Stepping out of your comfort zone – an interview with Lavendía

Drew Wilkinson of now defunct Phoenix, AZ hardcore band RUN WITH THE HUNTED sits down with IDIOTEQ to introduce his new solo project, discuss his evolution, veganism, and more!
RUN WITH THE HUNTED frontman Drew Wilkinson pares all the relentless and thick sound of hardcore back to just dreamy guitars, soft arrangements and mellow voice for his intimate record of new songs of his own writing. We had the incredible opportunity to catch up with Drew before his official announcement and unveiling LAVENDÍA and find out more about the new chapter of his musical endeavours, why his explorations continue, how’s his vegan diet, and how he judges the legacy of his respected hardcore band RUN WITH THE HUNTED.

Hey Drew! Thanks so much for taking some time with IDIOTEQ again. It’s been over 2 years since we last discussed yur farewell record ‘The Sieve And The Sand’. How have you been buddy?

Hello Karol, It’s really hard to believe that two years have gone by since we last spoke; but then again, it’s not really that hard to believe because time seems to moving faster and faster as I grow older. I’m doing well overall, thanks for asking. My life is actually unrecognizable from what it looked like last time we spoke, pretty much everything that could change did. I’m coming up on a year living in Seattle – my first time living outside of Arizona where I was born and raised. Getting settled in a new city has its challenges; I’m homesick for Mexican food and desert sunsets but I really love this area too, living next to giant snowy mountains, temperate rainforests and the ocean is a welcome change for a desert rat. RUN WITH THE HUNTED has been over for a year and a half already; I’ve traded part-time seasonal work and touring for a pretty standard office job – I figured I would give the “stable adult” thing a try haha. It’s a mixed bag but it’s getting me closer to my ultimate goal which is getting some land away from the city and setting up a nice self-sustainable life for myself, friends and family.

Run With The Hunted live

I sincerely hope you achieve your goal. The longer I live in a big city, the more I realize I need to leave it for good.

What prompted you to relocate to Seattle?

For sure, cities are fucking insane especially when you think about how humans have lived for the vast majority of our time on Earth. As time goes on, I find myself feeling increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with them; traffic, congestion, pollution, noise, the incessant hustle and grind of people stacked on top of each other competing violently for everything from jobs and homes to parking spaces and food… it’s almost too much for me to bear sometimes.

I’d been scheming up ways to move to Seattle for years; of all the places we visited on tour, it was the one I could actually picture myself living in. Every time we left I found myself longing to spend more time there; the close access to amazing nature and a solid group of friends made it an ideal spot for a fresh start. One thing or another kept me in Phoenix – primarily RUN WITH THE HUNTED. Right around the time the band finished, my living situation ended, my stuff was just sitting there in boxes and I thought “now is as good a time as any to move” so I went for it. It all lined up pretty nicely; one phase of my life clearly ended and another began.

Now you have all kinds of respected Seattleites like Greg Bennick as your neighbours, right? :)

Haha yes, I do. Greg is a hard one to pin down cause he is a maniac and travels nonstop but we actually had dinner and saw FAILURE play last week.

Drew Wilkinson with Greg Bennick!

Cool :)

Ok Drew, so how would you describe your relationship with RUN WITH THE HUNTED and the ‘Sieve And The Sand’ album now that it’s kind of a thing of the past?

You know, it feels surreal to know that RWTH is done now. For 8 years, it was the most important thing in the world to me; I rearranged everything in my life around the idea of being in a touring band, jobs, relationships, stability, money… I was transient and always on the go; I rarely spent more than 6 months of the year home. Now, my life is the polar opposite – I am putting down roots for the first time and working a normal adult job, so in a very real sense, especially in regards to my day to day life, it just feels so different. I am incredibly proud of The Sieve and the Sand and so happy that was our final effort as a band; the record almost didn’t happen tbh, but knowing it’s out there as a last will and testament to everything RWTH stood for brings me peace and comfort. Ideally, it will plant seeds and spark fires in others for years to come.

RWTH continues to be the most imprtant thing I’ve ever done with my life and it’s hard to see that changing; I poured everything I had into the band on all fronts and it’s a legacy I know all five of us are super proud of; we never mattered to many people, but we mattered a great deal to the few people who cared and that’s more than we could have ever hoped for. I miss the band more than I can describe; I feel empty and lost without that creative outlet and the proximity of my best friends especially since I moved away. There is a hole in my heart that will probably never be filled – and how could it be? There’s nothing like being in a band, no other experience in life comes close. I treasure it

How were the farewell shows? What emotions did the final tour evoke in you?

The farewell shows were hard honestly; bittersweet and emotional but overwhelmingly good. Seeing all our friends one last time brought a sense of closure that I think we all needed to end that chapter of our lives. It was a really bizarre experience to drive through these cities we had played a dozen times and know “This is the last time we’ll play Seattle, this is the last time we’ll eat at our favorite restaurant etc.” And of course, there are so many other places I wish we could have said goodbye to, unfortunately we could only pull off a brief West Coast tour. I would have loved to come back to Europe and play Fluff one final time but it just wasn’t in the cards. I’m super glad HOLLOW EARTH did the farewell tour with us too; they’re an incredible band and some of my best friends, they were a sister band to RWTH so that was rad. The tour was an emotional rollercoaster; I felt heartbroken a lot, crushingly sad but also happy, loved and grateful – grateful I got to have the experience at all, most people never do. Being in a band is a truly incredible thing, I feel lucky to have done it. And it continues to shape everything about my life years later.

Including this new solo project you’ve been developing over the last couple of months. Tell us about it. Is it a solo gig?

At this point, yah I think it is. The material and idea for the band has been floating around for a few years now. I was a guitar player before I was a “singer” and I really wanted to get back to that and also try something totally out of my comfort zone as a musician – every band I’ve ever been in has been aggressive in some way, punk or hardcore. So I started writing some more ethereal dreamy stuff and saving up ideas. I jammed with some friends back in Arizona turning my ideas into songs and it started to take shape; I tried actually singing for the first time which was terrifying haha. But then I left to join SEA SHEPHERD and be on a ship for several months and it kind of fell apart. Later in the year I moved to Seattle and tried to recruit people and start from scratch. For a minute, I had a solid lineup going but everyone got busy so it fell apart and I am back where I started – just me and my ideas. Not sure how it’s going to take shape moving forward but I have two songs recorded where I played everything and finally came up with a name for the project, LAVENDÍA. I have a lot of other ideas and plan on recording them myself over the winter.

Drew W

Musically, it presents way different moods. Was this an intentional flow for the style that you wanted for your solo work?

Yah, it was intentional. There is so much more to music than loud, fast and heavy – I really wanted to explore a different part of the emotional/musical spectrum and stretch myself. The last year of my life post RWTH has been all about that: massive changes and getting out of my comfort zone. I guess in a way, this project is an extension of that. As a guitar player, at this point, I’m really interested in learning how to create space, texture and mood with my playing, things that are antithetical to guitar playing that’s rooted in punk (though I’m still constrained by the limits of being a shitty self-taught punk guitarist haha, now I can just cover it up with pedals). Within the context of hardcore, whatever feelings or intentions originally inspire a song end up coming across in basically one dimension – anger. I mean, you’re literally screaming at people, it makes sense. But so many of RUN WITH THE HUNTED’s lyrics were about sadness, loss and pain; when filtered through hardcore, surely some of that original intent was lost. This new project allows me to present those ideas and feelings in a more pure form I guess; if it sounds really sad or whatever, that’s because it is.

Were you fearful of the unknown when emancipating yourself from the heavier forms of music you had been writing with hardcore bands?

Not really with the music side of things but for sure with the vocal approach. I’ve always yelled and screamed and admittedly am not a strong singer. I’m not tone deaf; I can hear when something is in key or not but I don’t have the experience of skills to make my voice do what I want it to do reliably. The first few times I tried singing in front of people while we played these songs was terrifying and that hasn’t really subsided but it’s all part of the process so I’ll keep trying. That’s why they invented reverb haha.

DRew live

Haha, exactly! :)

Do you get a sense of songs’ atmospheres at the point of composing the music, or would you say the certain mood is created at the point the demos start to take shape?

I think the majority of the song’s moods take shape during the initial composition, playing with different combinations of pedals and effects, experimenting with tonal landscapes etc. There are finishing touches and tweaks that happens during the demoing, but the bulk of the song remains unchanged, at least so far. I have a lot of ideas for other songs, probably enough for an LP, but right now only two songs have been properly demoed. Hoping to add to that over the winter when going outside is less pleasant.

Looking back at our first interview, I guess you have learned a lot about yourself by confronting and reflecting upon your personal issues and observations shared in your lyrics for RUN WITH THE HUNTED. Does this new chapter of writing, possible even more introspective, provide you with more cathartic experience?

Ironically no, I don’t think it does. Writing this other style of music might be more “pure” but that doesn’t make it more cathartic, to me at least. Despite its limitations and shortcomings, hardcore remains one of the most intensely emotional styles of music I’m aware of, both as an audience member at a show and especially as a musician who’s been in lots of hardcore bands. The whole thing is just raw unbridled energy – it’s loud, it’s violent, it attacks your senses in a very real way… When a hardcore show is going off, there’s nothing quite like it – I sometimes think you could cut the energy in the room with a knife because its palpable. And to date, I’ve never found anything more cathartic than being the vessel for that, creating that energy and noise and literally screaming my guts out for 30 minutes running around like a madman. It’s hard to imagine anything more cathartic actually.

RUN WUTH THE HUNTED
“Hardcore remains one of the most intensely emotional styles of music I’m aware of”

How is you vegan diet? Would you still call it a challenge? How has this way of life evolved in you since you first approached this ‘exercise’?

I just had my 10 year vegan anniversary actually and I feel fantastic. I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge in any meaningful way to be honest; at this point it’s second nature. The only challenge comes from body building as a vegan but I’ve managed to put on 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) of muscle over the last few years so it’s certainly not getting in the way of any of my goals. Veganism has evolved considerably in the last 10 years. There are so many more new products in grocery stores and restaurants are way more accommodating than they used to be. I think overall, there’s just more familiarity and consciousness about veganism in popular culture, it’s not as fringe as it used to be which is great.

Are you tempted to reunite RUN WITH THE HUNTED? Is that even something you’re interested in or hoping for? Also, hardcore-wise, do you think you’ll ever return to your very roots, or rather continue down the path into further unknown territory, with more experiments and outside-punk projects?

At this point, RWTH has only been gone a year and half so there is no temptation to reunite and it’s hard to imagine there ever will be. I miss the band a lot, miss the guys, miss playing and touring especially, but a band is a moment in time – I don’t think you can go back, you know? It wouldn’t be the same and I’ve seen way to many bands I like and respect taint their own legacy by reuniting and totally ruining it. I dunno, time will tell I suppose. I still get the itch to play in a hardcore band sometimes but for now I want to see what else is out there musically :)

There’s a lot of exploring and discovering more creative ways of expression, that’s for sure!
Alright Drew,thank you so much for your time. It was geat talking to you again. Please keep in touch and let’s team up for another interview sometime later this year! Good luck with everything. The last words are yours!

Karol, as always, its been a pleasure and thanks for taking the time and interest to find out what I’ve been up to. I know we didn’t touch on politics much in this interview but a lot of terrible shit has happened between the time we started this and now. I just want to encourage everyone to stay as positive as possible in these incredibly dark times; don’t let apathy turn into inaction. Don’t let your despair swallow you. Look for ways and places you can be effective and make a difference – they’re out there. Now is the time to resist, organize and fight back in whatever way you can. Now is the time to support each other emotionally, physically and spiritually. Check in with your friends and loved ones, provide emotional labor where you can (men, I’m especially talking to you), lean on each other and look out for folks who cannot defend themselves (immigrants, refugees etc.) Learn how to listen; learn how to speak; most importantly, learn how to defend yourself. We have a long and difficult struggle ahead of us, we should prepare for the worst and condition ourselves to be strong, resilient and effective however we can. We all have something valuable to offer and we are all stronger than we realize; we will be tested.

RUN WITHB THE HUNTED logo

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels. Contact via www.idioteq.com@gmail.com

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