Orange County's Wonderlove Is Back, With the Same Sound But Different Priorities

Civil Reunion
Wonderlove is back, with the same sound but different priorities

Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, eight years of a Bush White House. The aughts have been pretty rough.

So that might explain why it seems longer ago than it actually was when Wonderlove were one of the most celebrated pieces of the Orange County music scene. They formed in 2000 and broke up in 2004; even though their music is hardly politically charged, there’s some symmetry in the fact they’re reuniting in 2008, on the cusp of a new national administration and near the close of a tulmultuous decade.

Wonderlove performing live—a sight that's about to become more common
Lisa Huey
Wonderlove performing live—a sight that's about to become more common

Which begs the question: Why did they break up in the first place? It looked like Wonderlove were doing everything right. They were productive, releasing full-length albums just two years apart (2001’s Getting Off the Revolution and 2003’s My Submarine). They earned critical acclaim, winning Best Indie Rock and Best Live Band at the 2002 Orange County Music Awards, repeating the latter accolade the following year. They attracted a dedicated local following and garnered attention from record labels. Ideally, these are the kinds of things that make a band successful—like, national-tour/huge-record-deal successful.

Well, yeah. That’s what Wonderlove lead singer Chris Paul Overall thought.

“We were kicking ass, just doing really good,” he says. “And nothing happened. We did a bunch of showcases for labels, all the bigs. Everybody was like, ‘You guys are fucking great, but we don’t know where to put you.’”

Overall blames it on their sound, influenced by the likes of the Beatles, AC/DC and Pink Floyd. Timeless, sure, but far removed from the low-fi minimalism of the Strokes or the nouveau new wave of the Killers, the trendy sounds at that point.

“We were kind of classic rock,” he says, “and back in ’03 or ’04, that was definitely not relevant.”

Being called irrelevant enough times would get to anyone, and Wonderlove started taking the music-industry ambivalence to heart, which lead to their break-up.

“It was frustrating,” he says. “You get rejection like that when you think you’re great, and nobody accepts it. You start taking it out on one another. We just decided to stop doing it.”

In the interim, Overall toiled on his solo work, while drummer Dicki Fliszar and keyboardist Jesse Nason joined Long Beach’s Deccatree. Bassist Dave Beste played with another Long Beach band, Rocco DeLuca and the Burden (at one point road-managed by Kiefer Sutherland and profiled in the 2006 documentary I Trust You to Kill Me), while guitarist Bryan McIntyre left music—in another case of unfortunate timing—to become a Realtor.

“He was kicking ass for, like, two years,” Overall says. “They bought a huge house, they were killing it, and then the bottom fell out of that.”

Other than some initial tension, the disassembling of Wonderlove was not one of those explosive, acrimonious break-ups. The band played occasional renion shows in 2005 and 2007, before deciding to re-form permanently a few months ago, under rather humble circumstances.

“[Beste and McIntyre] were hanging out one night, getting drunk,” says Overall. “They were like, ‘Let’s get it back together!’ They texted everybody, and [everyone said], ‘Okay!’”

This time around, Wonderlove’s outlook has changed. They’re now all in their 30s and, except for Overall, married. Several have kids. They’re not necessarily looking to be “discovered”—not that they would turn such a thing down, of course.

“Our goals are definitely different,” Overall says. “We’re not trying to impress anybody. There are a lot of people that love us. We want to get back together and do that for them. We love playing together. You don’t get to have that feeling very often, of just making good music with people.”

But they are working on new material, with plans to release a third album.

“We’ve all matured so much,” says the singer. “We think we can put out something way better than what we’ve ever done. If it takes us somewhere, that’s cool, but that’s not our priority.”

Oddly enough, Wonderlove’s time off has corresponded with a shift in the rock zeitgeist that’s left it a much friendlier environment for their type of music, thanks to the mainstream success of such fellow classic-rock devotees as Kings of Leon.

“We’re still in the same spot, influence-wise,” Overall says. “Maybe more evolved. I think it’s more relevant now than it was when we were together. I think the only thing we have working against us is just being old.”

Wonderlove perform with the Pleasant Return, the Peace Bombs and Brett Bixby at the Gypsy Lounge, 23600 Rockfield Blvd., Ste. 3A, Lake Forest, (949) 206-9990; www.thegypsylounge.com. Fri., 8:45 p.m. $10. 21+.

 
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