Wonder Kid: An Interview with Ryan Church

Towards the end of last year, in November of 2018, I had the chance to get my very first taste of the band Wonder Kid. The Hammond locals, Ryan Church, Max Wolfgang Stratmann, Nathan Heck, and Adrian Joseph Rotondo-McCord have been making their presence known not only in Hammond but in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans scenes as well. The underground rock band’s very first EP “over.” is a sound one doesn't hear often. I really wanted to know more about the birth of this EP after listening, so I reached out to Ryan Church, the lead singer, for an email interview. All of the members of Wonder Kid are deep in the music scene with three out of the four members working on multiple projects. As one can imagine, their schedules are all over the place.  I was super excited and deeply appreciative when he fit some time in for my questions. He answers with a humble voice which I’m sure speaks for the band as a whole. Anyone who listens can tell this is a group who loves what they’re doing and is ready for whatever may come.


There are some great, hard-hitting lyrics in your new EP “over.”  What does writing a song for Wonder Kid look like?  Are there personal experiences or everyday thought wonderkidprocesses running through your head?

Church: Writing in Wonder Kid usually starts with Nathan and I bringing a song skeleton to the band.  Then the song gets torn apart and put back together until everyone thinks it's the best song we can write, after trying all the ideas everyone has.  It's brutal sometimes.  Nathan and I both write song lyrics.  Most times we are each other's editors as well.  This is definitely the most collaborative band I've ever been in.  


Probably my favorite song in this EP is “waves.” which your website says is about perseverance.  I can’t help but get the feeling this song also has to do with inspiring change. What would you say to that?

Church: I would say "waves." is about putting action behind ideas you have.  The song says, "what the sea knows that the mountain won't is perpetual motion is a powerful force".  Life sometimes feels like a grind, but if it's worth it, then the grind isn't as much of a hassle.  


What was the catalyst for writing the song "cycles.," the last song on the EP?

Church: "cycles." is about living life with mental illness and rapidly cycling through ups and downs.  It's rough sometimes and it's really great sometimes.  It's tough to tell what is normal, but all in all it's not so bad.  


Do you feel that you connect well with your audience through the lyrics in your songs?

Church: We played on the 16th at The Spot [a DIY music venue in Hammond, LA] and everyone sang the chorus of "wonderkid." so loud back to us.  It was wild.  The coolest musical experience of my life was at a DIY spot in Hammond.  


How long has everyone in the band been playing? The band meshes together really well.

Church: We've all been playing since we were young.  Everyone in this band is a champ on their instrument.  Max and Nathan are such a fun rhythm section to play with, and Adrian is a wild guitar player.  


There’s a sort of light and dark dynamic to these tracks. I feel the song "wonderkid." is much darker than "cycles.," and "friends." has a much darker tone than "waves." Was this an intended contrast for this EP?

Church: We all love dynamic music.  Music that shifts volumes and texture shifts mood.  It's a really cool feeling to be playing really loud and then cut to playing soft.  We also love lyrical contrast.  Bummer songs over upbeat music is something Wonder Kid does a lot.  


I’ve personally heard a lot about you and know Wonder Kid is one of a few bands you play in. Are you the only musician in Wonder Kid with multiple projects going on?


Church: I play in Incubators which is a folk rock band.  Max plays in a hardcore band from Baton Rouge called No Youth.  Adrian plays brass band gigs in New Orleans.  Nathan also picks up jazz gigs and may also be starting a dope post hardcore band soon.  


Do you compare your work with Wonder Kid to your work with the other bands?

Church: It's tough to compare.  Wonder Kid is the best music I've ever made, meaning it's the most similar to the music that I listen to.  It gives me the most freedom I've ever had on the guitar.  I love all the music I make with all the musicians I make it with, but Wonder Kid is the sound that I identify most with that I have made.  


How do you feel now with this EP under your belt? Have you learned anything new while working on this?

Church: We all learned a lot.  Max recorded and mixed over.  Kara Heck, the 5th member of Wonder Kid, designed the cover art and designed the packaging.  We made the packaging.  DIY is trial and error, but it's super fulfilling. 


Will Wonder Kid be following this with anything soon?

Church: Wonder Kid is looking to have another EP out by the end of the year, some video, and touring.  This month we are playing our first out of state shows.  In July we are going on a 9 day tour with our Baton Rouge friends in Baby in the 90s.  We got a lot coming up.  


Wonder Kid's song "cycles." is currently playing on 90.9 FM KSLU. Feel free to reach out on KSLU's facebook page to tell us how you enjoyed their first EP. If you're curious about tour dates, they've got a Facebook page as well. I'm looking forward to the next EP from Wonder Kid. Who knows? Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get an abulm before long.

thora hughesThora Hughes, age 22, is a junior pursuing her undergraduate degree at Southeastern Louisiana University. This jack-of-all-trades is currently the production director and events coordinator at KSLU, but has been known to DJ and assist the Underwriting and Development Director.