What's Missing from West Virginia? We Ask the Band Themselves
Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Rozwell Kid to Bishops, Goodwolf to Coyotes in Boxes.
But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.
And today, we are chatting with What's Missing, an alternative rock outfit out of Morgantown, West Virginia, who aren't afraid to put a little pop in their punk step. If there were ever a band name to capture the current political climate and self-questioning concern in the Mountain State, What's Missing would be the name to bear. But what is the actual meaning behind the band's name? And, in their opinion, what's missing from the #WVmusic scene? Let's find out...
How did the band begin?
We formed in the fall of 2013, once Zane Miller, Molly Ranhart, and Aaron New got to West Virginia University. We had all been friends before that (Zane and Molly were dating at the time), and had been planning on doing music once we were all in the same place. We decided, "Well, we're more independent now, so let's take a shot at this music thing and see what happens!"
So we got Matt Herrald in on the deal to play drums. Zane and Aaron were on guitar and vocals, and Molly grooved on the bass. We got our first gig at the Main Street Cafe in Clarksburg, did a little recording with a friend in Fairmont, and then the summer of 2014 rolled around.
Aaron got busy working, so he left the band, and we became a five-piece with a few line-up changes until March 2016 (though in that time, we managed to release an EP and play a few shows).
Now we're back to our original line-up. We're working on a new single to release in the coming weeks, and we're writing a new album and picking up some shows in and around West Virginia.
Where does the band's name come from?
The idea came from Zane. He had a void in his life that was left after his old band, Playground Mentality (of which Matt was also in), broke up. The name evolved out of the nature of the project, which was to fill that gap of musical creativity that was missing in his life.
How has the band's sound changed over time (if at all)?
There's definitely a lot of pop punk influences in the earlier stuff we wrote and recorded. As time's progressed, we've tried to adopt and craft our own sound, drawing from influences from a variety of bands, like Brand New, Basement, Rozwell Kid, and so on.
What’s it like making music in West Virginia?
It's such a unique place to be an artist. One thing we love is that it gives us a wonderful place to be creative, and it's so simple to travel out to bigger places because everything is so close. We face the struggles everyone faces in trying to grow and support a scene, but the people are here just as they are everywhere else. The music scene here is super tight. We have friends across the entire state. I don't know if that can be said about artists in other states, but I think it's amazing that those connections can be made here so easily.
Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?
Saying this place is holding us back isn't necessarily true. In our perspective, West Virginia may not have the opportunities that people may have in, say, Philly for example, but the opportunities are definitely here (just look at Rozwell Kid). This place has been a gateway to connect with many other scenes and musicians, allowing us to get to know people everywhere. West Virginia is a hub of musical growth, and while the insane amount of activity isn't always evident on the surface, it's always there.
How has U92 FM [West Virginia University's college radio station] played a role in the band's development?
Aaron is currently the program director for the station. In his time out of the band, U92 gave Aaron the foundation to learn more about the music industry, to make a lot of connections to other artists, and to apply his new knowledge to help other Morgantown bands. Once he rejoined the band this past March, Aaron was able to take those skills and apply them to band functions. Out of that, we've gotten opportunities to go all over the Northeast to play shows, record with established musicians and producers, and meet amazing new people.
What’s been the highlight of What's Missing's musical journey?
The biggest thing has to be writing, recording, and releasing an album. That alone is something none of us have done before (sans Aaron, but he wasn't in the band at the time we did all of this).
What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?
We just need to open it up to the people here and make them more aware of it. Convince more kids to pick up an instrument and play with friends. Make really terrible music even! Throw house shows, even if five people show up! It's encouraging people to get more involved in the arts. I've seen people turn their living rooms into art exhibits! Let people know that expressing yourself through art is an amazing thing we can do.
What projects/announcements can we expect from What's Missing in the coming months?
Working on a new single to release this summer. Some shows in and around the state coming up. And we're currently writing for a new album to come out (hopefully this fall).
Tracking drums for a new-ish tune. #recording #drums #music #studio A video posted by What's Missing (@whatsmissingwv) on Mar 13, 2016 at 1:09pm PDT
Any advice you'd like to pass along to West Virginians wanting to get into music?
It's something that's been said time and time again, and no matter how often it's said, it rings true: just get out and do it. You only have one life, so make the most of it. We're lucky to be still be young. We've heard it from people even just ten years older than us, how they wish they've gotten into it sooner and stuck with it. That's something we're extremely appreciative of, and this opportunity is something we don't want to take for granted. No time like the present, eh?
What's Missing's latest release is Under. Keep an eye on their social media for tour dates and new releases in the coming weeks, including a new full-length album by the end of fall 2016. To hear more #WVmusic, tune in to A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVMusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic.