Indigo Wild and the art of learning to let go

The indie-rock five-piece returns with a new song, ‘Daylight,’ and a more laid-back approach to being in a band.
Indigo Wild
Indigo WildCourtesy the band

When Indigo Wild formed in 2010, it was far from a casual pursuit. From inception, the then-teenagers threw themselves headlong into touring and playing shows, attacking music with a relentless spirit that its members are still unpacking nearly 15 years later.

“I think we just had this understanding that it wasn’t going to happen if we didn’t work our asses off,” said drummer Jason Winner, who joined singer/guitarist Garet Camella in a late February Zoom interview. “We understood from a very young age the idea of ‘creative work.’ It’s work. You have to show up and do your fucking job. And somehow, without even having a conversation about it, we all at 19 and 20 years old had that same understanding. And we showed up and did the work.” 

In retrospect, Camella said, the bandmates weren’t working toward some larger aim – even then the idea of becoming rock stars felt somewhat foreign – but rather running from the expectations of college, the weight of landing an office job, and the fear of slipping into a seemingly pre-ordained existence that felt anathema to the path the musicians wanted to pursue at the time.

“It’s so cliche, but at the time it was like, ‘Do I want to get a full-time job and go sit at a desk?’” Camella said. “And that was definitely in our headspace. And it became, ‘Can we just do this? Can this be our job?’ But we didn’t think through what that meant, and I think that was our blind spot.”

For the better part of four or five years, the band operated under this shared understanding, gradually amassing a regional following and slowly checking goals off of a growing bucket list, performing on sessions for Audiotree Live and Daytrotter, and then landing a slot at the 2015 Bunbury Music Festival, headlined by the Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and the Avett Brothers. Any money raised amid this grind was poured directly back into the band, sustaining life on the road and funding the recording of Indigo Wild’s debut full-length, which the musicians tracked alongside Jon Fintel at Relay Recording around 2016.

This outward momentum, however, gradually unspooled amid internal division as the bandmates moved into their mid-20s, a point in time at which the pressures of career, family and a growing desire for stability began to exert increasing force. “There was never a conversation about sustainability, and there was never a point where it was like, ‘Hey man, how do you feel?’” Winner said. “It was go, go, go, go, go.”

Things hit a head when the band was about to move forward with the purchase of a new tour van and some members began to hedge, expressing a desire for more time off from the road to better establish roots and figure out what might exist for them outside of the world of music. “So, we were going out to look at this van, and one of us spoke up like, ‘I don’t think we should buy it,’” Camella said. “And all of this shit started to come out, and it was like: ‘I don’t know if I can tour’; ‘I don’t know if I can afford to do what we’ve been doing’; ‘What the hell are we doing?’ … And we didn’t even really know how to talk about it.”

These conversations hit some band members harder than others, especially Winner, who had zero desire to stop. “And I was very vocal about it in an immature way. And not in a hurtful way, but just like, ‘Hey, I’m letting you know I’m fucking pissed about this,’” said Winner, who admitted that much of his identity at the time was wrapped up in the band.

In the wake of this dissolution, Indigo Wild shelved its debut album, and its members went their individual ways. For more than a year, the musicians maintained this distance, eventually reconnecting over drinks in German Village, conversations that led the band to finally release its debut, Wonder Wander, in October 2018. “When we first started talking, especially for me, I was like, ‘Am I just going to stay angry about this?’” Winner said. “No. That would be fucking insane. I just enjoyed having a beer and talking, and I realized those relationships are more important to me than being angry.”

But unearthing Wonder Wander required all of the band members to adjust their sense of expectation, with Camella sharing that he had to let go of the idea that releasing an album required the type of exhaustive supporting tour upon which the group had built its reputation. Instead, the musicians initially embraced the release as a way to bring some closure to those years and to finally put a period on Indigo Wild. “And it felt cathartic, to a degree,” Camella said.

But then a funny thing happened, and these conversations eventually gave way to some loose jam sessions in late 2018 and early 2019, during which the bandmates began to hash out new songs. Then, like clockwork, old behaviors started to emerge. “And the militant shit came out,” Camella said. 

“Then, I don’t remember who said it, but someone said, ‘Can’t we just play and enjoy it and see what happens?’” Winner said. “And the idea was that it didn’t need to have an intention, which was fucking amazing. And that changed our approach to everything.”

So, as time passed and other musical projects pulled people away from Indigo Blue for stretches, the band members rolled with it. And when the coronavirus pandemic landed in March 2020, obliterating the ability to gather and play, the collective leaned into the forced downtime. And even when some of the players started to move away from Columbus to pursue their professional careers, with guitarist Michael Norris relocating to Cincinnati and keyboardist/percussionist Varun Ramanujam landing in Austin, Texas, the band didn’t throw up its collective hands, instead embracing these evolutions as inevitable in the life of most groups that are able to hold together through those formative years.

“Before, everything was so precious, and we put so much rigor into it,” said Camella, who late last year regrouped with his Indigo Wild bandmates to finish a handful of the songs tracked in those loose 2018/2019 sessions, the first of which, “Daylight,” will be released digitally on Wednesday, Feb. 28, with a music video following a week later. “But a month ago, we were all having a meeting, and it was like, if we put this song out, does that mean people are going to be like, ‘Oh, is your band back?’ And I don’t know. We don’t know what to call it. And it doesn’t matter. And I guess that’s the answer. We just like this stuff and we want to put it out, and we hope you like it, too. … If you take away the touring and all of the pressure we used to put on ourselves to do this and this and that, all that’s left is the creative pursuit of it. … We’re just having fun making art now, and that’s what we’re going to do. And that opens up all kinds of possibility.”

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