Wednesday: fearless gang behind one of the year’s defining rock albums

Each week in Next Noise, we go deep on the rising talent ready to become your new favourite artist. On 'Rat Saw God', the North Carolina band capture being young in all its wild excitement and challenges

The members of Wednesday are scattered across town when NME calls them for a Zoom chat. Drummer Alan Miller is at home in Durham, North Carolina, four hours from where the others live in Asheville, his basement still decorated from a recent party. Guitarist and lap steel player Xandy Chelmis is in a bustling café, where he takes breaks from the farm he’s been building, while his playful bandmate Jake Lenderman is hunched in his van in a library car park – “I’ve never been inside,” he quips. And vocalist Karly Hartzman, thoughtful and articulate, is crouched in the “Amish romance” section of a Barnes & Noble bookshop. “I tried to pick a part that isn’t very populated, and I think I found the perfect place,” she says in a hushed tone.

It turns out last-minute home WiFi issues had forced the band into some strange locales, but these background snapshots of North Carolina suburbia are suited to our conversation about Wednesday’s music. On their third album ‘Rat Saw God’, out April 7, Hartzman tells tales of her adolescence and childhood that are full of specific details of small town life, whether amusing or brutally morbid. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the American South, soundtracked by gritty, rip-roaring country-rock.

“The fact that I’m becoming an adult and paying my bills is making me reflect on the stuff before this time, just trying to figure out how I’ve turned into the adult I am today,” says Hartzman, who turned 26 last November. Album highlight ‘Chosen To Deserve’ details drinking ’til stomachs get pumped, fucking in cars parked out in the woods, and feeling desperately lonely. A line in the sombre penultimate track ‘What’s So Funny’ sums this overarching theme up: “Nothing will ever be as vivid as the darkest time of my life,” Hartzman sings.

“A lot of the stories I’m telling are about when I was doing more drugs and partying,” she says. “That was a response to some stressful financial situations my parents were in, some other life stuff like grief and loss — it was everything at once, and I felt completely unequipped to handle it.”


It’s taken a while for Hartzman to be able to speak, and indeed sing, so candidly. She began Wednesday in 2017 as a casual Bandcamp project, releasing debut album ‘Yep, Definitely’ that year. Upon gathering members who had all congregated through the small, tight-knit Asheville DIY scene, the band released 2020’s ‘I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone’ and 2021’s ‘Twin Plagues’, both of which put them on the global indie-rock map. But Hartzman wasn’t quite satisfied with her songwriting.

“I would always regret when I was hinting at something [in a song]; I would always just be like, ‘Why didn’t I just say what I meant?’” she says today. “I was most self-conscious about my parents [listening] if I made something vulnerable. But I slowly got less self-conscious about saying what I wanted to say, and once we ripped off that band-aid, I established that our relationship can handle me talking about stuff that wasn’t so nice growing up.”

Having signed to Dead Oceans [Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast], and in the position of making the record that could cement Wednesday as an impressive creative force, ‘Rat Saw Godwas built around Hartzman diving fully into that rawness she describes. She’s a storyteller above all, finding the poignant undertones of everyday events. ‘Quarry’ includes a story from her dad’s childhood, in which he accidentally burnt down a whole field of cotton and didn’t tell a soul. ‘What’s So Funny’ recounts the time Chelmis was stung by a nest of yellowjacket wasps, and all Lenderman could do was laugh. “If you ever see someone step on a yellowjacket nest, they’re running around, ripping off their clothes,” says Chelmis, with a grin. “They’re screaming and cursing and rolling in the dirt. It’s like, the definition of comedy.”

wednesday band
Credit: Zachary Chick

In almost every song, Hartzman combines a sense of nostalgia and romance with visceral tragedy or violence. Take the soft ballad ‘Formula One’, where a refrain of “I like sleeping with the lights on / You next to me watching Formula One” is immediately followed by this one: “Truck was too tall for the overpass / Got the top ripped off / Didn’t see it happen, I just saw the aftermath.” Miller adds: “Every time I feel like we’ve written the darkest shit of all time, there’s another song that’s just an absolute joy, just a total romp.” Hartzman responds: If you’re writing stories about reality, that’s just the stuff that’s involved, pretty naturally.”

Hartzman is an astounding vocalist; whether soft and whispery or ragged and hoarse, her voice is unrefined in a way that translates emotion with total purity. On the eight-minute slow-burner ‘Bull Believer’, one of Wednesday’s greatest songs to date, Hartzman builds to a climax of tortured screams. “I didn’t feel capable [of hitting those notes] until the very moment that it happened. And I purposefully write like that — I don’t even practice the note until I have to record it,” says Hartzman. While vocal coaches might not recommend it, screaming is a method that results in total catharsis, like the mournful, unexplainable emotion Hartzman expresses can’t be physically contained.

The rest of the band create the same effect with their instruments: a controlled chaos full of feedback and unrestrained noise, yet brushed with delicate flourishes too. They’re all students of country music, having grown up on it via their parents and Asheville’s ever-present country radio stations. Yet they’re also inspired by punk bands like Sonic Youth and Wipers; they even strove to include some metal influence on ‘Rat Saw God’. “Country and punk music aren’t too different. There’s pain in both [forms of] music,” says Lenderman. “They come from the same ethos,” adds Chelmis.


“I was really enthralled by the ability to tell stories with country music, [while] the priority for me [of noisier influences] is the therapeutic element it gives us on stage,” Hartzman explains. The sound that results is an unmistakably Southern backdrop to the stories of mundane, vital Americana that populate the album — an important link to the band’s identity in a time where cultural roots are harder to plant than ever.

“I think country music is kind of a [joke] right now in popular culture, but I think it sounds like that ‘cause that’s where we’re from. It’s inseparable,” says Hartzman. “There is, in our generation, this weird non-accent [because of] TV shows and stuff like that – and that kinda makes me sad. I wish I connected with where I’m from through that, but I think we’re able to make up for that through the stories we’re telling and our instrumentation.”

Still, you can be from anywhere and appreciate the universal allure of Wednesday’s music, as they’ll prove when they take the new album on the road for their first UK headline tour this June. ‘Rat Saw God’ is their best work yet – their songwriting and performances are focused, potent and distinctly theirs, setting the band up to build a long lasting legacy. Their sense of humour, exhilarating sonics and candid, piercing storytelling are set to make Wednesday one of indie rock’s cult gems — any day of the week.

Wednesday’s new album ‘Rat Saw God’ will be released on April 7 via Dead Oceans

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