From Havalina to Wargirl: the musical evolution of Matt Wignall

Musician and producer Matt Wignall has been shaping the sound we associate with Long Beach, California for almost twenty years. From his creative base at Tackyland studios, he has helped numerous artists to realise their sound – his collection of gear and musical knowledge being stamped onto the final mix of their material.

Until recently though, Wignall wasn’t leading his own band. He’d worked closely with Cold War Kids and Mando Diao among others, but the ‘70s psych-funk and disco-infused sound we hear Wargirl so effortlessly craft, hadn’t yet found its vessel. Theirs is a sound that is credit to the diversity and musical talent within the band: the voice of frontwoman Samantha Park, the percussion of Erick Diego Nieto and Jeff Suri, the fuzzy guitar tones and creative vision of Matt Wignall himself. It’s one which we’ve heard him developing toward in recent years and that we can’t wait to hear live for the first time, when Wargirl make their Manchester debut, supported by White Flowers, at YES on Thursday. Ahead of the show, here are five tracks that chart the evolution of Matt Wignall as a producer and creative mind.

Havalina Rail Co.  ‎– American Skies (America, 1999)

Havalina Rail Co. (sometimes simply Havalina) was Wignall’s first major project – a band with a revolving cast but that he consistently fronted. Their all-encompassing Americana shared characteristics with the music of The Beta Band, The High Llamas or Calexico, its appreciation for America’s diversity shining through many of the arrangements. The album America represents one of the first made at Tackyland, with Wignall overseeing the production and engineering as well as playing numerous instruments, providing vocals and working on the design of the record too! From this point on, Wignall honed his production and engineering skills, soon to assist other groups with the creation of their records.

Cold War Kids  ‎– Hang Me Up To Dry (Robbers & Cowards, 2006)

Cold War Kids formed in Long Beach in 2004, working with Wignall at Tackyland on the early singles that were vital to their debut LP, Robbers & Cowards. On this cut, we hear a hefty electric guitar and bass riff driving the track in unison, with honky tonk piano adding depth and a dry yet perfectly placed lead vocal topping off the track. It’s a masterful piece of rock production and a sonic leap forward for Wignall.

Mando Diao ‎– Come on come on (Give Me Fire!, 2009)

Mando Diao’s fifth studio album, which is certified platinum in Germany, was chiefly produced by the Salazar Brothers in conjunction with the band themselves. However, Wignall was instrumental, his additional production and engineering on Come on Come on and his cover photography important to overall impression of the release. This track is a bouncy rock number, wrought with energy and subtly arranged, so that no element overwhelms the mix. Parts of the record were recorded at Tackyland, although exactly which elements those are is unconfirmed.

Wargirl – People (Arbolita, 2018)

Wargirl’s debut EP was a sonic departure from Wignall’s previous production work, though it again showed his penchant for nuanced, garage rock production. People’s boomy, overdriven drums, wah wah-drenched guitar lines, keys and percussion all dive into a psychedelic typhoon of a sound. Park’s vocals recall the unifying cries of disco, while the unpinning groove calls to mind vodoun and samba music. The record was produced entirely at Tackyland and the live approach is apparent in its energy and freedom.

Wargirl – Poision (WARGIRL, 2018)

Having cut their EP at Tackyland, Wargirl headed for Costa Rica, spending a week in a studio which took them out of their comfort zone, but inspired them to produce some truly special material. Album opener Poison is heavier on the disco than People, the drum beat, octave bass and rising synth pad all reminiscent of the genre’s classic hallmarks. But once again, the band’s unique makeup and Wignall’s production vision and the distinctive factors that take this track to another place. The doubled up vocals, heavy electric bass, snare drum reverb and synths give the production a gritty and robust quality that’s difficult to pin down and impossible to replicate.

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Thursday | 04.10.18

Wargirl + White Flowers (fka Britain) at YES Basement

Band on the Wall, Manchester