Red Gretchen

Red Gretchen
The Interview
Inquires By Lucky
Photography by Alan Rand

On a non-stop rotational at the SugarBuzz home-front, Red Gretchen’s latest offering, the six song EP entitled “Nobody”, has left a positive impression on our staffers and head honchos alike.  An infectious contagion spanning a wide range of musical genre, “Nobody” appeals to a demographic spread that is inconceivable by many of todays pigeonholed musical acts. Captivated by the bands melodic refrains, I reached out to find just who was behind this amazing release. Ronnie Wheeler, Red Gretchen’s lead vocal and guitar, welcomed the query.

Please discuss the formation of Red Gretchen, who are the players involved and what expertise was brought to the table when the band got together? Ronnie, was it a conscience decision on your part to play with all females or did it just work out that way?

Red Gretchen was originally just me & Shauna Westgate. I wanted a band to showcase my songs, so Shauna (who played bass with me) picked up the drums & I called in a good friend Ned Hallmark to play bass.  We played as a power trio in the city for a couple of years.  Just before we started recording our first EP “Separation Anxiety”, Ned got married and left the state, so the finished EP ended up being just me and Shauna. Shortly after we finished recording, around 2011, we started looking for a back up singer & rhythm guitar player.  That’s when we heard Nancy Pollak at a Guitar School showcase.  That same night I asked her to join the band.  But we still needed a bass player, and we had our EP release party at Kenny’s Castaways coming up, so Nancy mentioned her guitar teacher Anne Husick loved my songs and suggested we meet with her. So that’s how I ended up with a female backing band, it just kinda worked out that way.

What or whom were some of your earliest bad influences?

Bad or band, lol? My first record was Donna Summers, but then I got into Janis Joplin & Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath.  Then Soundgarden & Nirvana.  Perry Ferrell of Jane’s Addiction was a big influence on me when I saw him live, and Dave Navarro’s fat guitar sound.

When you play live, does the group incorporate any improvisation, or do you pretty much stick to the recorded format?

We do both.  It depends on the song.  Most of the songs stay true to the recordings, but I do extend & improvise the leads in live performances.  Especially on newer songs like Illicit & Jumper.  I like having that freedom of expression.

What member in your band challenges you the most to stay on top of your game and why?

Every musician challenges me in different ways, especially my band-mates.  I try to learn from every musician I play with.

Who in the band would you say has made the most mistakes musically when on stage?

Everyone makes mistakes here and there, but we don’t dwell on them.  We hear the mistakes and we rehearse to correct them.

How did you guys hook up with Alan Rand and is he as cool as everyone is saying?

We met Alan through the Frank Wood scene playing at Otto’s Shrunken Head, and he is definitely very cool.  He’s documented so much of the NYC music scene with his photography, and for Red Gretchen in particular, he has truly captured our sound with the “Nobody” EP.  We are really looking forward to working on future projects with the immensely talented ALAN RAND!!

Please discuss the phenomenal new Red Gretchen EP “Nobody”.  Where was it recorded, length of time to complete, any obstacles overcome? Who helmed the board? Were the basic tracks recorded all at once or pieced methodically together?

“Nobody” was recorded live with Alan Rand at our rehearsal space in Greenpoint, with overdubs added later at Alan’s apartment.  It took a couple of months to get all the recordings & mixing (& scheduling) together.  Alan helmed the board while I assisted.  Alan and I worked very closely together on “Nobody”, from the initial recordings to the final mastering.

Are there any other Red Gretchen releases circulating? And how about merchandise, is that happening yet?

We have our first EP “Separation Anxiety” (just me & Shauna), our first full length recording “Crystal Moon” (recorded by Schwervon’s Matthew Louis Roth) premiering Anne Husick & Nancy Pollak, and of course the new “Nobody” EP recorded/mixed/and artwork by Alan Rand. We also have an EP “Illicit” recorded by Paul Kostabi coming out January/Feb 2015.  And we have really cool T-shirts, ultra sexy tanks for the ladies, and plenty of stickers & buttons.

Do you use the same equipment in the studio as you do on stage, or do you have secret weapons stashed for the studio?

I have a 1964 Black Face Fender Champ & a ’72 Music Man half stack that I use for the studio.  For live shows, I’ve been using my Orange Tiny Terror.

Are there any underground rock publications circulating the New York streets that are worth seeking out, or has the print media been laid to rest?

Hmm…New York Waste is a great and fun mag, and we have to give kudos to NJ’s The Aquarian Weekly for promoting us along with a lot of our a favorite bands as the “must see’s of the 2014 live music scene”.  The Deli has featured some of our good friends like the incredibly talented Jesse Statman.  There’s still a future for print media, you just have to know where to find it.

Is it true there is a new resurgence of the rock and roll scene in New York, or is it just my imagination?

Oh yeah, no doubt about it!  There’s something really good and true going on right now, and we’re honored to be a part of it, both as witnesses and as participants.

Then is then, and now is now, but are there any remnants of the old seed Manhattan left to explore?

There’s still a seediness to NY.  I moved out to Bushwick in 2000, and I’ve seen a lot of change, but the grittiness is still here.  Even in the EV.  You just have to look past the beautiful models walking their chiseled dogs into the darker corridors and dank stairwells.  The old NY is all over, it’s just not so much in your face.

Besides Red Gretchen, what bands in New York should we be paying attention to these days? And what clubs should a rock and roll visitor head to in New York upon arrival?

This is just a thin slice of what’s going on, but there’s Danny’s Devil’s Blues with Danny Biondo, Dave White, Kevin Shaw, & Jeanne Carno-Rosenberg (talk about an all star line up!).  Ten Ton Mojo is a fierce NYC heavy rock band.  Clinical Trials is a really hot grunge band. Jesse Statman is a powerful solo acoustic act.  You can see them and more of NYC’s best bands at the Sidewalk Cafe and Otto’s Shrunken Head, both venues in the East Village.  There’s also The Delancey in the LES, and Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn.  They’re the kind of music venues where you can get down & dirty with the bands, the music, and the fans.

Let’s talk vision, are there any plans for a Red Gretchen viral video assault in the near future? Also how about touring, anything on the horizon?

As a matter of fact, we’re the process of creating a video with Alan Rand for the song “To Find Her”, which we’re really excited about.  We have no touring plans, although we are looking to start playing outside the city soon.

How about personal endeavors outside of the band, anyone have anything-cool happening?

Anne and I both released solo singles on the World Wide Vibe label recently.  And we all have multiple side projects which are a lot of fun, like The Anne Husick Trio, The Dick Jokes, Bad Avocado, and Mora Tau. Other than the day job, my life is pretty much consumed by music…and that’s the way I like it.

Any advice for upstart musicians in this day and age?

Get a real job, you hippy! just kidding.  Practice hard and play music because you love it, not because you want it to love you.











Red Gretchen @ facebook
Red Gretchen @ bandcamp
Alan Rand