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Q&A: Guitars collide as the Asheville-based band Wednesday takes the stage at the Cat's Cradle

Karly Hartzman is the lead singer of the Asheville-based band Wednesday, which plays at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro on Friday, June 16, 2023.
Brandon McClain
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Karly Hartzman is the lead singer of the Asheville-based band Wednesday, which plays at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro on Friday, June 16, 2023.

Asheville-based band Wednesday is about to explode. That's according to NPR Music, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and loads of other publications and websites scrambling for ways to describe what happens when a wall of guitars collides with a distorted pedal steel.

The band's fifth record is called Rat Saw God, and those guitars kick and buzz like the yellow jackets and chainsaw referenced in the song "What's So Funny."

On top of all of that noise is the voice of main songwriter and lead singer Karly Hartzman. The lyrics catalog the day-to-day life summed up by weird neighbors, cul-de-sacs and dogwood trees, chain stores, bull fights, a sex shop with a biblical name and the attraction and boredom of drugs and alcohol.

Hartzman grew up in Greensboro before heading off to UNC-Asheville where she met her future band members.

The band rolls into the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro on Friday night.

Hartzman talked with WUNC earlier this spring as the band was getting ready to hit the road.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.

Along with the story of a dropped chainsaw and yellow jacket stings, "What's So Funny" has the line, "nothing will ever be as vivid as the darkest time of my life." Are those dark times the fuel for a lot of your songs?

"More so than being the fuel, I feel like it's just stuff that I feel like I have to write about to progress in my writing. Like, I have to kind of backtrack to my high school days to write about some important stuff that has happened. And I feel like, to move on and write about what's emotionally going on nowadays, I have to like cover that base first."

There's a lot going on in "Quarry" including an accidental fire and a pregnancy. Were these stories inspired by real life?

"Yeah, the fire is a story from my dad's childhood that he told me when I was young, which really just made me put a lot of my — maybe not so great — behavior in context, because I never burned down a field. When he burned down that field, he didn't tell his parents, and knowing that, I felt like I could just always go to them if I messed up in any way, because he told me that one of the worst things he did and got away with as a kid.

"And then, the pregnancy [story] is [from] my uncle. They were raised in a pretty intensely Jewish family and he ended up getting a preacher's daughter pregnant, of the church who lived down the street, and then life unfurled from there for them in a lot of ways. I think it's important to learn that stuff about your family, once you can handle it. I heard some of those stories at a young age, but I don't think I could have handled that information — I kind of needed my parents to be like, flawless adults during a lot of my childhood, I think, in my eyes at least. And then now that I'm getting older, they're sharing real life stories that any adult experiences and opening up that aspect of their life to me, which I'm really grateful for."

"Bull Believer" is a tangled tale that opens with a bullfight, moves to a New Yea's Eve party and video games and ends with cathartic shouting and yelling. It's a heavy song. Is it hard to get into that head space every night?

"It felt almost impossible when we were first practicing it. I mean, we play it every night on tour. And eventually I was able to channel that energy into stuff I was frustrated about in day-to-day life instead of the thing it's about. Because I don't want to go deep into my memories every night and resurface the thing that I'm screaming about necessarily, but it's really cathartic if I'm just venting about one of the billion things that is really frustrating that can happen on a tour in a van with six people smashed in and all of the things that come with that."

Did you really get electrocuted like the character in the song "Got Shocked?"

"Yeah. We practice in me and my partner Jake's bedroom. The house was wired by our landlord, Gary, who didn't really know how to do all of that. So, all of the polarities are kind of messed up, but yeah, I got shocked for like a full 10 seconds or so before people realized what was happening and unplugged everything. It was a moment... It's funny because after you get shocked it's like weirdly — like you get really giddy, but I was also like crying because it really hurt, so there's a lot of emotions to be had in one very short time."

You reference listening to the Drive-By Truckers in the song "Bath County" and then unleash a guitar riff I think they'd be proud of on "Chosen To Deserve." I guess this is a love song, but there is a reference to loneliness being everywhere. Is that compounded when you're touring?

"Oh, man. I don't know. Loneliness is a very peculiar feeling on tour because I do get it, but you're constantly around people. There's almost no alone time. I feel like the alone time I get is something I made up in my mind. It's just like I'm pretending I'm getting it when I put headphones on in the backseat or something. Loneliness is like an impossible feeling to describe. I feel like I've been attempted it a few times. 'Chosen To Deserve' is like one of the versions of describing a loneliness that more comes with just trying to describe to a partner your past that they weren't present for that no one will ever really understand if they weren't there."

Karly Hartzman is the lead singer for the band Wednesday. You can catch them Friday night at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.

You can hear Wednesday and more great new music on WUNC Music, available at 91.5 HD2 or on our app.

Eric Hodge hosts WUNC’s broadcast of Morning Edition, and files reports for the North Carolina news segments of the broadcast. He started at the station in 2004 doing fill-in work on weekends and All Things Considered.
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