The Way Down Wanderers are a young band out of Peoria, IL who have crafted a unique sound that’s built on a foundation of bluegrass and Americana, but immediately defies any expectations of what those things “should” sound like. Consisting of five guys hailing from a variety of musical backgrounds, including rock, jazz, folk and classical, the band injects traditional multi-part harmonies with unexpected elements of pop and reggae, as well as spoken-word breakdowns and island-style beats. The group’s independent sophomore album, illusions, was produced by Grammy-winner David Schiffman (Johnny Cash, HAIM, Rage Against The Machine) and offers songs that bridge a raw enthusiasm for life with the sobering reality of how quickly time passes. Watch their conceptual stop-motion music video for the album’s title track here. But while their sound may be a frenzied melting-pot of genres, illusions proves they’re also great storytellers (hear the thought-provoking “Crooked Pines”). With songs inspired by the heartland, illusions observes the cycle of life through love, loss and growth, bridging a raw enthusiasm for living with the sobering reality of how quickly time passes. It’s equally as moving and powerful as it is infectious.
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2016, The Way Down Wanderers have been touring almost nonstop, garnering an enthusiastic grassroots following with their fast-paced live performances. Featuring foot-stomping sing-alongs, acoustic in-audience encores and drummer John Merikoski’s infamous spoon-solos, the band’s shows are just as intoxicating as their music. They’ve built a communal atmosphere among their fans that makes the experience feel more like hanging out with longtime friends. For more insight, read this in-depth interview they did with PopMatters.