On the prowl
Movement is life. We’re all in a state of constant momentum, yet there is tension involved in the flow. As soon as we get used to where we are, the scenery has changed.
“I’m sorry everything can’t be easy!” shouts Forest Molina behind his drumset.
“Hey man, don’t complain,” says singer Brigdon Markward. “I’m singing into a sock.”
He pulls the sock over his microphone, then fixes it to a stand, which is a broomstick duct-taped to a box. I ask him if it’s at least a microphone box.
“No, we’re not even that consistent,” says Molina.
Many of the rotating members of indie-rock band City Wolves hail from Nevada City and Grass Valley. Recently, they decided to make the move to Reno for college. For all the difficulty involved in the transition, the young musicians have been able to draw some inspiration from this chapter of their lives. The name City Wolves refers to their personal adjustment from life in the forested foothills to here in the city.
“We had a list of band names, but this one felt right,” says guitarist Dylan Greist.
But, as is common when starting a new project, commitment to a band name can prove disappointing. Soon they discovered the existence of a now disbanded fixture of the Reno hardcore/metal scene, Wolf City. In spite of their tough-guy image, Brigdon recalls an encouraging experience with the similarly named band.
“A few of them came to one of our shows,” he says. “They were like, ’No, it’s a great band name, roll with it!”
City Wolves’ lineup sometimes includes a cellist and a violist, Caroline Hart and Christian McNamara, who also perform in the UNR Symphony Orchestra. Guitarists Greist and Markwad, and bassist Watson Meyer, also play with an eleven-member outfit from Grass Valley called Loose Cannon Mariachi. For this dance-oriented project, Markward stays behind the guitar, but Griest switches to alto saxophone.
When Greist, Markwad, and Meyer moved to Reno, they started writing new music together, collaboratively creating each song. Although Markwad was elected lead vocalist, all three original members contribute to writing lyrics. This means Markwad often finds himself singing the words of his band mates’ personal experiences and feelings.
The lyrics for their song “Two Cigars,” for instance, revolve around a girl Watson dated back in Grass Valley. Markwad may not be able to relate to the specific emotions of his friend’s relationship, but he feels the song works with themes central to City Wolves’ music. Moving on. Adapting to change.
City Wolves has a sound that is alternately pensive and punchy, often moving from reverb-laden musing to exciting punk stomp. A deep well of influences are involved, from punk to shoegaze to chamber pop. Greist tinkers with his acoustic-electric guitar and effects board, taking a more wizardly approach to the instrument. Markwad’s guitar is the cavalry, a loud and brash attack. Drummer Molina lays low during the softer moments, then ambushes with heavy beats, then retreats again to let the song breathe. Hart’s cello weaves disparate melodic elements together by providing a haunting echo of the guitar and vocal work. An aspect of uncertainty and longing pervades Markwad’s baritone voice, supplying the emotional clench to the intricate instrumentation.
Starting a band in a new town can be trying, but City Wolves members aren’t letting it get them down. They’re working on a new tape that will include their most polished material for Reno to sink its teeth into.