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WOAH on Deeper Meanings, Nostalgia, and the Subconscious

To start 2023 on the right foot, I sat down with fellow North Carolinians, WOAH. The band released their sophomore EP, sitting in an open room, on December 29.

Charlotte-based band WOAH: (from left to right) Zac Tice, Jackson Martin, Michael Gomez, and Ruben Gomez.
Courtesy of @heyitsdesiree


Spencer Cruz: So, first of all, again, thank you all for making the time to chat today. It's really exciting. I just want to start by verifying some basic information. So can everyone share with me their full name spelling first and last pronouns and like your role in the band?

Michael Gomez: Hi, I'm Michael Gomez. My pronouns are he/him. And I sing for the band. And I played rhythm guitar.

Jackson Martin: Yeah, I'm Jackson Martin. And I'm also he/him and I play lead guitar.

Zac Tice: I'm Zac Tice. And he/him, and I play bass. Last name is T-I-C-E .

Ruben Gomez: Not Rice.

JM: Oh, we had an interviewer call him Zac Rice. So that's infamous now. That's Zac's cool older brother.

RG: It's also printed on a magazine that I have in my room. It wasn't even Z-A-C it was spelled Z-A-C-H-A-R-Y Rice. Crazy.

JM: I’d forgot about that up until now.

RG: And then I'm Ruben Gomez. R-U-B-E-N. And he/him and I play drums in the band.

Cool. All right, thank you all for verifying that, really helpful. I guess we'll just go ahead and get started with these questions, I've got some talking points here. I like to think that the questions start really simple and get more in depth a little more, you know, thought provoking as we go. So we'll start with something easy. How did you pick your band name?

RG: I don't think we picked it. I think we just kind of were in a process of writing down a bunch of band names. All of them were kind of weird. I think I have the list somewhere in one of my old journals, like Black Cloud or something weird like that. And then I think Zac just said, "WOAH," one day, and we were just like, "Fuck it. That's cool. I guess we'll use that." So I don't think we like have like a rhyme or reason behind it. It's just an inside joke. We used to say "WOAH" to each other all the time. And I guess Zac just said it out loud. We're like, "Oh, that should be our band name."

MG: Yeah. And it also felt like a placeholder at first. Like, we were thinking of changing it, like we put on a poll. Like, "should we keep the name?" or whatever. Like we talked about changing it. It was like a lot of backlash. And people didn't want us to change the name. It's really alright. I guess we're stuck with WOAH. It's meaningless, but I guess it looks cool.

Yeah. I'm interested in like, you know, it's in all caps. Is there a specific meaning to that? Or is it just for style?

MG: I guess if people want to think it's an acronym, it's an acronym that nobody knows.

JM: It's style. And it does look kind of weird. It used to be a capital W, lowercase o-a-h. And it just looks kind of wrong like that. So yeah, all caps looks good.

Okay, gotcha. Similarly, all the tracks on you know, obviously the latest EP - which is really exciting, congrats on that -are in lowercase. Is that the same idea?

JM: Generally I think people kind of like, the aesthetic. I've been reading some of the reviews about sitting in an open room and people keep kind of calling back to that like 2014 Tumblr thing going on with The 1975 and Arctic Monkeys. And that's music that we grew up with, too. So I think all lowercase isn't something that would ever go out of trend, just because the capitalization is binary. But yeah, it's just something that we wanted to try out and kind of have more aesthetic control in our song titles.

MG: Yeah, I think I think it also looks cool because I mean, whenever I think lowercase, I kind of think kind of like, kind of journaling or something like just not super formal, I guess, I don't know. I think it has a cool look. And it feels more indie.

JM: Yeah, I think people can see the song title and see that it's in lowercase. And they're like, "Okay, I know what this might kind of, yeah," you know, kind of an instant call to genre.

Sorry, I'm just taking some notes here... Do you guys have any plans to like, kind of change your sound as time goes on? Kind of think like, I don't know, Panic! at the Disco? How each album has a totally different feel to it? Or do you plan on kind of trying to stay true to your starting point here.

MG: I think for the future, I mean, we definitely want to experiment more. I think that's something that we've been talking about - kind of pushing our songwriting abilities and kind of coming out of our comfort zone. Because right now, we are kind of sticking to this, like nostalgic, cinematic sound. And I think it would be cool in the future. To try to evolve out of that, and not force anything, but let it come kind of naturally. I think that's the goal for the band.

JM: Yeah, I think like, even the way we record shapes what we write a good bit like. And because we are like a laptop band, that records everything in our bedrooms like that definitely shapes how you write when you write as you record, because it's a very kind of, like, nonlinear writing process, right? We don't really, a lot of bands will have the song written, then rehearse, and they go to the studio, and then they'll proceed to get it out. But we very much will change kind of everything as it goes. So the end product will have a recorded guitar take from July, and then a baseline from November and then like a drum line,- It's always kind of building on top of each other. So definitely, I think in the future, we've talked about, with proper funding, getting studio time, and I think already the different environment and the different method with which we record a song... It would really change the sound.

Okay, interesting. I kind of want to go back to that comment about, you know, this nostalgia, the cinematic kind of feel that we were mentioning here. So like, your Spotify page, it says you're "a nostalgic band." Really, that's all it says, which I think is really interesting. What is that nostalgia that you want to kind of evoke? Like, what kind of things are you wanting to bring back?

ZT: I guess it's like a “good old days” kind of feeling.

MG: Yeah. I kind of like grew up looking back to the past, rather than looking towards the future. I've always kind of had this thing in my head, where it's like, "Oh, the past was always better," or "Back then things were better." And I think of writing songs that embody that emotion of the past, like a feeling that you can't describe. I think that's the goal that I try to aspire to whenever I'm writing these songs. Just like an indescribable feeling of the past or like, missing out on something.

Interesting. Let's go for a kind of chiller, easier question. I know that I've been asking a lot of really wordy things. So, who is your dream collaboration partner? Like if you could work with anyone?

MG: I think for me, I would really like to work with the Strokes. That would be super super cool. Or Death Cab for Cutie. That'd be a lot of fun.

JM: Yeah, Death Cab probably for me.

ZT: I think Young the Giant would be fun.

That's really cool. Like, I definitely can find little pieces of those artists in a lot of your stuff. And I think it's really cool to like, you know, be like, something you're aspiring to but also something that you're already doing. And I think that's really awesome. So I kind of want to talk about the writing process. So obviously, you know, a lot of artists will write just on things that are going on in their life and stuff like that. Do you find yourself drawing more from that, or like, kind of building these narratives, from scratch?

MG: A lot of it comes from the subconscious. I look back at a lot of the lyrics, and I can't figure out what they mean. That's a lot of my songwriting process - I'll kind of look back at lyrics and kind of figure out meaning whenever the song is done being written. It might be kind of strange to other people, because I know a lot of people kind of come up with, I don't know, a storyline or a narrative and then write about that. I think, for me, it's a lot of subconscious ideas, just getting put on paper.

SC: Kind of like a train-of-thought.

MG: I kind of look back and I can apply certain lines or something and figure out what they mean.

Do you have any lines that you still haven't quite figured out? Or does it always kind of come pretty quickly?

MG: Yeah, there's a line on “late hour” that says, "I don't want to fight you anymore." And I still don't know what that means. But for some reason, I had to write that. Still trying to figure that one out.

JM: Something I like is, we write the kind of music that everyone can kind of assign their own meaning to, which I think resonates with people. Like, there was a fan once that was asking for the chords to quiet days or whatever, so he could sing it to his girlfriend. And it was like, "Oh, that's, that's sweet. That's not at all what Mikey meant when writing that song." That wasn't really the meaning, but that's- I'm glad that it can kind of be that. I like that it can be dynamic.

Absolutely. And it also sort of builds this more intimate community between y'all as artists and your fans. And I think that's really awesome. We talked about before, how you're a laptop band. And so, especially like having been founded in the midst of this pandemic, like, I'm sure there were plenty of challenges to getting started. So what's been like your biggest obstacle towards that?

MG: I think on the writing side, it's been kind of great because we spent a lot of time indoors, which gave gave me a lot of time to write. I think the biggest obstacle was just being a COVID-born band. Like we couldn't play shows immediately, we had to wait like a year before we could play. So we had to build our audience online, which was great. But it would have been nice to kind of get out on the road a little earlier.

JM: Yeah, it's been tough living in Charlotte, because there's not a whole lot of an indie scene here. Yeah. It's mostly kind of like punk and jazz. So, all of our best shows we've typically had to kind of go out somewhere far. And so it is kind of a little difficult sometimes to establish that local connection, I think a lot of that has to do with how Charlotte's built and like, any young person is kind of like in an apartment. Like, you can't really do any house shows and just have to go to venues. That's kind of like a different audience at that point.

As for not having that huge indie scene in Charlotte. Where do you think you would thrive the most?

RG: I think thriving the most, it would definitely be on the West Coast. We do have a pretty big following over there right now. I think my dream has always been to live in New York, but it doesn't make sense for the band. The West Coast would make sense.

SC: Is that something that you might consider down the line? Or even relatively soon?

RG: I think we're all like, trying to just figure out where we're going to relocate to. I mean, we all are certain that we're not going to be living in North Carolina for the next two years. So I think we're all planning on going somewhere. Just not sure where yet, though.

So I guess we kind of talked about this already, but now that you've gotten started, you've got these followings of people, and you've got these fans who really love what you're doing, where do you see things going?

MG: Yeah, I mean, the whole thing - touring, being signed to a label that we love...

ZT: I think a European tour is something that I would really push for. I think that'd be really fun.

JM: European tour? I would really feel like we made it.

RG: I'd freak out. Freak out. That would be the craziest thing ever, playing in France. That would just be crazy.

JM: Yeah, like going somewhere where people would be like, Oh, you have like an accent, and it's because of our music, would be really crazy. If we had to fly our guitars overseas...

RG: I think, in every avenue that we can take, we just like reaching the highest possible level. Just like aim high.

JM: So it's a little bit of a scaffolding process. We started being like, "Oh, we should get 50,000 streams." We're like, "Oh my god. 100,000 streams, time for a steak dinner." And then it was like, a million and then a Spotify editorial. Our minds just keep getting blown in a way that builds upon each other. It's contagious to kind of just look forward to those small goals.

RG: I do have like a journal with all the goals that I wanted to reach from two years ago. Yeah, it said, "reach 20,000 streams on one song," or "reach 10,000 followers on Tiktok." And I'm just like looking. I'm like, "Holy shit, we got past all of this." I think I believe in a little bit of manifesting. Because it seems like when I write something down, it tends to happen. But I think I like writing down goals, and then reading them every morning. I have goals for this year, written up here, and I read them every morning.

MG: I'm constantly thinking about it and constantly thinking about the next song, or the next show. Just kind of gets me going every day. And I guess that's a form of manifestation.

JM: I don't have a single hour where I haven't thought about something related to the band. I just can't stop thinking about it.

I don't want to jinx anything, but do you worry about getting burned out on it?

RG: I think you could get burned out. I think it gets to a point where you're like, "Oh, my God, I just want to go on a tour already. I want to play shows." I think you can get burned out just sitting in your room constantly. And trying to pump out a song when you don't really go out and make experiences, right?

JM: From experience, you get kind of burned out on the individual things, but the overall like passion for music doesn't necessarily burn out. But sometimes it's more healthy to take a break, and then re-look at it, you know? It just makes the music better to step back for a second.

MG: Yeah, we recorded the EP over the span of four months. And I remember I would just come home every day and just write, write, write or record, record, record. And it did burn me out a little bit. I took December off, and I'm probably going to take the rest of January off and then start writing again in February, because it can get exhausting on your brain constantly thinking about writing, or melodies or guitar parts. So yeah, in a sense, you can get burnt out but I think it's just healthy to take breaks.

Yeah, and I mean, you know, that goes for anything that you're passionate about. Well, I have just about wrapped up my questions, but I want one more. What is one noun from each of you that you would compare to your sound and the experience of listening to your music?

ZT: That's a person, place, or thing, right?

MG: I see like, either an old car or a box when you're moving, with some tape on it and a marker that's labeled it.

JM: For me, probably mountains. That's always what I see. A tree, but- sorry, what was that?

ZT: Archway.

SC: Okay, cool. Well, I love that! I'm thinking of how all those pieces fit together, it's really cool. So let's see... Those are all the questions. Where can people find your Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. Are you on all streaming platforms?

MG: Yeah, all three platforms. We're on Instagram and TikTok @woahtheband.

You can listen to our interview on our Spotify or watch it on Youtube below!

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