2015 had wide variety of intriguing meteorological occurrences in the Lake Tahoe Basin, with a perplexing blend of late spring snow and rain, early summer thunderstorms, high temperatures and dry fire weather.
Now that it’s Winter 2016, it’s time for some Howlen Wynd.
Howlen Wynd is a new acoustic trio based out of South Lake Tahoe, comprised of Trent Bailey (guitar, vocals), Jared Baisely (percussion) and John Sills (cello).
“I would call it ‘new age folk,’” Bailey said. “We’ve got some blues elements in there, we all kind of have our musical influences that come in and play a part. It’s hard to pinpoint it on one thing, but for the most part I would say we’re staying on ‘new age folk.’”
Howlen Wynd has been playing together for less than a year, Bailey said. He had been doing a number of solo and duo gigs around South Lake Tahoe for a few years when longtime friend Baisely moved to Tahoe from San Jose in 2014. Sills had previously been playing with Bailey off and on in the area, and stepped in to round out the trio.
Onstage, Howlen Wynd performs a variety of original music alongside its own renditions of classic rock, folk and blues covers relayed through the group’s distinct sound, which is typified by a mellow, acoustic blend.
One standout element is Sills’ cello.
“It gives it a sense of depth to the music,” Baisely said. “Definitely without the cello there are a lot of songs can sound kind of hollow, to say the least. It brings a lot to the table, having a cello player there; it helps with the rhythm, keeping the sound tight.”
“Johns a really versatile musician, he does the bass and he does the leads,” Bailey said. “During the intermissions and breaks, he’ll play Bach solo on the cello.”
“Having the cello there, it’s visually nice just to see it, people don’t see it a lot,” Baisely said.
The novelty of the instrument can lead to some confusion among audience members, as to what exactly it is.
“Sometimes people ask if it’s an upright bass, that’s the worst I’ve heard,” Bailey laughed.
For Baisely, a variety of hand percussion instruments best fits Howlen Wynd’s style.
“It’s usually cajon,” he said. “I can get on a trap set when necessary, but because of the acoustic scene, we’re trying to maintain the cajon and the djembes, and everything around those lines.”
One immediate goal for the band is to expand Baisely’s arsenal.
“We’re in the middle of getting him a splash symbol, maybe some other hand drums, just all kinds of odds and ends,” Bailey said. “Eventually we want him to have a whole, crazy-looking, hand percussion set in front of him.”
Less than a year into its existence, Howlen Wynd is primarily focused on the music, on song-writing and performing.
“The one thing we’re constantly trying to progress on is challenging ourselves, is playing songs that are harder technically,” Bailey said.
As far as original tunes go, Bailey generally provides most of the writing, while his cohorts help to flesh the songs out musically.
“Trent writes the songs and we improvise the parts, but we try to keep it tight, stick to certain ideas structurally,” Sills said.
“Maybe I write the song, but the beat comes out a certain way because (Jared) is influenced by a certain artist, and same with John,” Bailey said.
The musicians draw on a wide array of influences ranging from John Martin to the Grateful Dead to Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, they said.
While the immediate focus is on the music, Howlen Wynd is looking ahead to prepare for its first recording sessions.
“I would say, immediately the first thing that comes to mind is recording, getting this album recorded,” Bailey said. “Luckily we put 10 times the amount of time into writing and performing that we have into recording, so when we do finally record it will happen all at once.”
The trio is experimenting with around 17 songs for its first album, the front man said.
“What people are going to see first is a single, and depending on how people like that and how we like it, that will determine how the rest of the songs sound,” he said.
Another prime focus is expanding the group’s territory.
“Getting out of the basin is the next step for sure,’ Baisely said. “That will all happen once the recordings kind of fall into place, once we get more exposure.”
“In the immediate future we’d like to get as far out as Truckee,” Bailey said. “I guess what we’re looking for is to spread our roots out, to have a little something in every California mountain town that we can.”
For now, Howlen Wynd will be blowing strong around South Shore, playing mellow acoustic tunes for thronging summer crowds, with whom the band loves to interact.
“We’re all pretty casual guys, come up and talk to us,” Bailey said. “We always have people that are so into it and that support it and dig it. That’s the kind of thing that really keeps me motivated is, ‘Ok, I’m not the only one that thinks that this sounds good.’”