Concert preview: Wild Pink living the Good Life

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

John Ross, singer and guitarist for Brooklyn-based fuzz-pop trio Wild Pink, has never suffered from an abundance of confidence.

"I made my first cassette tape when I was 13 and gave it to a friend of mine, and then the next day I asked him to give it back because I felt self-conscious," said Ross, 29, who joins his bandmates for a Spacebar concert on Sunday, March 13. "It's something I really grapple with because the only stuff I care to write is confessional, but at the same time I feel guilty and worried about exposing myself or other people."

Of course, "not enough people know about [the band] for me to worry," Ross added, laughing. "I mean, who's really going to hear [the music] that I don't already know?"

This is starting to change, however. With one sharp EP already in the can (Good Life, from 2015), and plans to enter into the studio in late April with an eye on releasing a full-length debut sometime this fall, Wild Pink is poised for bigger things - even if the band's frontman is still struggling to come to terms with the increased spotlight.

"I still feel very uptight about privacy," said Ross, who was born in Virginia and spent his formative years in Florida before relocating to New York at the age of 22. True to form, the frontman responded to inquiries about his folks' early employment - "They kind of worked in business. Is it weird I don't want to [give more detail]? It wasn't anything [illicit]," he said - in a tone suggestive of a fidgety high school student asking a lifelong crush to the prom.

From an early age, music functioned as a form of release for Ross. He started playing guitar at 12 years old after becoming obsessed with the Nirvana concert film "Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!" and "Hype!," a 1996 documentary on grunge-era bands from director Doug Pray. Shortly thereafter, the singer started writing his own songs, embracing music as a means of working through daily frustrations and finding new ways to relate with his surroundings.

"I think there's definitely some cathartic value to it, and … it does unknot some things," Ross said. "But I don't like to get, too... Well, I was going to say I don't want to get too precious about it, but I guess I do. All I do in these songs is open up and expose myself. I don't know what else I'd be happy writing about."

Good Life, in turn, arrives awash in self-flagellating screeds - "I'm sick of this; I'm sick of all my shit!" Ross howls on "River Run RX" - and more sorrowful turns where the narrator loses his or her grip on a loved one, like the Nothing tearing Rock Biter's friends free from his "big, strong hands" in "The Neverending Story." "We're losing you in the night," Ross sings. "You're slipping away."

Even at its most lyrically downcast, the music radiates outwards, with the three bandmates galloping into an array of surging, major key guitar jams. "I love big, epic sounding things," said Ross, pointing to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, the Hold Steady and Titus Andronicus as constant sources of inspiration.

The frontman frequently pairs these epic musical backdrops with lyrics rich in intimate detail, referencing the places and people he's crossed paths with along the way. Over the course of the EP's first two tracks, for example, Ross travels nearly 300 miles south down the Florida coastline, beginning his trek in Tallahassee and winding up at a supposedly haunted Tampa dive on "Is This Hotel Haunted?"

"Places are hugely important to me when it comes to songwriting," said Ross, who traced the practice back to childhood, recalling an early short story he penned about "a nondescript small town" much like his own. "The times when it comes most naturally are when I'm writing about a place, or a person in that place. In older bands, [the music] is dripping with Florida and Virginia."

Newer songs - many of which will be on display during this current tour (the band members are road testing upwards of 13 new tunes before entering the studio to begin April recording sessions) - have drifted further up the East Coast, with actions centered in Ross' Brooklyn neighborhood. "I definitely draw from my surroundings," the singer said.

At times, the references can be so specific that Ross initially had concerns the music could alienate listeners, though he ultimately found the opposite to be true.

"Some of the lyrics can get very specific to things that nobody else knows about, where it's so specific it almost feels arbitrary," Ross said. "But it's interesting, because the more specific you are the more it resonates with the listener. I guess there's really nothing that is too unique."

Spacebar

8 p.m. Sunday, March 13

2590 N. High St., Old North

spacebarcolumbus.com

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