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“Blooming Like Hell”: How Wild Pink Fought Catastrophe and Ended Up with the Stellar ILYSM

The New York indie rockers' fourth studio album was interrupted by a cancer diagnosis

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wild pink interview
Wild Pink, photo by Mitchell Wojcik/Illustration by Steven Fiche

    It only lasts a fraction of a second: a honk, a hum, a striking something that cracks open Wild Pink’s new album, ILYSMBy the time first track “Cahooting the Multiverse” picks up speed, the audience is off-balance and lurching to catch up.

    “That was a keyboard that I stretched out and trashed,” songwriter and vocalist John Ross tells Consequence. “I liked the idea of starting the record, at least this time, with a disorienting sound to get the listener out of the idea that this is going to be strictly guitar rock, or whatever they might think. Starting with some kind of an amorphous sound felt right to me.”

    Ross founded Wild Pink in New York in 2015, and the band also boasts bassist Arden Yonkers, drummer Dan Keegan, and Mike Brenner on the pedal steel. They’ve built their audience steadily, release by indelible release. 2021’s A Billion Little Lights caused a big pandemic stir, and ILYSM, out Friday (October 14th), seems poised to move them up a font size on every festival poster. Anything less would be a pity; the album is a towering musical achievement.

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    It’s also different from their previous works in small but noticeable ways. Just as Wild Pink are becoming a recognizable brand, Ross is determined to expand their sound. “What I wanted to do was make a record that was more experimental than the last one,” he says. “To have jarring moments and parts that feel like they’re not wrapped up in a bow.”

    Uncertainty is part of life, though Ross has grappled with more than most. If you’ve read at least one other story about Wild Pink this year, you know that he was diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes during the making of ILYSM.

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    “It is a completely bizarre experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. At some point, you start to feel like you’re just bringing your body in for treatment,” he says. “I feel like I was bringing my body into the hospital to be worked on like it was a car.”

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