WD-HAN: Music is Modern Magic

WD-HAN BEATS THE ODDS, focusing on making a positive impact on people's lives through music, they say. The band is made up of two married couples; lead singer Spencer Barnes, guitarist Cal Henry, percussionist Lea Barnes, and band manager Marjorye Henry. WD-HAN aims for emotional depth in their songwriting, which does exist in their repertoire with songs like the piano-driven, harmony-rich crooner ballad "Places." But when you click play on their track, "Monkey," you're going to instantly know why we're obsessed. Their sound vibrates with high-energy songs, ranging from scuzzy garage rock to trad-blues stompers. You'll think you're listening to an unreleased White Stripes b-sides record during the Indie Aughts, and we're quite honestly salivating for more. Read on for our exclusive interview with frontman Spencer Barnes.

WD-HAN — Tampa Bay, Florida
Indie, Rock, Alternative
Song Submitted: "Monkey"

ABOUT THE ARTISTS: Hey Deitra, we're WD-HAN — a three-piece rock band out of Tampa Bay, Florida. I'm Spence, the lead singer and my bandmates are Cal on guitar and Lea on drums. Lea is actually my wife, and Cal is married to our manager so we're a tight knit group! In some other bands that might be problematic, but it's been our greatest strength in sticking together as a band since we started in high school. Our music is a good time! I guess you could call it alternative rock, but we have pop influences and always bring a blues sensibility to every song. We place huge importance on our live show and want to leave everything on stage every time we go out there. 

We submitted to Deitra because Deitra is awesome! We saw an article featuring The World Over, who we met in San Diego earlier this year, and wanted to be a part of what you got going on!

MUSICAL BACKGROUND: Personally my musical beginnings are super metal... I played viola in a school band in fourth grade. Haha! It sounds funny but I caught the bug and have always loved it. Fast forward to high school and my best friends were playing in a band called WD-HAN, and it looked amazing. I was absolutely terrified of performing in front of people and my stage fright stopped me from even really trying out to be in the band. 

One day I was at one of their shows, and Cal announced to the whole crowd that I would be singing the next song with them. No warning, no real prep — it was a Hendrix tune we both loved and knew. He called my bluff and even though I was scared shitless, I did the song and it was the greatest thing ever. I knew in that moment that playing music was going to be a lifetime love affair. 

ON INSPIRATION: I love literally everything about making music, and I know I speak for Cal and Lea when I say that. That might sound funny, but I mean literally everything about it — I love the studio and gear and learning more every time something is tracked. I love the writing process, and performing live music is a gift I'll forever be grateful for. What inspires me is how much I love it, how much music means to me and the goal of having our music mean that much to another. 

If I had to choose one aspect, writing lyrics is the greatest challenge and my favorite aspect of the process. As a listener, the right lyric can really hit home and I try to be very economical and say a lot with the limited time I have in a song. I'll often have hundreds and hundreds of lines of lyrics for one song, which I distill down to the final words. 

I knew in that moment that playing music was going to be a lifetime love affair.

SIGNATURE SOUND: We have released enough music now that we have songs in quite a few genres, but our roots will always be big, loud, rock, blues, gritty fun. We have softer songs that I love dearly, but the band comes back to this idea of bringing blues back into mainstream music over and over. If you love The Black Keys, The White Stripes or Rival Sons, you'll understand why we hold them so dear also.

The inspiration is easy. Being a musician in any capacity is such an honor, and every second I spend working on it is like a shot of life. I'm inspired by my life, by difficulties and especially the challenges of being an independent artist, by the audiences we play for, by my wife.

ON SONGWRITING: It's really not a conscious thing, but a lot of our music talks about persistence. It's kind of how the four of us think about everything we do together as a band — you can either look at some goal you have and say, "Well that's ridiculous, the chances of that are tiny," or you can just do it. 

I don't know that there's a specific location that makes songwriting happen (other than the studio where things go to 11) but our process is really very collaborative. It usually starts with one of us bringing an idea to practice and we'll jam on the idea to get a feel for it. It's amazing how quickly things can go with writing when you stop a song from swirling in your head and the three of us just start playing. Sometimes we'll record a 10-minute jam around that first idea and listen back, and it's as easy as picking and arranging the parts we like best to have the first version of a song. Other times it's a much longer process, but such is art.

Our roots will always be big, loud, rock, blues, gritty fun.

FAVORITE MUSICAL ERA: I think the answer might be different for all three of us! Cal owns every Hendrix album ever released, and classic rock is a big love for me and Lea as well. 

Man... this is hard! If I had to guess for us I'd probably say 2000s. Some of my favorite music was released then and they were pretty formative years for us.

ON RECORDING + PERFORMING: Well they're totally different and I love them both for so, so many reasons. Making music in a studio or at home is like modern magic. It's agonizing when the idea in your head doesn't appear in the speakers, until the ultimate reward of getting it right. Every song a band makes, you pour your heart and soul into.

Performing is raw, it's visceral. It's the most fun a human being can have (audience or on stage) and it's not about us playing at the people there. It's about a shared experience and that communication and energy is just another facet of the magic that is music.

Making music in a studio or at home is like modern magic.

ON PERSONAL STYLE: I think for us the music is the main focus, but being a rock musician sure lets you get away with wearing more fun stuff than anywhere else! For us the stage performance is about rocking out!

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Releasing as much music as we have is a huge accomplishment. Playing festivals or big shows, going to Asia, sharing the stage with some of our musical heroes have been huge highlights on the journey so far.

Being a musician in any capacity is such an honor, and every second I spend working on it is like a shot of life.

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: Pursuing music is hard. It wouldn't be worthwhile if it wasn't — but we've been kicked off stage, injured, played through illness, driven across the country time and again, lost out on money, played to no one, had technical difficulties... all the things that any band can say. But also any musician will tell you those things are nothing compared to what music gives you. I also go back to our strength which is our group — I'm so lucky to be on this adventure with my wife and my best friends.   DM

Official Website: wdhan.com

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted in 2019, and publication was delayed due to the pandemic.

Written by Tamara Styer.
All photos and videos property of WD-HAN.


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