Please introduce your band
We’re from Indiana and Florida. Originally from Chicago. We were a 5 piece but these days we’re a 2 piece Shoegaze/Dream Pop band.
Tell us about your lineup
Krissy Vanderwoude - Vocals and Lyrics. Neil Burkdoll - Music and Production. Krissy and Neil went to High School together and formed Whimsical in 1999 after a few false starts. Whimsical was originally around from 1999-2005 and released two albums. Reforming in 2015, we have released another 2 albums as well as 2 cover albums. Neil has been playing the guitar and writing songs since 1989 and has released music with the Death Metal bands Fatalist and POOR, Horror Punk with the band Dirty Dead, Synthgaze with the band Loveblind, as well as a few others.
How did the band meet?
We have been in each other’s lives since middle school but we didn't really get close until high school in the early 90's when Neil asked Krissy to do guest vocals on a song in his band Mystified Thinking. After that band broke up in 1995, Neil wrote songs that would eventually make up the first Whimsical album in 2000. We had tried to get a line up for a few years but weren't able to until the summer of 1999. It has always been a dream of Neil's to make music all his life.
What's the story behind your band name?
Neil came up with the name Whimsical around 1997 because his previous Shoegaze band was in a darker tone and he wanted his next band to have a more upbeat and positive sound. Whimsical seemed to fit that definition.
Tell us about your influences!
The Cure, Slowdive, Motorhome, Seefeel, Lush, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, The Appleseed Cast, Joy Division, Cocteau Twins, Smashing Pumpkins, Godflesh, Boards of Canada, Manual, Tycho, Dead Can Dance, Creation Records, 4AD Records, The Pixies, Sugar, Lycia, Killing Joke, Pelican, Deftones, REM, Duran Duran.
Could you describe your approach to songwriting?
Neil writes and records the music in his home studio in Florida. He then sends the files to Krissy for her to write lyrics and melodies that she eventually records in her home studio in Indiana. She then sends the files to Neil for him to edit into the songs. Most of the songs start on an acoustic guitar and once the basics of a verse and chorus are established, Neil will start recording in Pro Tools until a finished song comes to life.
Describe your band's first big break
Our first real break was opening for our friends Kill Hannah to a sold-out show of 1,500 people at The Metro in Chicago. It's a legendary venue that Krissy and Neil had seen countless bands growing up. We had become friends with the members of Kill Hannah before they signed to a major and they had asked us to open up one of their sold-out shows. It was a dream come true for us.
Tell us about some of your most memorable gigs - both good and bad!
We ended up playing The Metro three times in Chicago from 2003-2005 and they were all great. Once we reformed in 2015, we were asked to play a well-known Shoegaze fest in Michigan called Kalamashoegazer in late 2017. We were able to get the original line up that played on our second album, Sleep to Dream, to rehearse for 2 days and perform the show. It went very well considering we hadn't played together in 12 years. The worst shows would have been some early Chicago shows that barely anyone attended in small bars.
What advice do you have to those who want to start a band?
Only do it to be creative and have an outlet. There is rarely money in music especially for niche genres like we play. Having fun and being creative is the best part but when you feel like your music doesn't get the attention it deserves, it can really make you question why you do this in the first place.
What are some of the challenges you face being in a band?
Dealing with labels that have wanted the band to help pay for the vinyl manufacturing and then after it’s all said and done, the band is the one who never sees a penny from sales. Obviously we aren’t huge mega sellers so it’s understandable that there isn’t tons of money coming in for the labels, but it would be nice to break even.
What does it take to be successful as a band?
We have no idea to be honest, as I wouldn't say we are "successful", but as far as I can tell, I have become more grateful for making music as I have aged and realized that I just like making songs. I think we have become better songwriters and our productions have also improved. Fans seem to appreciate what we bring to the table.
How important is music theory?
For us, not very. I took many theory classes in school but I never really use them for songwriting. I usually just keep messing around on the guitar until I find things that work together and then build the song from there. Obviously, it is important that all the parts are in the same song key but I never use theory to advance the song in any way.
Tell us about the releases you've put out to date
Setting Suns Are Semi-Circles was our first album in 2000. This was before we really had a lot of online feedback, so it's hard to tell how it was received. It was released on a small Chicago label called Seraph Records. Our second album, Sleep to Dream, was recorded in late 2004 but the band fell apart before we could finish it. In early 2015, Neil found the missing hard drive that had the album and was able to finish the album on his own. We signed to Saint Marie Records and released the album in early 2017. It was reviewed pretty well and made the best of Shoegaze/Dream Pop lists that year. In late 2019, we self-released our third album called Bright Smiles & Broken Hearts and again, we made “best of” lists that year. The summer of 2021 will see a new 7” from us on our new label Shelflife Records.
What has been your band's biggest achievement?
I would say having other musicians that we are fans of contact us to say how much they enjoy our songs. If you would have told me in 1991 that members of Slowdive would know who I was or be aware of my songs, I would have laughed. But Rachel Goswell has tweeted about Whimsical numerous times and it's always a shock for Krissy and me.
How do you view the current state of the music industry?
It could be better honestly. Small labels are struggling and it’s harder and harder for them to make ends meet and to actually release music. Obviously, it's easier to find new music because of the internet but there's just so much out there now with almost no quality control.
What are you working on right now?
We are finishing songs for a new 7” as well as for our 4th full length album that will be released on our new label Shelflife Records. We are always writing new music with Whimsical or one of our other projects like The Churchhill Garden or Loveblind as well. We have hope that shows will start happening again so we can play another "live reunion" show with our old 5 piece line up again.
What is your focus for the year ahead?
Our focus is to work on new songs while also enjoying it. That's one aspect that I take more seriously since we reformed in 2015. We aren't getting any younger and it's important to take advantage of Whimsical the second time around. Hopefully, as we release new songs, our name will get around and new fans will discover our music.
Thank you so much for dropping by the WeJam studio! Where can we follow your progress?