Major changes for bands, such as a new name, often mark a step in rebranding. It’s a chance to set new goals, build a new foundation and prepare for a new adventure. While new endeavors are definitely a desire for Like Language, formally known as Wilder, their name change had less to do with an extreme evolution and more to do with differentiating themselves from other artists.
“We changed our name because there are too many Wilders,” says Matthew Murray, one half of the Chicago-based pop duo. “When we chose the name [Wilder], we wanted one word, something simple. As time went on, I was on Spotify browsing an indie new artist playlist and I saw Wilder was on there and I was like, ‘Oh man, this is the best day of my life. People are noticing us!’, and then it ended up being the another Wilder.”
Murray laughs at the mistaken identity and admits the discovery actually led him to become a fan of the other Wilder. It also made him realize the potential roadblocks for the band if they continued under the name of not only an up-and-coming band but a number of other bands performing under the same title. At shows, when fans would ask for social handles, Murray found it challenging to ensure people were directed to the right band. With this in mind, Murray and his counterpart Kristen Donnelly decided it was time for a change.
“It’s hard to come up with something unique and original,” says Murray. “When you’re brainstorming and come up with 100 names, you’re like, ‘That can’t be taken’, and then somebody on Bandcamp or something has that URL.”
The new identity, however, doesn’t mean the band is drifting from the qualities that drew fans in the first place. In fact, the dark pop duo is digging into their roots with their new single ‘Like a Drug”, the first song off their upcoming EP.
“The new song is actually the first song we ever wrote,” says Murray. “I wrote it five or six years ago before we started the band. When Kristen and I started writing together, she gave it a new chorus, a new bridge and kind of gave it a new life.”
The result is a dark pop track with a burst of full orchestral instrumentation. The sound is almost theatrical, building with each verse before tapering into the choruses. In correlation with their newest single, Like Language plans on releasing a music video for “Like a Drug”, something between a performance and lyric video. For their new video, the duo worked with Aaron Green, the same mastermind behind their video for their latest single, “It Wasn’t Enough.”
“The video was shot at an old loft in Chicago. It’s not super artsy or anything. It’s very simple and to the point,” says Murray.
Green isn’t the only creative professional being brought back for upcoming projects. The two have also chosen to continue working with the same producer from their first record. For their debut EP, Like Language traveled to New York to work with producer Marc McClusky. The two were taken by his approach to modern pop music and ability to build instrumentals into each song. Traveling to New York for the second EP didn’t make sense logistically, so Murray and Donnelly chose to work with McClusky remotely, recording acoustic demos of their songs and allowing McClusky interpret and produce the songs as he saw fit.
“Marc is like another member of the band,” says Murray. “The new songs are like an extension of the first EP. It’s not really different, but there’s new instrumental variations and what not. We’re working with the same producer so it sounds like [the two EPs] could be like one record with 10 songs.”
In addition to providing their fans with new songs, Like Language says they’re also working on building their live performances, discovering new ways of incorporating their instrumentations into live shows.
“Live is a new thing. Before we would just do acoustic shows because [we were trying to] figure out how to make it as full as possible and have all the synth tracks in the mix. We didn’t want to just have an electric guitar and bass because it just wouldn’t do the recordings justice,” says Murray. “In terms of the live performance, we try to emulate the recordings as much as possible. I know it’s pretty simple pop rock music, but I think our songs are pretty unique. We have two singers and two songwriters [and] we incorporate a lot of different types of synth sounds and harmonies to try and amp it up.”
Along with perfecting their live shows, Like Language is focusing on their future; how to book more shows, juggle the struggles of managing themselves and potentially planning a tour once they’ve solidified their Chicago following. But even with so many goals and hopes for the future, Murray admits the greatest achievement so far has been the opportunity to start a band alongside his fiancé. After a number of projects throughout his early twenties, Murray says he finally feels like he’s found a co-writer he can build a musical career with.
“Kris and I had been dating for four or five years before we even considered writing together. I remember the first night, the first song we wrote, I hadn’t had that feeling in awhile where it’s like, ‘Oh shit. This is actually something.'”
Like Language’s next show will be on December 15th at Elbo Room. The night will also include performances by Ego Mechanics, One More Moon and Pretty Beggar.