truth be told, the band is named for the street that Aaron and Ryan grew up on, but they're still perfecting a more colorful backstory (just ask).
Meeting every day after school and on weekends, the foursome wrote and rehearsed relentlessly. "We were determined to be signed in a year. We borrowed so much money and set our goals really high, " says Ryan "we were focused, and the band came first before anything. " One year and one month after forming Wakefield they sent out their demos to every major record label. Nearly all invited them to perform in New York. Soon they were showcasing with Arista Records.
"Everything came together the minute L. A. Reid, President and CEO, Arista Records, walked into the club, " says Aaron. "It proves that everything happens for a reason. " Wakefield was snatched up on the spot. When the time came to make the record the guys got to choose their dream producer, Matt Wallace. "He did The Replacements albums. He's the rawest producer we could find, " says JD. The guys moved to Los Angeles and lived the rock star lifestyle, at the ripe age of seventeen.
When they emerged from four intense weeks of recording, they had eleven songs that covered everything from revenge to fame to; of course, girls with buoyant sounds that make the kids jump up and down. "We want people to come to our shows and leave smiling, " says Mike. "There are a lot of emotions on AMERICAN MADE, but ultimately, we're all about having fun. "
Now that AMERICAN MADE is pressed and sealed, the guys are eager to hit the road. "Playing live is our thing, " insists Ryan, noting that Wakefield shows often sell out, and they've even met those groupies that they sing about in "Sold Out, " some of whom drive a long way to catch their act. "Our harmonies and our energy just come together when we play in front of a crowd. ".