Autumn Wetli is the lead singer, guitarist, chief songwriter and vocalist for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti-based Rebel Kind, who topped our list of local releases for their 2014 Urinal Cake LP, Today. In anticipation of their playing Blowout, we spoke with Wetli.
Metro Times: Tell me two things about you, to start, please: one that everyone probably knows, and another that maybe no one knows.
Autumn Wetli: Well, people who aren't my friends probably don't know I worked for a small record label in 2010, when I lived in New York. It was a good musical education. Also, people usually think I'm younger than I actually am. Most everybody seems to know I played drums in Bad Indians for a while.
MT: Based on your name and age, I'm going to guess that your parents were hippies.
Wetli: My parents were indeed hippies, but it is sometimes hard to tell at this point in time (laughs). I grew up listening to a lot of stuff from the '60s, and definitely remember Motown being a huge part of my young music education. "Heatwave" was my favorite song as a little girl. I would listen over and over to this Motown comp cassette my mom had. I think I might still even have it somewhere. Neither of my parents are musical, but they went to lots of shows and stuff in the '60s and '70s. My dad was the one who got me into the Velvet Underground, which was a big deal when I was a teenager. They're pretty supportive of me, even if they don't always "get it." My mom has always been especially supportive of all my creative endeavors throughout my life.
MT: Speaking of names, I read that you'd wanted to name your previous band the Bad Indians "Rebel Kind" instead?
Wetli: Bad Indians was started by an ex-boyfriend and some friends; I wasn't a founding member or anything. I started playing drums for them when we moved to New York City in the fall of 2009. We had some opportunities to play shows and weren't sure about still going with Bad Indians or a new name. But at that point, he was writing the majority of the songs [so we kept it].
MT: What is it about this name that it's been floating around before you used it, initially for a solo project?
Wetli: I came up with the name Rebel Kind from the Chicks version of the song "Rebel Kind." The two words together just sounded nice to me. I started writing some soft songs that just didn't work for the aesthetic of that band and eventually decided to play that music under a solo moniker. First show was Luther Fest 2012. Jules from Bad Indians accompanied me on drums. I then played a bit completely by myself, and also with my friend Erin, from Bad Indians and Failed Flowers. And I actually have a few upcoming shows under my own name, accompanied by a friend or two.
MT: You just released a great solo 45 for the Urinal Cake offshoot Western Where. Are there more plans for similar stuff?
Wetli: I'm not working on a secret solo album or anything. Eric [Love, label head] had just asked me if I wanted to do a 7-inch for his new label and I thought it'd be fun. I am always thinking about new jams and projects, just haven't had the time to get anything going. Hopefully will make some of that happen this summer.
MT: Summer is a good time for touring. Any plans?
Wetli: Rebel Kind is doing a little Southern tour at the end of May to Lexington, Memphis, New Orleans, and Nashville. We are also working on a Canada/East Coast thing in August.
MT: What percentage of your songs are relationship-based? Because a lot of them seem to be about love gone wrong and stuff.
Wetli: A lot of songs in general, if not most of them, have to do with love, either in a positive or negative sense. They are the easiest for me to write and people can relate to them. When I write a song, I usually just come up with some chords and then just randomly start singing and whatever the first words out of my mouth, [those] are usually the beginning lyrics. I then take whatever that happens to be and construct a narrative around it, sometimes partially from experience, sometimes entirely fictional. I'm not as down and out as it may seem, but love can be hard. Sometimes I write songs based around poems or phrases I've come up with at some point, some going as far back as silly high school poetry.
MT: Do you think you could write jingles, or come up with songs on the spot, Brill Building style? And what is your guys' writing process like?
Wetli: Hard to say if I could write a song about anything. I actually did write a jingle for feta cheese when I was little because my family is weird like that and it was a joke, but I think I have to write what I write for it to work best. Sometimes I can write a lot of things I'm happy with and sometimes I just let it sit for awhile and don't write a new song for awhile. Sometimes I go back and rework little things I've come up with over the years, again, even going as far back as high school. Rebel Kind has started to jam more and do more collaborative songwriting, instead of me just bringing a new song to the table. I think we will keep doing more of that too.
MT: What is your day job, anyway?
Wetli: I work at the University of Michigan's graduate library. It's just starting to get around that I play music. Some of my co-workers know. Some of them are fans. If I'm going to go on tour or anything like that I have to use vacation days that I accumulate on a monthly basis. It's kind of a pain, because I also really feel like I need an actual vacation sometimes. So now that I've accumulated some over the past years, I'm trying to balance it out. I am in the process of preparing to apply to grad school. Making music is a hobby to me. It's not a means to an end. I love it, and I love the opportunity it has given/continues to give me to meet so many awesome people. But I want to do more in my life too. Right now, making music is fun for me and if it stopped being fun I wouldn't want to keep doing it.
MT: What is your favorite thing about living in the Ann Arbor area? Least favorite?
Wetli: I really love the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area. It's definitely my home in Michigan and always will be, even if I leave permanently, or just for a bit. There are so many amazing, creative, wonderful people here. The community is great and I always feel lots of love and super positive vibes. On the negative side? Things have been in a rut lately as far as shows, spaces, events, etc. around here, but it definitely seems like it is changing and there are more opportunities to do cool things popping up. It always ebbs and flows. Also, I personally get really bummed out in the winter. The weather affects me so much. I tried to stay busy this past winter and it wasn't so bad. I'm already feeling more optimistic and alive as things start to get nicer.