What if longtime friends Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk came clean about the fact that their bevy of instrumental theme songs and film soundtracks—including the New York Times’ famed podcast The Daily, Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar Radio, and many indie film scores—were only half of the story? Well, there’s no need to get rhetorical, because the day has come for Brunberg and Landsverk, known collectively as the Portland-based duo Wonderly, to share their other side with the world. On January 29th, the band will release a brand new EP, Story We Tell Volume 1; five new songs—including a deeply groovy appreciation of legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper, a soulful tribute to self-care featuring Portland soul legend Ural Thomas, and an ELO-meets-Elliott-Smith bop about a troubled dude named Steve—each accompanied by their own epic, narrative music videos that expand and embellish on Wonderly’s sonic storytelling. Read more about Wonderly and pre-order or pre-save Story We Tell Volume 1 right here.
Wonderly’s self-produced songs benefit from a deep affection for music across genres and decades. Their rich and ambitious vocal harmonies, forged by years of friendship and collaboration—whether backing up some of their greatest musical idols like Smokey Robinson, Van Dyke Parts, and Kristin Hersh, or in more recent collaborations with luminaries like Liz Vice, Laura Gibson, and Laura Veirs—drives the pair’s broad collection of stories home with soul and style. While both men have spent time in nationally touring acts, their recent work and community activism have kept them closer to home. Brunberg helms the beloved club Mississippi Studios in Portland, produces and co-hosts a podcast (Roam Schooled) with his two daughters, and tends to a working farm outside of Portland. Landsverk is active in Portland’s indie scene as a session musician and musical director and he’s the founder and leader of the prolific drop-in pop choir Low Bar Chorale.
The duo’s eclectic, creative backgrounds shine when combined as Wonderly. When Brunberg and Landsverk head into the studio to record, whether for their own songs or for a film score—with their instrumental work, the duo sounds equally at home making epic symphonic soundscapes, twangy Americana, and bubbly pop—they tend to let their musical imaginations run wild. “What we really like to geek out about is combining genres,” Brunberg says. “We might aim for Gillian Welch if she were plopped down in the middle of an early 1968 Beach Boys session—what would she do? We consciously try to defy categorization, and keep the arrangements fresh.”
On Story We Tell Volume 1, and its companion Volume 2 EP to be released later in 2021, Wonderly is in truly fresh form. This is two seasoned songwriters attempting to surprise, delight, and outdo each other at every turn. If they tell a few stories in the process, that’s what makes it Wonderly.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the band’s new animated video for their song “Please Please You”. Drawing inspiration from the Beatles as well as soul music, the song features a guest vocal appearance from Portland soul legend Ural Thomas. The resulting duet is one that features interplay between the duo’s harmonies and Thomas’ effortlessly cool and smooth vocals. Together they serve up a sultry and charming meditation on self-care, which is something that feels especially relevant in our pandemic-stricken world. Visually, the animated video has the vibe of a children’s book but with a humorous, seedy edge to it. Together, the song and its video act as a salve for our emotional battered selves.
The band describes the inspiration and process behind the song:
“This whole song flips the pleasure paradigm of the Beatles’ naughty Please Please Me (1963) on its head, where it becomes a much more tender, generous concept. The most soulful, benevolent singer we know – legendary 80-year old soul legend Ural Thomas – came to mind as we were tinkering with the melody. We asked him to loan his pipes to the song. Once we started singing it with Ural, the song took wings. He sang his parts as if he were singing to his beloved wife Rosie. Michael McDonald does not appear in the backing vocals of this song, though we have been accused of this. The accompanying film was conceived and animated entirely by artist and author Casey Jarman.”