Bekah Wagner on Roo and the Howl’s first big tour and upcoming LP
Musician Bekah Wagner is probably soon to be better known as the eponymous “Roo” of Colorado act Roo and the Howl. Per the band’s press kit: “The word ‘roo’ derives itself from the Old English word for ‘quiet.’” It’s an apt description, as the band’s music has a softly haunting aspect to it. Yet, “howl” is equally as applicable. On their most recent cut, “Love Lost,” you can hear a quiet power behind the sweetly-sung melodies.
Roo and the Howl is currently on their first big tour, and they play the Record Bar in Kansas City this Thursday, August 29, opening for Akkiles and La Guerre. Wagner was kind enough to answer some questions via e-mail about the band’s tour, as well as their upcoming LP.
You started out performing as a solo artist. What do you find playing as a band, under a name other than your own, given one, offers?
Well, it’s kind of fun to have a different name. It allows you to push your music in new directions and explore new themes without it being tied so heavily to a single person. With that said, to me, ‘Roo’ is just as much my name as my real name. And I enjoy the team effort.
I have been on the road with just me and my guitar, it’s a totally different experience and expectation. In some ways I love the simplicity of that. People hide behind instrumentation and when you sing with just a guitar, the songs either stand or they don’t.
It can be brutal though. There’s nothing more humbling than playing in a coffee shop and realizing you’re just the background noise for the evening. It’s probably a good thing for every artist to experience as it makes it so much sweeter when you have even a handful people truly listening to your music and engaging with you.
I’m not familiar with your work as Bekah Wagner, but it seems that many acts change their name from the such-and-such band to something more proper in order to reflect what the rest of the band brings to the table. Is that the case with the Howl?
I played with musicians in the past, but the music we are playing now is much different. The fact that I’ve moved to playing electric in a few songs is a big shift and really changes the sound. I wanted the name to reflect me … to be personal. But it does reflect the style we are playing and the fellas that are in this with me.
Your latest song, the demo of “Love Lost,” features some lovely guitar work — it sounds almost Soweto. It’s a bit different from the other songs of yours, in that it’s more upbeat and less wistful, too. Is there anything behind that?
Well I just had to google Soweto, so I’m not sure if it sounds similar or not. It is a slight venture, we like lots of different sounds and have many influences that then spill out in our playing.
Is this the group’s first major tour? If so, what do you expect from it?
Yes, yes. We are having a grand time. We love playing our tunes and meeting good people. Lots more touring on the horizon. I’m sure each member of the band has different expectations, but for me it’s a chance to meld as a band and really develop our sound. There’s something about playing night after night after night that grows a band into something more than the sum of its parts.
Do you consider this a chance to test out material you’re considering for your next album, or is that already in the can?
Most of the stuff people hear this tour will be on the album. But a lot of what we will record I am saving for the record, before we play it out. Gotta have some surprises right?
What’s in store for that debut full-length?
Ohhhhh, good things. We are recording it all live as a band. It’s a good challenge for us. I love simplicity and spontaneity. It’ll be out in the spring.
Is there anything you’d suggest people who’ve not heard of Roo and the Howl know about you or the band?
If you want to know anything about us, listen to our music … come to a show, I think that tells the story.
You can find more information about Roo and the Howl at the band’s website.