Based out of Seattle, The Drowns bounced on to the scene in 2018. Formed by members of The Shell Corporation, Success, Time Again, and The Briggs, this Punk band hit strong with debut LP, View From the Bottom. Four years later, the band continues to deliver strong, melodic Street Punk for all of us to enjoy such as their most recent offering, 2022’s Lunatics. Rounding out the bottom end of The Drowns is Andy Wylie.
For this second edition of The Bottom End, I spent some time talking to Andy about what led him to become a bass player, his influences, his musical history, and what he likes to do outside of playing for The Drowns.
What first got you interested in playing music? That is, what got you interested in the idea of starting or joining a band?
I come from a musical family, so it’s always been around me. My dad plays multiple instruments, and my brother was in several Punk and Psychobilly bands, so I was exposed to a lot of music, both from listening to their record collections, and through watching the creative process played out in my dad’s basement. I started writing songs very early, but I decided to make it a career goal after seeing AFI and The Explosion at the WOW Hall in Eugene when I was in high school. Watching them light up the stage and control the room gave me a purpose and direction.
So why bass? Why not guitar or drums or singing?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I’ve played guitar, keyboards, banjolin and sang in several bands before The Drowns. It just happened that when we started the band, Rev was a more accomplished guitar player and I happened to already have a bass rig from playing bass in a band called Coyote Bred around the same time.
Who are some of your major influences? Both in bass playing and in songwriting or just music in general?
As far as bass is concerned, there are tons of folks I look up to. I’m a big fan of Nick Lowe, Chris White (The Zombies), Carol Kaye, Paul Gray (The Damned, Eddie and the Hotrods), Hunter Burgan (AFI), and Matt Freeman (Rancid, Charger, etc.) among others. All very melodic, but tasteful players.
As for songwriting, there are a million writers that inspire me, but I tend to lean toward witty storyteller types. I’m a big fan of Tom Waits, John Prine, Warren Zevon, Roger Miller, Micah Schnabel, Dan Andriano, and Justin Townes Earle. Silver tongued truth tellers. I guess, I like my poison served with a smile.
What sort of gear are you currently using?
I run a Fender Special Deluxe P Bass through an Ampeg SVT 4 Pro head, an Ampeg Heritage cab and an Ampeg Classic pedal for my overdrive. For fly-out gigs I use an Orange Terror Bass head with the same Ampeg pedal.
What sort of routine practice agenda do you follow, if any?
It depends. If I have a tour or recording session coming up, then I run the songs for those engagements for a couple of hours a day for the weeks leading up to them. If we are home for a while, I tend to switch to guitar for writing purposes.
As a bass player, what do you think the role of a bass player is in any given band?
I suppose that depends on the band, or even the song. For The Drowns, I try to keep the rhythm steady, while using melodic lines to move through different sections and add flavor where appropriate. If the guitars are busy, I focus more on rhythm and stay out of the way. If the guitars are doing something straight forward, I might play around more with counter melodies and melodic runs. Whatever serves the song best.
Are you involved in the songwriting process for The Drowns? If so, how did the songwriting process for Lunatics come about with the rest of the players?
Rev and I split the primary songwriting duties. Usually, we bring the basic structure of a song to the band and work it out together. Lunatics was an interesting change from the way we generally do things, since it was written in quarantine. We couldn’t really get together to jam the songs, so we had to pass files back and forth from our minimal home set ups. It ended up being a pretty enjoyable challenge.
Being based in Seattle, what are some of your favorite venues to play or watch concerts there?
So many venues have shut down in recent years, unfortunately. I really enjoy playing Tractor Tavern , Jazzbones in Tacoma, Tony V’s in Everett and El Corazon for bigger shows, but there’s nothing like a small sweaty room for a Rock ‘n’ Roll show. For that, I recommend The Kraken, The Victory Lounge, Darrell’s Tavern and The Plaid Pig. There are plenty of other great rooms that deserve our support, but those are some of my favorites.
Any favorite eateries in the area?
Absolutely. Seattle is full of incredible food options. Mashiko in West Seattle is a fantastic sustainable sushi restaurant. Very talented chefs and no endangered species on the menu, so you can indulge ethically. I’m a sucker for comfort food, so I frequent several teriyaki and Thai joints pretty regularly as well. There is no shortage of solid options.
Do you have any guilty pleasures such as TV shows, movies, books, etc.?
I don’t have much guilt about the things I enjoy, but I guess my love of musicals is a bit odd for a punker. I probably spend as much time listening to cast recordings of Oliver, Phantom of the Opera, Threepenny Opera, and Sweeney Todd as I do Rock ‘n’ Roll and old Country records.
What advice would you give novice bass players that are just starting to learn to play?
Practice a lot, build up those callouses, and don’t be afraid to stray from the root notes. Just because you are holding down the rhythm doesn’t mean you have to be boring.
Besides The Drowns, what other bands have you played with?
I’ve been involved with a lot of projects over the years. I wrote and sang for a Horror Rock band called Church For Sinners in my twenties, then moved on to some Americana projects like The Crossroads Exchange, and Vito and the One Eyed Jacks before dipping back into rock playing bass for Coyote Bred and keys for Success, where I started my partnership with Rev and Jake.
What are some of your favorite albums that you have performed on?
I’m most proud of my work with The Drowns, for sure. It’s been the most personal and fulfilling project to date. As for other projects, I loved making the Coyote Bred and Crossroads Exchange albums. It’s always a pleasure to just try new things with no expectations.
What sort of things are in store for you in the future?
Mostly, a lot of touring. The Drowns are about to head to Europe for a few weeks, followed by more touring in the US and the UK in the following months. On top of that, we are already writing the next record, so we will be quite busy for the foreseeable future.