By Michael Lello
Wharfer, the recording project Kyle Wall started in 2013, began as a study in isolation. The Brooklyn-via-Scranton musician tracked the songs for his debut album “The Rattling” on his phone at home, tackling lead vocals for the first time.
For the follow-up EP “Eyelids,” out Tuesday, June 10, he used more or less the same process. But while Wall says his songwriting style has understandably not changed in the short time since “The Rattling,” you’ll notice a more fleshed-out and three-dimensional feel to the five songs on the new release.
That is likely due to a few factors. Wall does sound more assured of his own vocals this time around, and he’s emerged from the solitary confinement of the initial release, inviting some other players to help bring the songs to life, including former Minor White bandmates Roy Williams and Shane O’Hara, as well as David Speranza and Emily McCabe.
“In the writing and recording of these songs, I had the first album behind me, which was more of a learning experiment,” Wall said last week. “This time I ended up being more confident in my voice. I learned to sing out a little bit more.”
While the nascent project has been a success, with Spin streaming the previous record and debuting a track from “Eyelids,” as well as outlets such as American Songwriter and CMJ offering coverage, it has also occurred in front of a backdrop of difficulty. Wall had recently battled some health issues.
A tumor was discovered last fall, which had to be removed, and there were some complications with the surgery. But “everything is looking good now,” he shared.
The results and process of “The Rattling” encouraged Wall to take another stab at writing and recording, the results which manifested themselves in “Eyelids,” named for a track that debuted in demo form on Highway 81 Revisited late last year.
“Oh yeah, it’s addicting,” he said. “It was like, ‘Hey, I like doing this, and I got some kind words from people and press and people at shows.’ That’s great and very encouraging, starting from the ground up, with close friends and collaborators like Roy and Shane, who egged me on to record more and do more shows, to working my way up to pitching myself to editorial outlets and trying to get blogs to write about it and doing shows, and people saying they like the shows.”
Interfacing with the music press comes natural to Wall, who works in publicity and previously worked for a large firm that included clients like Kenny Chesney and Chicago.
“I’d be Googling to make sure no one was writing dirt on Kenny Chesney,” Wall said of the previous job. “And spending time in stadiums with his crew, and traveling. When working PR for musicians, the last thing I wanted to do was write music. It was kind of soul-sucking, working with artists I didn’t care about or actively disliked. Now, it’s nice to be able to put a little daylight between my day job and my music.”
Wharfer live shows have been sporadic; Wall played at Troost in Brooklyn on Sunday and put together a handful of gigs during the “Rattling” album cycle.
“I hope each show gets better than the last one. Even though this is my second record coming out, I’m still a general work in progress and figuring out how I want to do things,” he said. “I’m still taking it pretty slow. Right now, I’m just doing a show in New York once in a while. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’m not in a huge rush to go out and live in a van and play with three other bands just for the sake of doing live stuff. Ideally, I’m in it for the long haul.”