Interview: Wild Pink’s ‘A Billion Little Lights’ Is a Richly Poetic Triumph

Wild Pink © Mitchell Wojcik
Wild Pink © Mitchell Wojcik
‘A Billion Little Lights’, the stunning third LP from New York indie rockers Wild Pink, is the embodiment of a band who have experimented with new sounds, found a groove with each other, and grown along the way.
Stream: ‘A Billion Little Lights’ – Wild Pink

For the last several years, New York-based band Wild Pink has been steadily writing and releasing records, each one more lush and poetic than the last. After 2017’s sparse and confident debut, Wild Pink, and 2018’s textured ode to youth, Yolk in the Fur, 2021 finds Wild Pink securing their spot as a staple in the indie rock world with their stunning third studio album, A Billion Little Lights.

A Billion Little Lights by Wild Pink
A Billion Little Lights by Wild Pink

Comprised of frontman/songwriter John Ross, bassist T.C. Brownell, and drummer Dan Keegan, Wild Pink has found their niche somewhere between indie rock and Americana, and A Billion Little Lights, out February 19, 2021 via Royal Mountain Records, is likely their most impressive collection of songs to date. Produced by David Greenbaum (Beck, U2, Jenny Lewis) and joined by a slew of talented musicians who each added their own share of magic, A Billion Little Lights is the embodiment of a band who have experimented with new sounds, found a groove with each other, and grown along the way.

From the rich yet understated opener, “The Wind Was Like a Train,” where Ross and Julia Steiner (of the Ratboys) assuredly sing, “I’ve got your back,” to the steady, observant closing track, “Die Outside,” A Billion Little Lights is ten tracks of intricate beauty, blending together seamlessly. Recently, Atwood Magazine spoke with Wild Pink’s frontman, John Ross, all about how this record came to life. Read about it in our conversation below!

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A Billion Little Lights by Wild Pink

Atwood Magazine: Hi John! Congratulations on the upcoming release of A Billion Little Lights. What are you most looking forward to about having these songs out in the world?

Wild Pink: I’m just so looking forward to people being able to hear them finally. It’ll be almost three years since the last record came out, which just feels way too long for me.

Have you been working on these songs since the release of 2018's Yolk in the Fur?

Wild Pink: I started writing right after Yolk in the Fur came out, so yeah, I would say probably two years of writing.

That is awhile to be working on it! 2018’s Yolk in the Fur ended with the proverbial letting go of youth, and the uncertainty of “what happens next.” What has that meant for you and the band the past few years?

Wild Pink: Well, I guess we’ve been at [making music] long enough to where it doesn’t feel new. We’re getting into a groove, and it’s feeling pretty established in my mind. We’re at record three in four years, and I’m just really enjoying it.

Each Wild Pink record seems to flow into each other, from the album art continuity to the way the songs sonically blend together without pause. Has this always been a plan? Is there a significance behind it?

Wild Pink: I would say that by the time I got into doing A Billion Little Lights, that idea of having some continuity between the three records definitely grew into a process over time. I think of this record as kind of bringing that idea to fruition, and probably wrapping up that idea. It feels like each record tried to be bigger and more full and lush than the last one, and that was definitely something I was aware of making this record.

From what you said about each record being bigger and more full, I can hear that on A Billion Little Lights. The sounds feel so textured and intricate, almost leaning a little more towards Americana than indie rock. What led you towards extensive collaboration on this album?

Wild Pink: That was an attempt to fill out the sound; I wanted to have as many players as possible on these songs. On the first record we were just a three piece, and then on Yolk in the Fur we were slowly adding more textures- synth and pedal steel. This time I wanted to really go all in and just collaborate with as many people as possible– I really enjoy collaborating. I would consider myself a songwriter more than a player, so to have good players on these songs has been super fulfilling and fun.

Totally. Is there a particular recording session that stands out in your mind?

Wild Pink: Probably the one we did in Philly. My pedal steel player, Mike Brenner, lives in Philadelphia and he knows a ton of players down there and he helped me coordinate everything. We recorded over two days with a bunch of great players, it was really fun.

Within the grander sound, lyrically these songs feel so poetic, casting light on small, ordinary moments. This question is kind of a general one, but what did the writing process look like for this album?

Wild Pink: That’s awesome, I’m glad you like the lyrics. I will say with this record I wanted it to still be lyric-focused, but also to have more instrumental moments. Like parts where it’s just pedal steel and violin for two minutes. it was important to me to give these players space and let them do their thing, and also to sort of break up my vocals a little bit. Julia Steiner from Ratboys sang on quite a bit of the record, which I think totally elevates everything.

Totally. As far as the writing goes, is it more of a solitary process or does it happen in a co-write scenario? And has that process shifted since Wild Pink started?

Wild Pink: It’s mostly just me – I write everything at home, demo it out, and then send it around. And it has become more and more of a solitary thing. When we made our first record, we would all go to a practice space and play together as a three piece, but it has [shifted] into a mostly solo process.

One song that struck me in particular is “Pacific City.” That last line really stuck with me, “And you deserve the good things that’ll come to you / You just need a little room.” Can you tell me a little about how that song came to life?

Wild Pink: I wanted to write something that had more of a conventional song structure, like “verse, chorus, verse, chorus.” So I had that in mind with this tune, and then when we were in the studio we started playing around with drum sounds and experimented with a drum machine, melding electronic and acoustic drums together to get a really cool sound. I also love the sax solo; it was just really fun to hear “Pacific City” come together.

At the moment, is there a song on A Billion Little Lights that has meant the most to you?

Wild Pink: Maybe “Bigger than Christmas.” I’m excited to play that one live! We’re doing this live stream on the day the record comes out and, we’re going to play this record, but stripped down acoustically. And I think it’s going to be really cool to hear how that one comes together, not as a big band with synth, but with acoustic piano.

Totally. I was going to ask if you had any special release day plans as well. You’re doing a live stream?

Wild Pink: Yes! We’re going to do it at my house as a five-piece band. It’s going to be very stripped down, and should be interesting [to see how the songs sound that way.]

I’m excited to hear them acoustic! To come full circle, ABLL ends quite differently from Yolk in the Fur. Instead of questioning what comes next, the final track (Die Outside) seems to be filled with matter-of-fact observations. What sort of phase or headspace does the completion of ABLL find you in?

Wild Pink: I’m definitely ready to work on another record. I’m starting to write some new songs and I definitely don’t want to wait as long to do the next one as I did with this one. So I’m just excited. I hope that touring is able to return safely maybe by the end of the year, or next year, and we can just keep going.

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A Billion Little Lights by Wild Pink

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