Name: Sam Wenc aka Post Moves
Occupations: Composer, multi-instrumentalist, interdisciplinary artist
Current Release: The new Post Moves full-length Heart Music is slated for release on April 8th via Where to Now? Pre-order now on bandcamp.
Recommendations: Lisa Alvarado’s “Thawleg” Tapestries/Paintings
Johnny Coley’s “Antique Sadness” [Sweet Wreath Records]
If you enjoyed this interview with Sam Wenc, visit his official website for more information on all of his projects.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing guitar at 6 years old, playing Suzuki before studying classical and jazz later on. I started writing songs probably somewhere around 8 or 9 years old, punk was the first thing that really drew me into understanding how the individual and collective work together; which was not so much a present force in my guitar studies.
Although my friends and I were the youngest there, we started playing and going to shows in the Western Mass DIY punk & hardcore scene during my middle school years. I think understanding that aspect of a community that convenes, supports, and challenges one another outside of the communities you are prescribed (school, family, religion etc.), was an eye opening experience and set me on a path towards elevating music as an organizing principle in my life.
Aside from that, I was always a voracious listener and most weekends, I was going to a used CD store to find new things to get turned onto. This helped me to understand that music or a music community was not calculable as one entity, but that you could tap into different wavelengths, identities, and approaches through being open to various types of music. I would walk out of the CD store with a Mos Def CD and a Yo La Tengo CD and would find equal enjoyment in them.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
I think my listening habits are a blend of emotional investment and curiosity.
The emotional reaction is often innate and I can sense early on in a given piece whether or not I will be moved by it. If it is something I don’t feel emotionally charged by, then I will listen to see if I can observe qualities that will pique my curiosity in its form, structure, approach etc. Lastly, if neither of those two elements are present, I will see if there is a historical or cultural context for the music and try and listen and observe through those lenses.
Of course, none of these are harden fast rules, but I think it's important for me to try and engage from multiple angles and hopefully come away with a deeper appreciation for a given piece of work beyond my immediate reaction.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It wasn’t until my early twenties where I really started to feel I was constructing an approach and process that felt like it was of my own making.
I had spent many years playing in others’ bands and trying to nestle myself within their compositions. I credit those experiences in helping to hone a sensitivity towards composing, knowing when a light touch is required and when something more imposing is welcomed.
Learning the pedal steel guitar became a way for me to map my approach as a guitar player onto a new canvas and play with the physicality of the instrument to shape a new way of thinking about how I compose music.
11 years later, I still very much feel like I haven’t arrived and am continuously searching for new ways to stretch, contort, and shape the pedal steel guitar as a compositional tool.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I’d say I’m often searching; trying to uncover, reconfigure, patch, and bridge old and new forms of experience and knowledge. Listening is the fundamental underpinning of awareness - I was a fairly quiet child and didn’t speak until I was nearly 4 years old. Allowing myself (not always successfully!) to be guided by patience; trusting myself and the world to reveal to me a spectrum of experiences, hardship and joy, tension and release.
Music has always been where I get to flesh out what this spectrum looks like to me. Playing with tension and release, space and density. I enjoy how nonlinear things can be; in stark contrast to how much of life works. I get to undulate along with music and sound, never feeling like I am in a fixed or static state.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My approach feels concerned with the breath; asking the questions, “can I breathe in this piece or am I suffocating?” “if I can breath, for how long and is there a rhythm to it or is it more arhythmic?”
If I can breathe, then I can understand, or at least try to understand. I can get a thrill out of really harsh, dense music and art, but typically, if I feel something enclosing in around me, I struggle.
I sometimes wish I could be the person listening to black metal full blast in the car, but that shit would cause me to get into an accident.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I am interested in newness. I don't think that is particularly synonymous with originality or a sense of the future nor is it pushing away tradition. What is being uncovered that has not been previously known to me?
I think future and tradition are sometimes traps that make us overly concerned with aesthetic and ornament. Not that thinking about those spaces should be not be considered at all, but I think they can both act as ways in which we conform to the expectation of a supposed other. How does this meet a certain expectation or what about this work will answer the needs of the past or future. Fuck that, what are your needs?!? What do you need right now?! Tend to your heart and then you can tend to the hearts of others and try to fulfill their needs.
I feel like I have had to learn this lesson over and over again in my life. We so badly want to be held by others that we forget that we have and can hold ourselves. When you eschew desperate holdings, you can connect so much more deeply with the world around you.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I have organized much of my musical life around the guitar and pedal steel guitar. I’ve augmented the music with a variety of other tools and instruments, but those two instruments have always weighed heavily in how I think about making music.
In recent years, I have been trying to challenge myself to think through composition and sound from other bases. This often takes a route of deemphasizing melody and pursuing sound from a tactile mindset. “What is this material made of?” “What does it sound like when I strike it with this implement?” “How does changing the attack, decay, and velocity affect the sound?”.
It’s been interesting for me to find how my emotional response to playing changes between an emphasis on melody vs. an emphasis on touch and feel. I have found a lot of inspiration in listening to and watching percussionists: legends like Milford Graves, Rashid Ali, Elvin Jones and contemporary players like Chris Corsano, Ben Bennett, Marshall Tremmell
My current approach attempts to blend these two worlds, melody and structure alongside tactile and freeform.