Written by: Paul Gleason
Wet Socks’ debut LP, Drips, documents the invention of what could very well be a new and necessary genre – experimental garage-punk.
Necessary? Indeed. Drips is a passionate record in an ironic time – and Wet Socks are the kind of band that can reignite your faith in rock ‘n’ roll.
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Hunter Jayne and drummer and percussionist John Zimmerman have made a record that simultaneously encompasses everything you love about raw rock ‘n’ roll and innovative sonics.
Drips drips with rich ideas and previously undiscovered textures. But it never loses its ability to shake, rattle, and roll.
That’s saying something.
SEM sat down with Jayne and Zimmerman to talk Wet Socks, Drips, and what it’s like to – in Zimmerman’s words – “Get some hips shakin’, some booty groovin’, and for everyone to just have a good time!”
SE: For starters, I’d like to congratulate the two of you – Drips is one of the best records of the year. I’d also like to thank you for chatting with us today. Please tell us about the formation of Wet Socks. How did the two of you meet and start playing together?
HJ: Thank you! Wet Socks started as a bedroom recording project in the summer of 2012. I met John through mutual friends and from working at the same liquor store, Cha Del’s Beverage. So after long night shifts at the Del, we would go over to my house, which was very close by, and jam until 2 or 3 am in the morning.
JZ: HELLO STEREO EMBERS! Late night jam sessions after a long day at the liquor store. Then Hunter got asked to play a show as Wet Socks, so I just learned some of his songs to play for that, and it was really supposed to be a one-time thing.
SE: Where was your first gig and what do you remember about it?
HJ: The first show John and I played together was at Sparetime in October 2012. It was a fundraiser for the Thru Project, put on by Joshua Niven. He hiked the Appalachian Trail, creating fine art photographs along the way. He’s a really great dude. I remember at that time I was still doing vocals though this old telephone from the 70s. It was this really ugly looking thing. It sounded bad too, but at the time, we were so into it.
JZ: I think the telephone is sweet! But yeah, it sounds like shit and couldn’t get loud enough. So yeah, Sparetime, which has since closed down, is now a different place called Ampersand in Savannah, GA. It was not a great performance by any standards, but after we played the show together, we both realized how fun it was and the potential we had to take the music further. That was also my first-ever show playing at a actual venue.
SE: Is Drips your first release?
HJ: It’s our first LP. Previously, we put out a 7” on Soft Science called New Crush Pt. 1 and 2. Also, we have recently put out a split cassette EP on Furious Hooves called Double Denim with our boys and girls in Sauna Heat.
JZ: Wets Socks very first release was also a split with Sauna Heat called Summer Bummer. I think that was in early 2012. This was during the period of it being Hunter’s solo bedroom recording project. Then he did another release titled Soaking Wet, which he also recorded by himself. I joined the band and played on the New Crush 7″ EP. So Drips is “technically” the fourth Wet Socks release. But it is for sure, both of our first, full-length LP.
SE: How did you meet the folks in Kylesa?
HJ: We opened for them in Savannah at a show they put on at the Dollhouse. I think this was still telephone-mic era Wet Socks. It was a big honor to play with them. That’s when we first met Laura and Phillip.
SE: Please talk about how Retro Futurist became your label.
HJ: I remember playing a house show at this place called The Barbershop with a band that Phillip Cope had worked with. So he was there and saw our set. This was a while after we had played with Kylesa at the Dollhouse, so he was familiar with our sound. But I think that show is what got them interested in working with us. The next week I got a call from Laura, and we set up a meeting and talked about doing an LP. I remember riding my bicycle home from the meeting so stoked, so stoked. They have been very supportive, and I couldn’t ask for anything more from these guys. I’m ready to make another LP already! I think John is too.
JZ: I was pretty oblivious to the fact of what was going on when that was being set up. I had never really talked to Laura or Phillip other than at that show at the Dollhouse with Kylesa. Then when Hunter filled me in on what was happening it was kind of like a “Holy shit, really?” moment. I’m so glad it all worked out, and all the people at Retro Futurist have been above-and-beyond awesome and supportive. For sure, I’m ready to start recording again soon!
SE: What were some of the bands that inspired you to play music?
HJ: I’ve been playing guitar since I was very young and always enjoyed the idea of playing with other people as much as possible. I think what’s been more inspiring than big bands are the bands that aren’t huge but still are making some sort of career out of it. I think near the end of college, I realized that I might have a shot at doing something similar. I got the garage bug from John Dwyer and Ty Segall. It’s contagious, too, so watch out!
JZ: I started playing drums because I wanted to be Travis Barker from Blink 182. But once realized I didn’t have enough tattoos, I gave up the dream…… As far as playing this style of “garage rock-surfy” music, I think it was first hearing Harlem and The Jacuzzi Boys. I thought, “This seems easy enough and fun! I want to do that too.” Now what continues to inspire me are bands like Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, The Spits, The Gories, The Stooges, King Khan, and many more. But maybe even more so, I pull inspiration from my friends’ bands because they’re more relatable. We hang out, play on the same shitty stage, and share ideas and songs we like. Kinda cheesy, but it’s true. PLUG: Sauna Heat, Forced Entry, The Cretin Girls, Crazy Bag Lady, and M-Tank.
SE: Let’s discuss some specific tracks from Drips. Why did you choose to open the record with “Bandit Beware”?
HJ: I think when we wrote that tune we knew that it would be the opener of the album. I think that song is a good thesis of what to expect from the rest of the record.
JZ: We laid out the record as we would play it at a show. The first song should sort of ease people into the sound. “Bandit Beware” just has that right amount of trickling into controlled chaos. Then once people understand the sound and are getting a little comfortable, we go a little harder and get people groovin’. Give the set a break with a slow burner like “Sick Boy.” Let people have a chance to breathe. At the end, we pick it back up and try and end it with a bang! That’s pretty much the same idea we had in deciding how the songs should be ordered on the record.
SE: How did you arrive at such an interesting arrangement, with the high-octane garage-punk of the song resolving into a slow and meditative section at the end?
HJ: I’m trying to recall how that arrangement came about. I’m pretty sure we just knew we wanted to do something with the song at the end that was out of the garage-punk form. It spawned from a desire to do something a bit “out” and unexpected.
JZ: We were getting trippy.
SE: Would you talk about why you decided to combine what I hear as the almost rockabilly groove of “No Money, No Honey” with bursts of guitar noise? The song is incredibly original…
HJ: Thank you. Johnny Cash is a big influence on me. I like the idea of going from a restrained groove to a chaotic section and back again. I think that’s a formula that’s subconsciously included into our process.
SE: Hunter, please list all the instruments you play on Drips and tell us how you became proficient on them.
HJ: I play guitar, bass, organ and do vocals. Guitar is the instrument I’m most comfortable with and have been playing the longest. Even though Wet Socks is a duo, we overdub bass, but we engineered a bass tone that mimics what I do with my live rig. I dabble with keyboards. I’m not really an organ player, but I can translate the chords I want from my guitar and play them on the organ.
SE: Would you talk about the process by which you layered the multitude of instruments you play on “Sick Boy”?
HJ: I developed the idea for those layers when I was demoing out the LP when John was in India prior to going into the studio. We had most of the songs completed before he left. The organ part was done on an old Farfisa. John’s auxiliary percussion on that track really it made into something more. So it was a combination of having an idea from the demo but also trying new things in the studio.
SE: “Sunken Road” sounds like you’re making surf music new. How does the tune depart from the “surf music” template?
HJ: I think the tones are classic, but perhaps the arrangement makes into something new. There’s a pretty strange psych odyssey thrown in the middle of that one. It’s probably my favorite moment on the album.
SE: Please talk about how all the guitar and drum parts work together to create “Death Sox” – one of the strongest cuts on the record.
HJ: When we do that song live, we use an octave pedal. But on the recording we did that, plus two or three different fuzz bass tracks. It got intense when we were overdubbing that one. Phillip kept saying, “Trust me,” when he would make another bass track after we just recorded one. I’m glad I did!
JZ: Honestly, we made this song up as a joke. The video we put online of that song, which is pretty different from the actual recorded version, we made up, saying, “What if we were some metal band called DEATH SOX?” And we just started messing around, thinking it was funny. We recorded the original version on just an open laptop mic, I think. Then we made that video on the same day. It wasn’t until afterwards that we thought it might actually make a cool song to play! I think we were just trying to do something a little off the wall, gnarly, and heavy.
SE: John, throughout Drips, your drumming and percussion work is vivacious and imaginative. Would you please discuss how you came up with your performance on the title track?
JZ: I wish I could give a really precise technical answer to that, but the truth is, and this goes for almost all the songs, Hunter just starts playing this riff and I start playing that beat. Then maybe break down the song a little bit and say, “Loud here, groovy here, little light here, hard again here.” Also, the set-up I play on is very simplified: snare drum, kick drum, floor tom, hi-hat, and ride, so I don’t have many options. For the most part, I just like playing a lot of stomping floor tom and snare beats. Then, for this song, I put a pretty consistent tambourine over the whole track to keep it groovy!
SE: Considering that the two of you play so many parts on Drips, your live show must be a very different experience than what we hear on the record. Am I right? Or do you employ sidemen to fill in the gaps?
HJ: It’s pretty true to our live sound. We wanted to engineer a record that is true to how we play live. As I briefly mentioned earlier, we used a guitar rig that splits the sound to a bass amp. So the bass tones were engineered to sound like my live rig. The biggest difference is that we have yet to re-create the organ parts live. We have been discussing bringing a third person on tour to play some organ with us.
SE: What’s your ultimate goal for Wet Socks?
HJ: To make more records, tour as much as possible, play with more bands, and inspire people to start bands.
JZ: Get some hips shakin’, some booty groovin’, and for everyone to just have a good time!
You can listen to Drips HERE.
(Photographs by Jahmad Bulago, Wet Socks, and Skip Terpstra)