When The Word Was (((On Our Cover)))

By Me, Warren Bujol

Photo by Jamie Hartnett

7/8 Nine

As I count time on the 'Owl Lady's Headdress' video, I reach 6/4 and immediately begin questioning myself. I have always been a fan of unconventional time, however, I've never ventured beyond 3/4, 5/4, 6/8, 7/8. Well, I can almost count to 15/4 in Queens of the Stone Age's I think I lost my headache, but as I start crunching the numbers I realize that I've missed the point. For the musician, music is an outlet and time is a tool; but for the listener, it is an experience... it is a time for us to relinquish control of the moment and let the sounds guide us through our journey. 

Ambient Schmambient

Photo by Jamie Hartnett

Photo by Jamie Hartnett

If I were to describe music with one word, it would be ‘Whenthewordwassound’. Thankfully, I live in America; where I can describe music with as many words as I want. I use five, because I want to… ‘When The Word Was Sound’. I chose these words deliberately and it wasn’t even as hard of a decision as you might think. I’ve heard Brandon Pittman and Amanda Sonnier’s (WTWWS) music referred to as ambient – even by them on occasion – but I’m pretty sure they don’t know what that means. Ambient music is what you hear in an elevator. Ambient music can have lyrics, it could’ve been a big hit in the 80’s, probably has a saxophone (not the good kind); but essentially, it is noise to keep you from going insane without provoking too much interest. It is meant to compliment situations, not to stand-alone. 

GhettoTech Trance Jazz

Photo by Jamie Hartnett

Whatever your ambient description may be, it does not describe When The Word Was Sound. While their music lacks traditional lyrics, it maintains a powerful and personal message. I’ve been listening to Amanda and Brandon’s music constantly ever since I had the pleasure of interviewing them (I’m ashamed it took so long). It is complex, psychedelic, captivating and evolving. For almost a decade, Brandon and Amanda have found a way to compose an entire spectrum of linearly progressing music - a feat that has humbled me as a musician (self-proclaimed) and listener. The space-like sounds of, whatever instrument Brandon is playing at any moment, are grounded by the hypnotic pulse of Amanda’s odd-timed grooves. While the drums maintain a repetitive theme, they skirt the horizon of a drum fill, only crossing when necessary, keeping the listener’s attention. They approach music like a motorcycle; sure, you can slap a bunch of goofy shit on it and call it a chopper, but everyone knows bobbers are way cooler… you don’t need mirrors, blinkers… or fenders to be fancy. I can move on now because I've used every big word I can think of at the moment... 

I Can't Play Drums to This...

I went to high school with Amanda. She played soccer or whatever, but more impressively, she played drums. Her father bought a Yamaha drum set one day and was like, “I don’t know how to play these. You take them Amanda… join a bunch of bands until you find the Chosen One (Brandon Pittman) and make music for the world.” She not only did every bit of that; she also became a scientist (we’re very proud). Brandon wasn’t always a resident of Lake Charles, but after visiting our humble little city circa 2000 (during one of the many peaks of our music scene) he felt as if he belonged here. He returned to Natchitoches, but soon found himself dreaming of his time in Lake Charles… from Austin. He moved here 13 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Brandon and Amanda had been close friends for years, but the word wasn’t always sound. One day, Brandon asked Amanda to play drums for one of his tracks, she is quoted as saying “I can’t play drums to this”; followed by nine years of her playing drums to it. How have they lasted so long? Friendship. 

Wrecked Him? Damn Near Killed Him!

Friendship is the core of When The Word Was Sound. They are essentially a family band, trusting one another much further than they could throw each other. Trust is a commonly overlooked aspect of creating music. As Brandon states, “I cannot play with someone I can’t trust. When you are on stage, you are vulnerable, and I need to know I can trust my band”. They both have extensive experience in bands and have learned what doesn’t work, but ‘hot-stove’ knowledge and friendship aren’t the sole requirements for success as a band. If friendship is the backbone of a band, chemistry is the rectum; it’s not the flashiest part of the body, but it’s one of the most important. Without it, bands can’t fart, or survive in an unforgiving music scene. The lack of chemistry can cripple even the most talented of bands. You’ll know when a band doesn’t have it; a lot of awkward “sounded uh, great, guys” after their show. Musicians are often inspired by the world around them during the creation process, but music inspired by a moment can lose relevance when played out of context. Luckily, WTWWS has enough chemistry to vaccinate a small village; they share a mutual pocket. Every one of their live shows are completely improvised, allowing for unprecedented amounts of artistic freedom and the ability to capture the pulse of each individual moment. I personally believe their dynamic approach has allowed them to survive the musical droughts that have plagued this region. 

You'll Pay For This, Captain Planet!!!

Photo by Jamie Hartnett

Amanda and Brandon have maintained control over their music and creative process over the years by
deliberately avoiding recording labels. They have managed to release two albums and scored a sweet ass logo - designed by close friend Tyler Walker (Walker Williams, June 2014-March 2015. Never Forget) without the help of a label. But as they wait for their latest album to be finished by a friend in L.A., they admit one of their goals is to be capable of recording albums in-house. WTWWS expresses frustration in releasing control of the final stages of production when such great care is placed into every other aspect of it, to include each note. Brandon and Amanda have a shared love for creating music, but while Brandon wishes to pursue music more aggressively, Amanda has joined forces with Captain Planet (the Don Cheadle version) and is dedicated to saving the earth. For now, they will continue abbreviated tours in the surrounding areas. It’s upsetting, I know, but we should be thankful that someone (Amanda) is going to take pollution down to zero. Someone must put asunder, the bad guys who like to loot and plunder. Not to mention, Brandon’s other job is to deliver organs. If WTWWS were to hit the road, we would be left waiting on the operating table in a polluted world. 

Jody Taylor Versus the Hurricane

Photo by Julia Pittman

Photo by Julia Pittman

Before I let them go, I asked about the best years for music in Lake Charles and before I could finish, Brandon yelled at the top of his lungs, “Jody Taylor!” Amanda agreed. I think Jody Taylor means 2000-2005ish, but there is no way to know for sure. They explained that there was once a magical place called Shakey Ground, which would bring bands from all over to our little corner of the world. They didn’t serve alcohol, so I don’t know how they did it, but ironically, Shakey Ground laid a solid foundation for our music scene. After Hurricane Rita wiped out Shakey Ground, Jody Taylor began booking shows for the remaining venues… all of them. He even created a music blog and made fliers. They went on to reference some of the great venues like Dharma and Rikenjaks, both of which find their way into any local conversations regarding music. It is as if we are always on the brink of greatness, but have yet to grasp it. But there is much to be optimistic about. It is apparent that we are once again building the momentum for a cultural and economic shift. It feels as if we are more aware now than ever before; our community as a whole is slowly beginning to open our minds to new experiences and ideas. 

Be Patient

Change doesn’t happen overnight and Lake Charles’ cyclical approach to progress can be discouraging at times, but as Brandon states, “The people that actually care [about Lake Charles]… the ones who aren’t in it for popularity, are finally getting the opportunity to make a difference. We have more potential now than ever before”. Of all the great traits of When The Word Was Sound, I find their stubbornness to be the most admirable. They are well aware of how profitable mediocre music can be, yet they refuse to altar their voice to appeal to the dull pallet. They will continue to make music on their own terms and I can only hope, inspire more to do the same. 

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