Deep in the woods down a long, long gravel driveway off a long winding road in Varina, sits “The Shed”, the studio and hangout spot for Black Naked Wings.
Now it may look a little rough around the edges, but once you step inside its filled to the brim with eclectic gadgets like a replica of the Star Trek captain’s chair replica, vintage guitars and other instruments, records and a compact practice space for the local young, aspiring three-piece garage/punk band.
Fresh off a mini-tour, Black Naked Wings are on the move in Richmond with a new album, White Wall, and have recently partnered up with Trrrash Records for their distribution.
The young trio’s sound is that of a band which has been playing together for many, many years. And well, that’s because all three got a jumpstart on their musical careers.
TJ Krivanec, guitarist and vocalist for the band, met drummer Graham Olsen in preschool and started cranking out tunes early on.
“We recorded our first song at eight years old under the name black naked wings,” said TJ. “It was facilitated by his (Olsen’s) Dad and his dad played bass line, Graham chaotically slapped some drums, I did vocals and his little brother did some keyboards.”
Ben Mattoon, bassist and vocalist and Olsen met after their dads, both of whom are in bands, started working together when they were younger.
“Our dads started playing music together,” Mattoon said.
Krivanec and Olsen continued to hone their musical chops as they grew older, but started getting serious about the gig when they were around 12 years old.
“Throughout elementary school we continued to make these loose jams and songs with his dad, and about 12 years old I was playing the guitar very frequently, he’d gotten tighter on drums, we had about four or five songs,” Krivanec said.
As soon as they found out Mattoon owned a bass they decided to bring him into the fold and make a serious go of it.
“We were hanging out with Ben and we taught him the songs and played our first show in a month,” Krivanec said.
That very first song they did all those years ago, which was recorded in their practice space, Olsen’s dad’s shed, is also the last song on the album, the title track, “White Wall.”
The band recorded the 11-track album in December at National Carriage Studio in Fulton Hill with mixing done by Bill Walker.
The no bullshit, straight punk record is a followup to their 2016 EP, Demonstration and its raw, fast and loud with a few more mellow tracks thrown in here and there. And while not overly polished or clean by any means, this lo-fi garage rock record is the mark of a band that’s been hard at work on their craft and really has fun with what they do.
“I feel like we’re going between these softer, lusher expansive jangly songs then harder heavier riff rock and roll, its mixing between the two. We’ve played so long with each other we know what we don’t like and what we do like and those things that we do like are always meshing together,” Krivanec said.
Most of the songs on the album the band has been playing for the last two years, but some are more recent. And as far as the writing process goes, Krivanec said it’s a collaborative effort.
“Ben and I both play a little bit of everything and we do little bedroom recordings, but when it comes to the band, I’ll write a song or he writes a song, and once we start fleshing it out in here loud, we’ll be giving our ideas to Graham, we call him the wild card sometimes because he comes up withhis own idea halfway through,” he said.
After finishing up the entire album over the course of just a few days in the studio, the band released White Wall in May.
“The whole album was recorded live…We finished playing in two sessions,” Mattoon said. “Then it took another few sessions to fine tune things and there were some things we needed to fix.”
“Time & Money” is a stand out for them as well as “Lost” and “Silver Tongue” (a bit of psychedelic/punk creeping in on this one, a personal favorite of mine on the album so be sure to give that a listen.)
Mattoon said getting more involved with the local punk scene has helped their creative process since they started playing as a trio.
“It’s changed a lot for us I think, and made us interested in different things; really trying to expand energy, and be able to let loose,” he said.
Black Naked Wings have recently been playing at venues like Strange Matter and En Su Boca to carve out a niche for themselves in the local music scene, and like any up and coming gritty punk bands, they’ve also played their fair amount of house shows, something Mattoon said he prefers.
“I think the shows that have always been the most fun for me are the more DIY shows,” he said. “We’re not afraid to play dirty house shows with bad sound.”
A show last winter at En Su Boca helped Black Naked Wings get linked up with Tim Falen of local indie label Trrrash Records (Atta Girl/The Milkstains/ The Wimps), who is now handling all promotion for their album.
“He did sound for us,” Krivanec said. “…We kept seeing him around and he asked us to be on his label.”
With a new album in tow, the band headed out on a mini-tour at the beginning of this month which took them to Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Charlottesville. The three prepared for life on the road last year before going out and playing gigs.
“We did a road trip last summer just to see how we did for two weeks we went through New Orleans and Austin for awhile,” Krivanec said.
Black Naked Wings will wrap up their tour this Thursday on Aug. 17 at Champion RVA alongside The Milkstains and Twin Drugs where they will be playing their new tunes. 401 E. Grace St. 7-10 pm.