Metro Detroit musician Josh Wheeler knows a thing or two about multitasking. He’s been in one band or another for as long as he can remember, and is currently the guitar player for The Paper Sound as well as one half of indie slow-core/power pop project The Bruised Reed.
Wheeler decided that he wanted to work on some solo material to keep his composition muscles trained, and thus, The Bruised Reed was born. Composed of himself (guitar, bass, drums, percussion, rhodes, hammond, moog, mellotron) and his wife, Kirsten Wheeler (vocals), the two are highly influenced by artists like Pedro the Lion and Inara George.
“My (now) wife and I actually grew up playing in worship bands together at church, so I married her to steal that talent away for my own purposes,” Wheeler said.
When the duo began recording their first album nearly 10 years ago, Wheeler’s original intentions were to have a minimalist sound, one that counteracted the fast, driving tone of his bands like The Paper Sound.
“That lasted for most of writing our first record, but then muscle memory took over and we started adding more and more energetic arrangements and pop elements to it,” Wheeler said. “So it’s still somewhere between a very moody, down-tempo indie sound and a helping of fuzzed-out power pop.”
The duo’s first album, Pass Around the Easy Lie, was released in 2006, followed by their most recent one, New Words for Old Desires, in 2010.
“The first LP was a collection of songs I’d written in my spare time that had come to me over a two to three year period, that I took a great deal of time finally laying down and releasing,” Wheeler said. “The following EP came after another couple years in another attempt to expel some creative energy and get some ideas out.”
Josh and Kirsten also recorded and released an Elliott Smith cover song in October of last year as part of a Detroit tribute album in honor of the 10th anniversary of Smith’s passing.
“Many of the original songs I wrote for the project came out of witnessing several people that I had grown up with in the church start to struggle to stand up in their faith when they got out on their own and were making those kinds of life decisions for themselves for the first time,” Wheeler said. “Those struggles eventually come to everyone, and that concept was what birthed much of the first batch of material; and thus the name.”
The most notable difference between Wheeler’s projects is that The Bruised Reed is essentially a solo project, one in which he writes, arranges and plays everything. Wheeler’s contribution to The Paper Sound is more as an arranger, producer and guitarist.
“They share some of the same base influences and sensibilities, but The Bruised Reed is more nuanced and delicate in much of our material, and features a lot of additional production and instrumentation… The Paper Sound is often meant to be a more direct, energetic vehicle that translates well to a big live show,” Wheeler said.
Though The Bruised Reed was intended to be a no-frills studio project, the duo will perform at the Detroit leg of the International Pop Overthrow festival, which takes place Thursday, April 24 through Saturday, April 26. Wheeler said he’s currently getting a group of friends and musicians together to flesh the recordings out into live arrangements.
Keep an ear and an eye out for The Bruised Reed’s song “I’ve Lost Control,” which is featured in the new 2014 Chevy Traverse ad, courtesy of your Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers.