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Not From Wisconsin hones its sound on third album

Not From Wisconsin.jpeg
Angela and Dave Yantorno of Not From Wisconsin

Earlier this fall, Ithaca chamber-folk/indie-rock/Americana band Not From Wisconsin finally released its third full-length album, “Enough to a Degree.” Recorded in 2019, the self-produced album was originally set for a March 2020 release, but those plans were derailed by the pandemic.

Dave Yantorno (songwriting, guitar, vocals) and wife and partner Angela Yantorno (violin, vocals) formed Not From Wisconsin in 2009. They’re joined in the current lineup by bassist John Young (bass), Brooks Miner (keyboards), and Bill King (drums; he replaced Brett Powell after the album was recorded).

Unlike the band’s first two albums — 2010's self-titled debut and 2015's "And Again," which were often pieced together through overdubs in various informal settings — “Enough to a Degree” was recorded in an actual studio: The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, New York, where they worked with Paul Antonell in the spring of 2019.

“It’s a place where you can stay while you’re recording,” Dave Yantorno said in an interview earlier this fall. “The previous two records were really like bedroom recordings, so for this one, I said ‘We’re gonna go to a studio, we’re gonna super focus, and we’re gonna get this thing recorded.’ And I wanted to work with someone who had a really clear ear and tons of experience. We did it in four days, and it wasn’t perfect, but he got the very best out of us, I would say.”

During those sessions, which came after six months of intense demoing and pre-production with Ithaca producer-guitarist Rich DePaolo, Not From Wisconsin recorded nine songs live in the studio with minimal overdubbing, capturing a more cohesive, electrified sound than on previous albums. Indeed, the band itself described “Enough to a Degree” as running the “gamut from angular indie rock to somber slowcore with everything in between and sometimes all within a single song” in a press release announcing the new album.

“It’s the most ‘true’ on a record to what we've recorded yet,” said Dave. “And it was really a testament to Paul's empathy in the studio. When we got there, he sat us down and told us to play a song. And he just figured out the studio set-up that night.”

“That was so special in the way he interpreted our sound right away – he met and configured the studio around Dave and I’s connection,” added Angela Yantorno.

The band had a half-dozen songs in its live repertoire that Dave had wanted to record, and then three new songs came together during pre-production: the title track, “White Sands,” and “Try to Understand.”

“First we did all the stuff that we were really comfortable with,” Dave said. “And then there were those three songs at the end. I was like, ‘Should we get these down, even though they're kind of fresh and we're not super comfortable with them?’ And we said, ‘Let’s get them.’ And I think they're probably the three best songs on the album.”

“That's part of the reason why the album holds up for me,” he added, “There's a good combination of the older songs with what still feels to me like relatively fresh material, even though it was recorded three years ago.”

As for the band’s creative process, “the songwriting starts with me and ends with me,” Dave said. “But there's a lot of stuff that happens in the middle among the whole band.”

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Brian Brooks
The cover of Not From Wisconsin's third album, "Enough to a Degree."

Not From Wisconsin’s sound has evolved since its formation, with Dave playing less acoustic guitar and Angela playing a larger role both vocally and instrumentally, singing more harmonies and adding effect pedals to her electric violin lines.

“Coming from classical recitals and playing Bach in a practice room to playing in a rock band, it took a lot longer than I anticipated to feel comfortable,” she said. “I remember when I first played with this band, I was super quiet and nervous so I was just up there onstage. And I remember someone said to me, ‘I like what you're doing. You should do more of it. You should have more confidence.’ And I was like, ‘No, I'm not ready to do that yet. Give me a few years.’ So now I just have fun with it.”

Since recording “Enough to a Degree,” the band has continued to write new material; in fact, it has comprised about half of their recent live sets. “We have a whole other slew of songs that I'm ready to record,” Dave said. “Part of the reason I want to release this one now is to record the next one.”

The band has occasionally performed in a variety of formats, including as a duo, with a small string section, and with Rich DePaolo as an additional guitarist.

“I just like trying to create different versions of how we exist,” Dave said. “What's cool about this music is that it can be done in a bunch of different ways. You can rock it up, or be more ethereal with strings and swelling sounds. I love exploring that kind of stuff. And Angela brings in this classical music side that I think is just so beautiful.”

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Dave Yantorno of Not From Wisconsin

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, WITHradio.org) and its affiliates.