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Monday, 28 December 2020 21:39

WD-HAN: A Conservative Rock Band with Twists


Starting in the 60s, the explosion of the rock movement has successfully changed the landscape of popular culture. The waves of bands with similar concepts keep appearing regardless of the prevailing trends, making the genre ubiquitous in industrial and non-industrial scenes. Nevertheless, most don't pursue everlastingness; the majority will go to separate ways after a few fruitless attempts.


Compared to the truckloads of those generic rock starlets' situation, the case of WD-HAN (stands for We Don't Have A Name) is indeed an anomaly. This three-personnel band has maintained its consistency since 2008 and regularly spreads its rock-based songs throughout the States. Their internal relationships are also no-less abiding. Even after more than a few failed endeavors, Spencer Barnes still leads the group as the main vocalist, while Cal Henry and Lea Barnes are down with their respective roles: guitar player and percussionist.

It is undebatable that WD-HAN has gone through the thick and thin in the music industry, but honestly, the group is still relatively clueless about the publication strategy. Neither their YouTube, Facebook, nor Instagram account has any meaningful upload, except during the new album promotions. Fortunately, this band still keeps the website in a fully-updated mode, making it convenient for the fans to find any latest information and exclusive merchandise.

Notwithstanding their sheer social media presence, WD-HAN has a ground-breaking portfolio. They have been nailing numerous national scales performances with their perfectly-refined songs, appearing in prominent Daytime America, and creating a video project at the land of endless Boba tea: Taiwan.


Naturally, such grandiose achievements are tough to accomplish, particularly that the band doesn't have any deal with massive-scaled labels. Thus, for WD-HAN to obtain such acknowledgments, they must have something worthy of recognition.

Inopportunely, my hypothesis towards this band turns out to be only half-accurate.

Their first two EPs totally smash my highly-regarded assumption to the ground, shattering it to smithereens. Spencer's claim of intertwining diverse musical styles such as blues, classic rock, and dance-pop isn't adequately manifested. Even if there are traces, it is insignificant, and somehow only become exasperating noises. "Colour of Friend," for instance, is a tasteless work without any specific vibe and sloppy riffs, making it an ominous acoustic rendition of typical high-school rock bands. Truthfully, a second-rate work.

The initial failures, though unsatisfactory, are just a baby step to their career, and WD-HAN's clearly tries to discover their idiosyncratic tunes at the first album, "King of Castles." Released in 2014, it implicitly shows the maturity and supposedly becomes a redemption for the past amateurish compositions. Half-part indeed sticks to conservative rock only, yet some works display another viewpoint, presenting the innovative coalescence of dancing-pop beats and typical Rockstar timbre. These contradictive mixtures serve a perfect contrast, creating an enthralling experience that one won't find in second-rate bands.

The exploration for finding the originality subsequently became fruitful. In the next EP, "Monkey," WD-HAN triumphantly presents their ideology quite well, fully embracing the combination of dance-pop, rock, blues, and even EDM. Albeit fairly short in length, almost all compositions are rich in flavor, giving whole excitement to the witnesses. The first track, entitled "The Down Low," shows a captivating blend between hard rock and synthesized electronic beats. Simultaneously, the fourth, "Shaking," carries a lighter ambiance and jolly-molly guitar riffs - a seamless option for jollified dancing.

What genuinely piques my interest in this EP is their last track, "The Greatest." The introduction section may sound tedious and superficial, yet the magic happens in the middle. The supposed-to-be rocky accompaniment suddenly alters to a light drum stick striking, twisting the initial gloomy atmosphere into a total festivity before disappearing softly. The transition feels raw and eccentric in any way but still an absolute highlight.

Contrary to their explorative EP, the next album entitled "2020" shows the amalgamation of the firm rock root and the mind-blowing embellishment found before. Primarily consisting of a collection of three years' worth of works, this album outshines all the previous tracks, exhibiting such high-class conservative rock with the eruptions of ingenuity in almost every song.

"Icarus," for example, gives a new theme-switching experience to the listeners. The first few bars show a calm demeanor, only before radically shifting to a quicker pace and bursting rock's energy to the maximum level. Listening to this song gives the similar taste of a sea salt ice cream – the saltiness in the surface may startle you, but only a few seconds before the cold sweet flavor bursts in – indeed a lovely work.

On the other hand, several songs don't lean toward one genre, as it mixes everything into one. "Bad" starts with a short melody with bending techniques, providing the impression of classic blues. Meanwhile, one can also find a chunk of rock influence with the vocalist's rasping voice and acoustic vibes from the rhythm. Yes, it is a melting pot full of spices; truly tasty.

Besides their attractive albums, their side-projects are no less appealing to witness, in particular, "Made in Taiwan." Their initial idea is kind of shallow: a three-personnel group goes to an exotic country, seeking natural landscapes, and does the exhibition performances in certain places. Shockingly, the outcome is terrific – the sophisticated sceneries combined with on-point songs excavate the thirst for adventure within the audiences' imagination, bringing them to a faraway land of tales and dragons. An additional note; the ideas, creativity, and valor create such sincere, nature-embracing music - something often neglected in the music industry nowadays.

Another striking aspect of their cover-song project lies in the unexpected aesthetic ideas. In the rhythmic section, the drummer Lea Barnes chooses to exploit the surrounding properties as percussion instruments, from ceramic pillar to ancient rhythmic apparatus: hand-clapping and foot-stomping. Such creativity brings a fresh, experimental touch to their supposed-to-be rock concept. Despite not taking it to the extreme manner, the innovation is indeed ear-pleasing for the audiences. Kudos Lea, you are a genius.

Despite the near-perfect concept and execution, there is still a significant flaw in this project: the technical problems. A bunch of falsetto failures, unsynchronized beats, and out-of-tune harmonies are somehow infuriating, knowing that the band consists of professional musicians with performance experiences. Sadly, the errors aren't only found in the cover songs project alone, but also on other live performance videos.

I am trying not to be a pitch-Nazi here. Yet, it has to bear in mind that to execute a flawless performance, a musician really needs to perfect their technical ability. A semitone mistake has already enough for turning people's mood down when one doesn't have the capability to cover the failure, let alone several passages. Hence, WD-HAN absolutely needs to strive to increase the essential features of playing music: individual skills.

Put the downsides aside – each person within this band actually has the talent of becoming a high-quality musician. For instance, Spencer Barnes is gifted with a harsh voice with a high vocal range, or the be specific, a Rockstar quality. In addition, both Lea and Cal have such out-of-the-box ideas, to the extent that they can pull off such captivating riffs and rhythms.

WD-HAN portfolio is not just for show. The 12 years journey results in strong tune with the utmost originality and still gives little surprises in some of their tracks. Yet, earlier works are substandard and lack seasonings. Only their last EP and album are worth highlighting; for one who wants to experience WD-HAN's experimental side, "Monkey" EP probably is a great choice. On the other side, "2020" will be the wisest pick for normies who are eager to casually listen to conservative indie rock with lovable, idiosyncratic twists in certain places.



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