Over the past six years, Wing Dam has become an integral part of the Baltimore music scene. From touring with local rock stars like Future Islands to opening for national indie darlings like Ex Hex and Speedy Ortiz, the talented trio—Austin Tally on guitar, Sara Autrey on bass, Abe Sanders on drums—has kept the guitar-shredding spirit of the ’90s alive and well in Baltimore, using their fuzzed-out, kit-clashing anthems to propel the city’s DIY chops onto the big stage. Now, after hundreds of shows and thousands of miles burned over cross-country tours, the band will perform its final show as Sanders prepares to move west for a new gig. On the eve of that Windup Space set this Friday, May 25, we caught up with the bandmates about the early days, their favorite memories, and what’s to come next.
Before we get to the band’s ending, let’s start at the beginning. Abe, you moved to Baltimore from North Carolina 10 years ago to play with Jana Hunter of Lower Dens. Being from down south, how did you initially connect with the Baltimore scene?
Abe: I had a friend that lived in Baltimore, Benny Boeldt, who was also from North Carolina. He knew Jana and she needed a drummer. I tried out over the course of a week or two, driving back and forth between Baltimore and Asheville, and then we went on a cross-country tour—something I’d always wanted to do.
You attended college at East Carolina University in Greenville, where Future Islands got their start as Art Lord & The Self-Portraits. Did you connect with the Wham City crew on their trips down to play with the band?
Abe: I didn’t know Dan [Deacon] like the guys from Future Islands did, because they were all putting on shows before I played in any bands, but I did see them play some pretty amazing shows. It was really cool to have that Baltimore connection in Greenville, a weird small college town. At the time, it had a really good music scene.
Austin, you arrived in Baltimore in 2007 from Pennsylvania to attend Johns Hopkins. Were you making music at the time?
Austin: I was in a folk duo called Silent Whys with Amanda Glasser from Purrer while we were in school together, for about a year and a half. I started playing solo as Wing Dam right around the time I graduated in 2011. I did that for a couple of months and then the first show that the three of us played together as the full band was June 15, 2012 at the Whole Gallery [in the H&H Building]. It’s been almost exactly six years. I just found the flier today. I was putting out a split tape with Which Magic—Sara, here. We were both performing solo but decided that, for this show, it would be cool to perform some songs together with her and Abe, who I was roommates with at the time.
How would you describe Baltimore’s music scene at that time?
Sara: For me, Baltimore has always been a super eclectic place, sound-wise, neighborhood to neighborhood. Everything is completely different and has its own vibe wherever you go. That’s kind of what Wing Dam is like. Every song sounds totally different stylistically and arc-wise. At the time, it was super vibrant, super poppin’ off, super supportive, and overall amazing. It seemed like there was a lot more going on—more shows, more bands, and more DIY spaces.
Austin: The thing that enticed us here in the first place and stands out as the hallmark of that early time when we were starting out as a band was collaboration. In 2012, there were so many new bands starting up and bringing their own ideas to the table and that was inspiring. You would go to a great show and want to go home and write a song or start a band or new side project. That’s something that I take from this place as being super special.
Does that intense creative energy inspire competition?
Austin: Healthy competition. Competition within yourself. Like, oh man, they’re killing it—I want to kill it.
Abe: It was a very inviting scene to be a part of and there were all kinds of places to showcase your talents or creations. The Soft House, the Comfort Zone, the Copycat, Floristree. You could just have a show in a warehouse, no big deal. There would be cops inside, watching the show while everyone was doing their party thing. There are still a lot of awesome things happening; I just might not have my finger on the pulse of it anymore.
How do you see the scene now?
Sara: I’m older now and a different person, so my perspective has changed, but the scene now feels less accessible. It seems like the general vibe is “remember the good-old days,” like we’re just waiting for a revival. After the Ghost Ship [warehouse fire] happened [in Oakland, California], and the Bell Foundry closed, and [building supervisor] Frank [Yantosca] cracked down on Copycat shows, there are only a couple places left to play and a lot of the warehouse spaces have changed hands. It feels like it’s in somewhat of a remission, but everyone wants the same thing, so it comes down to who is going to make that happen.
In the fall of 2016, the band considered a move to San Diego. Austin and Sara, you guys never made it, but you’ve mentioned a desire to leave Baltimore so you could miss it.
Sara: Abe made it to California, but shortly after our last tour, Austin and I discovered that the cost of living out there was completely astronomical. We lived in New Hope, Pennsylvania, for like six to eight months, and during that time we definitely missed Baltimore. The reason I wanted to miss it was because you start to take things for granted. Austin and I decided we were going to move back to Baltimore instead of taking our wonderful experiences from here and leaving. We wanted to give back and keep this scene that was so kind to us alive in any way that we could.
This weekend you’ll perform your last show as Wing Dam before Abe moves to Seattle for a new job in horticulture. What do you think you’ll miss the most?
Abe: I’ll miss playing shows. I’ll miss writing with these fine people. I’ll miss creating together. I’ll miss all my friends here in Baltimore. I’ll miss this place in general. Baltimore is unlike any other city in the states. There’s this crazy mix of energy here that was always great to return to after a tour.
Austin: There’s a strong combination of happy and sad. We’re happy for Abe; you want your close friends to get their dream jobs. But, you know, things change. I’m not particularly concerned about this one project passing on because there’s just going to be another one behind it. Sara and I are going to keep making music here; it’s going to be called something else, but we’re doing to start some new things for sure.
Speaking of new things, Sara recently opened Get Shredded Vintage, and you have your Get Shredded series at The Crown.
Sara: My Get Shredded interview series is about connecting audiences and communities with artists, makers, and musicians that they might not know much about, and I’m carrying that on through Get Shredded Vintage. At some point, when I’m not ripping-my-face-off busy, I plan on bringing the series and events and micro-shows to the shop. I plan on continuing to make music with my other band, Which Magic, which I’ve been doing since 2009 and will be my forever project. And then Austin and I, as always, will keep collaborating on music. It’s sad to see Wing Dam end, but all the memories we have from it are just so amazing and I’m really thankful that it happened. I’m glad it’s ending on such a happy note. And just because it’s ending doesn’t invalidate any of the stuff that we managed to accomplish as a band. We’ll always have that.
Your last record, Glow Ahead, is a pretty good note to end on.
Sara: I know! And it’s kind of sad because we almost have a full album of un-recorded material. But we’re going to have friends bring recorders to the last show on Friday and we’re going to play all our new stuff, so we’ll have at least something to throw out there.
This is probably like picking your favorite child, but what are some of those favorite memories?
Abe: We did a tour last summer with two of our friends—Secret Guest and Jenny Besetzt—for about a week and a half in North and South Carolina, which is very familiar territory for us. That was probably one of my favorite tours because we had free time to chill at the beach and there were a lot of friends and family at all of the shows.
Sara: On one of our first tours with Future Islands, I crowd-surfed probably 10 times in one night. That’s one of my all-time guilty-pleasure favorite memories ever. It was just like, holy crap, I’m from a small town in Virginia and my band is playing to a packed house at Terminal 5 [in New York City] right now and I never in my life thought I’d be playing to thousands of people.
Austin: I can’t pick a favorite show, but I’m going to miss the little moments that you only get from being in a band with the same people for so long on so many long tours to the middle of where-the-hell-am-I America. Little moments, like getting your soaking wet sleeping bag out of the roof pod of the car in the middle of Nebraska like, what am I doing here? Camping on tour and playing all kinds of weird little dive bars across the country. I can see the name of a city or just a photo from a show and have this really specific memory of one time that I was there. I would not have had the chance to do any of that without this band.
I also loved your Volvo station wagon.
Austin: Old Faithful. Until it wasn’t.
There’s something very nostalgic and romantic about being in a rock band and getting to tour the country and do what you love. It’s really cool that you guys have been able to do that and be such close friends along the way over these years. We’re sad to see Wing Dam go, but we’re excited for you and all your next adventures.
Sara: Amen, sister.