We first discovered Billy Wylder while preparing for our first street festival, Rubblebucket's Dream Picnic, this past September. We were working to nurture a space where in addition to the larger nationally touring acts and the staple features of RB's event, we also wanted to display some of the most thoughtful and unique acts from around Massachusetts. We were immediately enamored by Billy Wylder's musicality and deep connection to one another while they make their music. Leading up to the event, they began promoting their album Strike The Match. As I listened to Great Blue Heron I was taken by the imagery and wonder that it created, and upon seeing them live I could sense their values of moving forward with urgency while also celebrating a sense of presence. As you can imagine, we were thrilled to have them back, especially knowing they would be joined by one of our local favorites (and another Dream Picnic Alum) Kimaya Diggs. To witness the magic Billy Wylder and Kimaya Diggs create, join us on Friday, February 22 at 8PM!
Avi Salloway, the bandleader of Billy Wylder, recently took some time to chat with us.
Hi Avi! Thank you for taking some time to answer questions on behalf of your band, Billy Wylder. We were all blown away by your Dream Picnic 2018 performance, and we are thrilled to have you back on February 22. You will be joined by fellow Dream Picnic alum, Kimaya Diggs. Can you tell us a bit about what made you decide to return to GCA as well as why you cultivated this line up?
Thank you! Dream Picnic was a surreal experience. I’ve been friends with Alex and Kal (from Rubblebucket) since our days studying music together at UVM. Always a trip to see them and I love the music and scene that they’re cultivating. We met Kimaya at Dream Picnic and really connected with her music and old-soul spirit and thought it’d be great to do a show together at Gateway.
I know Strike The Match was released within the last year, for those that are just getting to know you, do you mind describing this album for us? How is it different from past releases?
The music weaves together American folk and rock traditions with influence from the Sahara Desert. Think Andrew Bird meets Ali Farka Toure, Pete Seeger, and Talking Heads. I spent three years (2013-16) touring around the world with Bombino, the Tuareg guitar hero from Agadez, Niger. It was an incredible journey and informed my guitar playing, musical sensibility, songwriting, and world view. My social and environmental activism work has also connected me with dynamic and resilient communities at Standing Rock and in the Middle East. I have experienced the creative spirit rise up in the face of darkness and adversity and it is life-affirming. This album is a reflection of the beauty and struggle I have experienced over the last few years. Strike the Match carries the feeling of urgency and equally is filled with songs of love, adventure, and imagination.
Is there any new work not found on that release that you may be sharing with us on February 22?
Krista (bass, vocals in the band) and I were just up on a farm in Vermont writing new songs. I’m not sure if we’ll be debuting them yet, but we’ll see!
What is your songwriting process like? Does the whole band write together?
Most often musical ideas come to life through improvisation. I then develop the seed material and the music informs the feeling and vibe of the song. Simultaneously I’ll be experimenting with words and ideas and search for the lyrics that vibe with the melody and groove. I’ve written the songs on our last two albums and we’re now exploring writing together which is fresh. Writing on the farm with Krista was inspiring; we’re tapping into some new territory!
Are there certain themes that you feel you access while writing?
We’re pretty open. I don’t personally have a topical approach to songwriting. The music informs the feeling of the song and the lyrics follow the musical story. Mother Earth is at the center of Strike the Match, surrounded by stories of love, conflict, change and dreams.
I know that you have a lot of good friends that are also creating great music today, such as Bridget Kearney, do you find that coming from a community of passionate and driven musicians creates a supportive and ambitious air around artists and creators? How important is community to your work?
Totally! My friends are some of my biggest musical inspirations - Bombino, Cuddle Magic, The Barr Brothers, Meerna, Rubblebucket, Lake Street Dive, etc. I feel blessed to be connected with a family of great artists. I believe the immediacy of creative energy is that much more affecting through people you know and love.
Do you have any Western Mass musicians/projects in your current rotation?
Kimaya Diggs! Suitcase Junket, Kate Lorenz, Unifier, World Music Collider.
What can we expect out of your February 22 performance?
I love the people in my band and think you will too! We have Zamar Odongo on drums/vocals from Nairobi, Krista Speroni on bass/vocals from Hawaii, and Rob Flax on violin/synths/vocals from Chicago. These cats have the mojo and bring their unique voice to the band and live show.
What's next for Billy Wylder?
We’re inspired to continue growing as a band, writing together, and sharing our music and energy with audiences near and far. We’re looking into touring abroad this year and are excited to record new music soon.
Thanks for taking the time, we are so excited to have you!
Thank you! See you soon!
To learn more about Billy Wylder click here.
To learn about Kimaya Diggs click here.
To purchase tickets to this performance click here.
Billy Wylder & Kimaya Diggs
Friday, February 22
Show 8PM // Doors 7PM
$10 ADV // $15 DOS