Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Wayland lead singer Mitch Arnold
By John Parks
National hard-rock band Wayland has played the Rockford market before, but will be making a special stop this Sept. 7, headlining the annual Durand Biker Bash in the town square in Durand, Ill.
The Michigan-based band, known for its hard-hitting, yet radio-friendly, blend of classic hard-rock, is currently touring on the success of its latest single, “Reno,” which has been all over local radio, including WXRX.
I spoke with lead singer Mitch Arnold about the band’s own small-town roots, radio success and more. Read on …
Q: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Mitch. I wanted to start by asking a semi-obvious question about the band name, Wayland. It’s a cool name, and I know it’s a town in Michigan. Are all of you guys Michigan-based?
A: Actually, Phil Vilenski, our guitar player, grew up in Wayland, Mich., graduated from Wayland High School, his parents still live outside of Wayland. Tyler Coburn, our drummer, is from a place called Middleville, which is just outside of Wayland. Our bassist, Dean Pizzaz, is from Detroit originally, and I am actually from Bloomington, Ind.
Q: You guys made a very nice splash with your single “Welcome To My Head,” which did very well on radio and put your name on the map. Sometimes bands feel pressure from having a successful radio hit and it causes internal issues, or they become overwhelmed by the pressure to follow up. You are having success now with your single “Reno,” so is it safe to say that “Welcome To My Head” was a total positive experience for you guys?
A: It was absolutely a positive game-changer for us. More than anything, you see a change in the amount of people coming out to shows, the amount of people you are responding to online. “Welcome To My Head” did reach No. 32 on the national charts, but to be honest, it was a real door-opener for us in terms of delivering a follow-up. It really gave us a segue to even having a career on the radio and on the road as a band. That song was a really big step for us, and now we plan on taking “Reno” as far as we can take it and continuing to just keep moving with our singles. “Welcome To My Head” had a whole lot to do with us being able to do what we are doing today. I don’t really see the negative side of having a track do well. First of all, I love the song. I love playing it every night, and it’s amazing to see the crowd singing it. When you can just put the microphone out into the crowd, and they know all the words and are singing it … as an artist, that is an incredible moment. I don’t think I’m ever going to take that for granted or feel pressure or mind that part of the show. Speaking about the pressure, to be honest, I definitely feel pressure from other things. I feel pressure to deliver a great show every night, I feel pressure to keep on writing music, and I feel pressure to keep up with the fans. But I can’t honestly sit here and tell you that I feel pressure from that track because I still can’t say that we’ve had a “hit” single yet. When we’ve had a No. 1 top-charted Billboard single where we’re selling a million copies and we’re a household name, that would be a different conversation.
Q: You guys have played the big markets of Chicago, Detroit, where there is always something going on in multiple places every night, and the smaller markets like Rockford and Flint, where there may not be a big show every single night. You’ve also made a habit of hitting the markets outside of that where a Wayland concert might be the biggest event a small town sees all year. Is there something especially fun knowing that you are hitting people that might be a little more starved for a big rock show?
A: It tends to be those type of towns where people get really excited, which is amazing. They’re planning on coming out and cutting loose and letting go of their problems and having a great time. They’re working hard at their jobs all week, so they have money to go out and have a good time at night and buy drinks or buy merch or whatever. Those types of small-town shows are always, always really cool shows. Then again, I think all of us can relate — we’re all from pretty small communities growing up where even if we lived by big cities, we were definitely quite a drive away from those cities. I think, for that reason, we can all relate to people who are from small towns where maybe there isn’t as much going on all year, but when the circus comes to town, that’s where people are gonna go. In those instances, they tend to all come out, and we can pack the place. The more people we can jam in, the more everyone has a good time, and it’s a party.
Q: Your new single, “Reno,” has been on local radio a lot and it’s definitely got a unique sound to it with the a cappella intro. What exactly inspired that track? Was it a particular trip out West … a show?
A: Well, we played a private party in Reno. We were coming out of Spokane, Wash., driving through the night to get to Reno, and our brakes went out 30 minutes out of Spokane. We called the guys in Reno and said: “Hey, we’re really sorry. Our van broke down and we’re not gonna be able to come,” and they were like: “Don’t even worry about it. We’re gonna fly you guys out, rent you equipment and then have your crew guys drive the van whenever it’s ready.” So, we ended up spending like three days in Reno with these guys, and they just showed us the town, we saw the things we wrote about in that song, and it was just an amazing, amazing trip. We’re still good friends with those guys, and it was this unique experience. The other thing that went into that song was, at that time, we were covering Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” in our set, and we wanted to write a song with that kind of three-part harmony. So, we wrote a chorus with those harmonies kind of reminiscent of the Queen song, and whenever we felt like we had something that popped and we liked it, we immediately began to question how we would open the song (laughs). We actually mixed it down both ways, one way where we had it with the a cappella singing and another way where it went right into the drum beat. But we really liked the one which had the Queen feel to it. I think it pays homage to a great rock and roll band that we’ve always been inspired by.
From the Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2013, issue