Meet The Band That Will Have You Saying "W.O.W."
These guys make you think. You might be asking, who are they? What exactly do they make you think? The aforementioned “they” are the masterminds behind the beginning of an era no one saw coming: 21-year old Simon Murphy, and 19-year-old Israel “Jacob” Vega, founding members of the upcoming hot-shot-alternative band known as Walk On Willow. I got the chance to get to know them one random afternoon in late September, right after the release of their debut single entitled “Good Times,” that can only be described as some mixture of jazz chords, punk rock vibes, catchy melodies, and a dash of something experimental.
Israel “Jacob” Vega (left), Simon Murphy (right). June 2019.
During the time in which I set up my tape recorder, and their acquaintance worked to find some 5-star-worthy camera angles, the humor never stopped. You could tell right away why the band worked, the chemistry was palpable– and this was only the first two members. I would be speaking with the recent additions to the band, Aubrey(19) and Sophia(18), at a later date.
Once we were rolling we started off simple, I asked them to let me know a little bit about themselves. They responded with an almost reflexive joke “Like, our names, our social security number…” Simon piped up, with Jacob adding quickly, “the three numbers on the back…”. When they actually got around to a response Simon described himself as a guy who “says funny things sometimes” and Jacob stated he’s “the guy who laughs at his funny things,”. Of course, the camaraderie shined as they settled on the fact that they did a lot of back-and-forth, and put their efforts into reminding me that they were in-fact a band not “just a comedy group”. When asked to simplify it down into three words Simon referred to Jacob as a “ferocious, tenacious talent”, and Jacob added… “ditto”. That’s when I decided it was time to move onto talking more about music.
Simon stated he found his passion for music while in school, performing in various talent shows– “[I] stuck with it, and [I] just learned to love it– That’s me.” He also mentioned a heavy influence by the game Guitar Hero. His mom was the one who really jump-started his musicianship, however, being the one to sign him up for guitar lessons and buy his first guitar. Later on he was introduced to the bass by an enthusiastic chorus teacher looking for a bassist for his middle school’s jazz band. He taught himself to play on a bass that very same chorus teacher loaned him.
Jacob had quite the story, heavily involving his older brother, Moses. He said his interest sparked around the age of six-or-seven due to his older brother’s interest in early 2000s punk rock icons such as Greenday, System of the Down, and Nirvana. “on the way to school every morning… because they dropped him off first, he would f*cking blast System of the Down, like, just Chop Suey, every f*cking morning, every day– and I just fell in love with it,” he explained. As for learning his instrument, that started with his dad teaching him some simple chords on the guitar in first grade, and then finally progressed two years later when he started to take it seriously.
Israel “Jacob” Vega. December 8th 2019. Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore, MD.
All of this was very heart-warming, but it made me wonder: had there ever been a time when these optimistic dreamers had wandered away from following the path they were on now? “Hell yeah… Hell yeah… Especially after like–” Simon started, “The Generics,” the two chimed together. Simon and Jacob had been in a previous band together, they explained. After half of that previous band’s members moved away and they faced other hardships, it was just something that was harder to hold onto than let go of. They wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t a time they regretted experiencing, but after a while the two were definitely feeling disheartened and ready to start over. “Well, I mean, I wanted to keep the ball rolling, though. I wanted to keep the dream alive, we both did. So I mean [Walk on Willow] wasn’t, like, as big of a thing, but we made [Walk on Willow] a big thing. It’s just hard to go from a full band, to like, two people… and then write a full-length album,” Simon explained. Immediately after this was discussed, the two quickly broke the slight tension that had befallen the room with a quick-witted sour-patch-kid-inspired quip. There was definitely never a dull moment with these two. This made a lot of sense on why Jacob expressed our current location, Simon’s garage, as being a safe-space for their music. He expressed that no matter what restrictions he felt like he had on his music occurring throughout his day-to-day life, he felt lucky to have Simon and the little community they had created, “Whenever I came here… I felt comfortable enough that I could just pour out whatever was inside of me, you know?”.
Following that I asked them a little bit about their process when it came to writing songs. Both Simon and Jacob expressed point-blank that their process was basically riff-to-whirlwind. They explained both of them bring a lot of ideas to the table, and that they’re usually already pretty solid. They explained it as “just coming out” of them and a “snowball effect,” before, once again, they tied it all together with a quip of: “You just have to be really talented,” and suddenly the room was all laughs once again.
They soon added in that the biggest process was actually after the song was written. Once they got a relatively solid demo down, they then would show it to a close circle of friends to test the waters. “We use the fact that they’re not like big [musicians] to an advantage because… I felt like they were like the consumer, like, point of view, you know what I mean?” Jacob explained, and Simon added that “It’s almost like a democracy when writing your music. Do we want guitar tone A or Guitar tone B? Raise your hand for guitar tone A.” This time around, Jacob plugged in a joke that the next album they would try out communism instead.
Simon Murphy. December 8th 2019. Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore, MD.
Trying to move over from their perspective to the audience’s perspective, I asked them what they hoped people would think the first time hearing the name “Walk on Willow”. Simon piped in stating that they want people to think of it as a getaway, which he believes is reflected well in their music since that in itself is the members’ own getaway. This statement sparks the inspiration for the two to better express their intended message. After Simon’s words, Jacob quickly adds, “when we wrote these songs, we wrote them with so much emotion… our intention was to, like, make it have so much emotion to the point it kind of pulls you aside from the world you’re living in, and just kind of be in that bubble with us for like the next two or three minutes of the song,” he continued on to express that despite that being their hopes, he’s not quite sure how the audience may view the songs– whether they would relate or find themselves in an entirely new mindset. “This stuff, is so new to us, and like, we don’t really have much to base it on,” he pauses in his remark to remind me he’s not trying to be cocky here, “but like, this stuff is like really new, and like, I haven’t heard stuff like this!… My mentality with songs, like, I wanna write something that I wanna hear, but it’s not a song yet so I just go ahead and write it… to be honest I don’t know how people are gonna take it, and I’m really scared cause like… I really don’t know,” Simon then comes in to add “[another] original intention was to spark a sense of nostalgia when you listen to it, so, and a lot of the songs are really diverse, so, I think… there’s at least one song on the album that’s for them, that they might like.”
They were right to say it wasn’t something that hadn’t exactly been done before, listening to their single(“Good Times”) before interviewing the pair, it was safe to say it was an extremely unique take. It felt like a breath of fresh air within today’s music industry and it’s solid lines between genres. Yet, I had to wonder. If it was so new, what exactly could have inspired it? They explained that there was no sole inspiration in mind, they just knew they wanted to find a new sound. “We tried a lot of random S*it,” Simon stated point-blank.
Moving on towards making it a wrap, I only had a few final and simple questions left for the two young men behind Walk on Willow. I started this rapid-fire section off with asking what they would be if they weren’t musicians. Jacob said he would be a plumber, and Simon said if he couldn’t do what he loved then he’d take a 9-to-5 at least to pay the bills. “I don’t know, maybe my boss is nice, maybe I would get Christmas off,” he chuckled, with Jacob adding: “And then we could write the Christmas album!”
Simon Murphy (left), Israel “Jacob” Vega (right). June 2019
I took this statement and rolled with it, the next part of the rapid-fire was all about the album. They let me know that the current album would be self-titled. When I asked why, they stated they simply couldn’t come up with something better, “It was self titled, or Fugazi!” Jacob exclaimed, bursting the two with chuckles and making the laughter-count reach a number I’d long last track of. Next, I asked for their favorite track on the album, as well as what they expect their listeners to like the most. Simon states that it’s difficult to pinpoint a favorite, they really all depend on your mood. However, Jacob states his to be “Ever Since”. The two both say to look forward to the trilogy feeling of the songs “AM Radio”, “Sands of Time”, and “Ever Since”. They describe it as “an elevator that just keeps going up,” to keep the listeners on their toes. Next, they state that the hardest song to write was “Virginia”, as it took the longest. They began writing that one while they were still in The Generics, meaning it’s taken nearly two years to complete.
The next and final sections of the rapid-fire I was ready to discuss the two addition to Walk on Willow, as well as give them a chance to say any final words to their current, as well as future, fans. First I asked how the addition of these new members, Sophia and Aubrey, would change the band, as well as what exactly Simon and Jacob believed the two would bring to the team. Simon expressed it may be a little more complicated, as four members are more to communicate with and they all have to be on the same page for things to work. Jacob chimed in that it may be a bit more difficult, but the two really think the personalities of the new members blend well with their own. He pointed out that he believed Sophia impressed him most with how she is able to play with feeling, which is one thing he prides himself on as well, even if he may humble it by addressing he believes he has room to improve in other aspects. Simon agrees wholeheartedly, stating that Sophia and Jacob have a style of guitar playing that’s “right up the same alley,” then, Jacob comes back in to state that Aubrey is a “rock-and-roll” drummer, “He can hit those– he can bang those drums,” he snickers to himself as Simon, oblivious to the subtle joke, adds “and a totally cool person too!” The two both expressed that the first time all four members played together it “felt like the room just exploded,” and each time they practice it continues to increasingly improve.
Simon murphy (left), Sophia Williams (middle), israel “Jacob” Vega (right), Aubrey Blount (back). december 8th 2019. Baltimore Soundstage baltimore, md.
The final words they had for the fans were: “Out of all the s*it that’s happened in the world, if you wanna take a step back, and just kind of breathe, and go to a little, uh, somewhere else, just take a listen to us.” Jacob says with a hesitant passion peaking through his voice.
“We just want people to enjoy the music we create. We can kind of go back and forth, bounce off the fans, it’s got a two way street,” Simon states simply, with Jacob piping in, “If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. It’s fine,” and Simon finished off by expressing, “We wouldn’t be doing this if [we focused on when] people didn’t care.”
They also wanted to express to the fans who have stuck around from when they were part of The Generics that they hold lots of love for them, and think they are amazing. Also, as a last addition, they let me know that they do have a plan for the next album, “It’s gonna be a lot smoother, and a lot heavier,” Jacob states. They want to see how this album goes first, however, to finalize everything and decide how experimental they may get with the next one.
These young men were a pleasure to meet and converse with. Each answer they had filled me with more questions I wanted to ask them. Between the common quick-witted puns, jokes, and quips a plenty, as well as insight often unexpected to be expressed by those still so young, I was definitely kept on my toes for our entire half-hour conversation. If this little tidbit into the masterminds behind Walk on Willow had you saying W.O.W., don’t forget to check out the three singles they have released everywhere now (including their debut single “Good Times”), and look out for their new self-titled album which dropped last month in November!
Walk on Willow, Self-titled. Released November 9th 2019.