“Our platform is that there is no platform,” shrugs guitarist Jake Hanson, seated at a patio table in Northeast Minneapolis with his three Wishbook bandmates. “Our whole band is pretty informal.”
Hanson, brothers Neal and Nate Perbix, and bassist Phil Hicks make up the current formation of Wishbook, a band that has been casually performing together off and on for the past few years. The group’s songwriter, Neal, cranked out a batch of songs back in 2006, brought the band into the studio to record in late 2009, and is finally releasing the mixed and mastered version of that six-year effort tonight at the 7th St. Entry.
Because of the unusually slow pace that the album together, the pop songs on Wishbook’s debut seem like they were sent from another time — specifically, the collegiate indie rock boom of the mid-2000s that brought bands like Seymour Saves the World (which also includes Nate Perbix), The Glad Version, and the Slats to the forefront of the Twin Cities scene. Hanson isn’t too far off when he refers to the record, Happy Garden, as a time capsule.
“It’s almost been long enough that it’s retro, now,” he cracks. “We waited a long time.”
In some ways, Wishbook is just a continuation of the band that originally started as Cowboy Curtis when the Perbix brothers, Hanson, and pal Chris Morrissey were still in high school. The band released a couple of records, had a brief flash of popularity in Seattle thanks to support from KEXP, went on a short tour, and then parted ways. But their friendship never waned, and when Neal Perbix had a flash of songwriting inspiration it seemed natural to reconvene the group.
“I wrote nine songs in a summer,” Neal says. “I was unemployed. My friends called it ‘The Summer of Neal,’ because I was always just hanging out. So I just wrote a bunch of songs, and then Morrissey was kind of the catalyst for the whole thing. He pulled us together, it was like ‘The band’s getting back together, man!’”
Wishbook’s first formation: Nate Perbix, Chris Morrissey, Jake Hanson, and Neal Perbix
Wishbook started out with Morrissey on bass, but when his work with bands like Mason Jennings and Ben Kweller started to pick up he made a move to New York. Still, the band would play the occasional show when he was back in town, and it was actually Morrissey who reserved a weekend at Pachyderm studios for the group to record their debut.
“We were like, ok, this is actually happening!,” says Nate. “And winter in Cannon Falls is very isolated, in the woods. It’s a glass wall that faces the woods, which is very serene. It’s just a nice experience to have in that element, you’re in the warm studio and it’s cold outside. You had no reason to leave. If you ever have the opportunity to go someplace and focus on that, do it.”
“It was like our Walden,” says Hanson. “And we thought this might be the only record that Wishbook ever makes, and we’re all going to be friends still and we’re all going to do other stuff with each other, but under this name and these songs, this is the only time we’re going to do this, so we really wanted to make sure we did it in a specific way. We wanted to capture it all in a real organic old-school way.”
“I’m really proud of the way it turned out,” Hanson continues. “Which is what we wanted to have. At the end of the day, we didn’t care how long it took, we wanted to be proud of it because it might be the only thing, so we want it to age well. I feel like this thing is going to age like a rock ‘n’ roll record.”
And refreshingly, the band doesn’t seem too concerned with pressuring themselves to score high-profile gigs or map out a master plan. As friends and as bandmates, they are content to simply release the record into the wild and see where the wind takes them.
“I think that’s kind of the reason it is what it is for us,” Hanson says. “If one person was jonesing for it to be something else, it’d be different. It’s kind of the same thing for everyone, and we’re all ok with that. It’d just be a bonus level for us if anyone cared.”
“We all play in other bands, too. We’re all working on stuff. This is where we can come together with this project,” says Neal.
“That might be why our shows are so fun and have a lot of people, too,” adds Hicks. “We’re not some band that’s sending you event invites every week, playing three shows a week. It’s an event every time we manage to do a show, every month and a half or so, and all our friends come out. It’s a fun thing, that’s a fun part of not having a real goal.”
“The thing is, this band was always kind of a friend band,” says Hanson. “It’s kind of like a brotherhood, there’s something about it.”
“It’s like our poker night,” adds Neal. “But we have our own t-shirts.”
“Kind of a bowling league, then,” Nate says.
“No it’s like a poker night,” Neal insists, smirking. “But we sell stuff, and we wake up on the 4onthefloor’s tour bus sometimes.”
Wishbook play a CD-release show for Happy Garden tonight, Thursday, June 7, at the 7th St. Entry with Charn, Van Stee, and DJ Black Lacquer. More info here.