Artist Spotlight: Wishy

    Wishy is the group led by Indiana singer-songwriters Kevin Krauter and Nina Pitchkites, who went to the same high school and later bonded over their love of bands like the Sundays and My Bloody Valentine. In addition to solo releases like 2018’s Toss Up and 2020’s Full Hand, Krauter was a founding member of the indie pop band Hoops, while Pitchkites has been putting out electro-pop music under the moniker Push Pop. But it wasn’t until 2021, when Pitchkites moved back home from Philadelphia, that the pair reconnected, releasing an EP as Mana earlier this year before changing their name to Wishy, signing to Winspear, and rounding out their lineup with drummer Connor Host, bassist Mitch Collins, and guitarist Dimitri Morris. The band’s new EP, Paradise, which made our best EPs list upon its release in December, is a sunny yet dynamic fusion of shoegaze, dream-pop, and alt-rock, featuring songs that were recorded across two trips to Los Angeles with producer/drummer Ben Lumsdaine (Durand Jones, Daniel Villarreal). Although most started as independently written demos – ‘Spinning’ is a rework of a Push Pop song – they thrillingly come alive when these musicians join forces in the studio, promising great things for Wishy’s debut full-length.

    We caught up with Wishy’s Kevin Krauter for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight series to talk about the origins of Wishy, his collaborative relationship with Nina Pitchkites, the band’s new EP and upcoming album, and more.

    You and Nina went to the same Indiana high school. How did your friendship and collaborative relationship develop leading up to Wishy?

    Me and Nina met when we were in high school, she was a couple of grades below me and same grade as my younger sister, Katie, and they were friends first. We didn’t really hang out at school, but we knew of each other, and when we were both in college – she went to IU Bloomington, which is about an hour south of Indianapolis, where we’re both from, I went to Ball State in Muncie, which is about an hour northeast – around that time, Hoops was started. Well, Hoops started when we were all in high school, but when we were in college was when we really started playing shows and recording. So I would spend a lot of time in Bloomington because Drew [Auscherman] lived down there, and we recorded everything at his house and pretty much played all our shows in. Nina was part of the friend group of people circle of people that were around, going to shows, playing music, and we just slowly got to know each other through that over the years.

    She started putting out some music under Push Pop, and I was like, “This shit rocks. No one’s really writing shit like that.” And I really love the way she sings. We developed a mutual admiration for each other with the music we make, and around 2018, the two of us and our friend Kora Puckett, who used to play in this band Bugg, now plays in Narrow Head, were talking about starting a band together, doing a shoegaze/alt rock/twee kind of project. Nina moved to Philly in 2019, so that project never happened. Over that time, I started writing more stuff in that vein because I was still pretty excited about the idea of making some music like that. My solo tours got canceled, I was really not doing anything, which was honestly nice. It was the first time in a while I had extended time away from touring or anything like that, so I just started making demos that were different from my solo music. I was envisioning it’d be fun to play this stuff with the band, this band that almost happened.

    Around late 2020 and early 2021, people in Indianapolis started hanging out again and going to shows again, and there was this renaissance of the Indianapolis music scene of people starting bands, throwing shows, not being very COVID-safe. In 2021, Nina moved back to Indianapolis from Philly, and as soon as she moved back, we talked about starting that band, and she was down. Initially, it was Nina and I, our guitarist Dimitri, who initially was on bass, our friend Connor Host, who still plays the drums, and Stephen Orban, who’s a good friend of ours who used to play third guitar – he left the band last March, which is when Mitch jumped in, playing bass, and Dimitri switched to guitar. But me and Stephen still make music together, we’re actually about to put out a tape of ambient jams called Energy Bridge.

    And you initially went by the name Mercury, right?

    Yeah, we were called Mercury at first, but someone pointed out there was another Mercury on Spotify that was pretty big, so we changed the name to Mana, which we were rocking with for a while. And then it was like, “Oh, there’s another Mana!” Well, it’s spelled Maná, and they’re from Mexico. So technically I think we’re okay, but what happened was we put our stuff on Spotify, and they automatically populated this show that we were playing in Indianapolis with our friends – they put it under the Mexican band’s Spotify, so a ton of people came to the show and lined up for tickets, thinking this world-famous Mexican rock band, which sells out stadiums, was playing at this 600 cap room in Indianapolis. But I was like, “I don’t wanna change the band name again.” It’s kind of a humiliating process to be like, “Hey, we’re changing the name, can you guys start calling us something different?” Whereas no one actually cares, both times we changed the name everyone’s been like, “Cool.” We didn’t change the name right then, but it was starting to feel like maybe this name is a little fraught with potential trouble down the line. We put out the Mana EP anyway.

    Nina, in summer of last year, mentioned to me that she had planned a trip to LA to hang out with a couple of our friends, Steve Marino and Ben Lumsdaine, for November of 2022. Honestly, we didn’t really have any plan initially, but we ended up with five songs in like four days. ‘Too True’ and ‘Donut’ were the ones from that session that made it onto the EP. Me and Nina already had Mana, that’s what we’re focused on, so we didn’t really have plans to make it a full project. But we were like, “We’re definitely sitting on some shit that sounds good, we should make another plan to come back and record some more songs.” Shortly after that first trip, our friend Jared [Jones] from Winspear, who’s been managing my music for as long as I’ve been putting it out, he was like, “Let me know if you guys make any more, I’d be interested in maybe putting something on our Winspear.” So we went back in June of this past year and recorded five more songs, so we had ten total.

    We were like, “We’re all really stoked about these songs, but how do we balance this new project with doing Mana at the same time?” We have two different bands where me and Nina are both principal songwriters, they’re both guitar music. They’re somewhat different vibes – Mana is a little more alt-rock forward, Wishy is a little more soft alternative radio, indie pop kind of thing, so different enough in my mind to be two different bands. But at a certain point, it became clear, if we want to actually do anything with either of them, we should just combine them. We had already picked the name Wishy for the side project, so we were like, “Mana is already a problematic name, so let’s just fold it into Wishy and make it one project and just go full speed ahead.” So that’s how it all became Wishy.

    Seeing as it started as more of a personal project, what excited you about working with Nina and taking things in a more collaborative direction?

    I just really like how Nina moves through a melody. Having heard the songs she had written for Push Pop, I was really impressed. It’s something I’d not really heard a lot of people doing, and it’s coming from someone who’s not like already got a bunch of rep or clout. Nina’s been putting out music, but it hadn’t really gotten a bunch of attention, which I think it should have gotten way more because she’s a great songwriter and has a greast creative impulse. Hearing that got me really excited have a band where I’m not the primary singer, we can share vocal duties, we can harmonize, and that’s something that I’ve always loved. At the same time I was like, “I want to make some fucking rock music. I’m tired of playing soft indie rock, I wanna make some loud, fun, interesting rock music.”

    As soon as me and Nina started sitting down and playing guitar together and working through songs, it just became clear we have a really good chemistry. I feel like we both occupy a similar creative or sonic space, we’re both really drawn to the same vocal aesthetics in a lot of music that we like. There’s music you listen to that you really love, and then there’s music you listen to that you’re like, “I wanna do that,” and I think in the latter case, me and Nina have a lot of overlap, specifically with the Sundays or Hole or Velocity Girl, that whole realm of ’90s college rock, kind of grungy alt-rock. We both grew up doing choir, so we both sang a whole lot. That’s something I really like about working with Nina, is that I’ll come up with a vocal melody and she can come up with a harmony immediately, and we can work that out so easily together. I love having that element to it, it just gives it a levity to the music that I love to hear.

    While making the songs, did you notice your and Nina’s songwriting blending into or contrasting each other in any specific ways that you found interesting?

    When I write music, I feel like I can get very formulaic with it, I can have a very left-brain mindset about it with how I map it out and plan a section. I feel like I can get really trapped in this headspace of, this has to be this many measures, and then I have to go back and be like: Now let’s make it interesting, let’s make it not so rigid. That’s been a lifelong journey of mine. What Nina writes, it just has this naturally flowing, free kind of vibe to it, especially how she sings a melody or puts a melody on top of something. It definitely was inspiring, although the songs that we came with to record we pretty much had written already, so it wasn’t exactly like we influenced each other. ‘Donut’ and ‘Spinning’, she had written both completely, we just kind of fleshed it out in the studio. Same with ‘Paradise’, ‘Blank Time’, ‘Too True’, those I had pretty much written fully. ‘Paradise’ was only half-written, and then I wrote another verse for Nina to sing and that bridge section. As far as the EP is concerned, we both came to the table with songs prepared already, and it’s kind of a happy accident that they really worked well together. But going forward, we’ve been teaming up at the early stages a bit more.

    It’s interesting to hear that ‘Paradise’ was kind of half-written, because what I love about it is the way your voices come together, embracing a kind of pure escapism and love that’s never quite as peaceful or straightforward in the songs that follow. But I feel like that’s what makes it a strong opener. 

    Hearing those words, that’s pretty much exactly what I felt when I started writing this song. I wanted to make a really straightforward, kind of cheesy, sentimental love song. Out of all the songs in the session, every time we sat down to open the session back up or a friend would come over and wanted to hear the song, we were like, “Play ‘Paradise’ first.” It just has that energy, something nice and easy to hook you in.

    There’s a contrast in the two final songs you lead, ‘Blank Time’ and ‘Too True’. The first sounds like you’re stepping out of a familiar formula, whereas ‘Too True’ feels like more of a hint of what’s to come.

    ‘Blank Time’ to me feels like the biggest outlier as far as our general vibe, and it was the last song that we recorded in the session. The demo I had was done, we could just put it into ProTools and work on top of that. It sometimes feels a little like cheating because this song is really different from most of our shit and not really representative of what we’re writing now, but it is fun to have as part of the project, being like, “Here’s what we’re capable of.” With ‘Too True’, that was an old song that I had been sitting on for a long time and wanted to release at some point. We had tried to learn it with Mana in the past, but it didn’t really stick at first. Working on it with Ben, he just made it come alive in a really major way. That really solidified the fact that I feel really confident being able to execute what I’m hearing with Ben, because he had worked on my solo albums in the past, and I’d always been super loved working with him, but we had never really delved into the louder, bigger side of things. Working on ‘Donut’ and ‘Too True’ definitely convinced me, going forward, we could totally make something heavier, more rock-forward work.

    The album that we just tracked – we tracked 10 new songs a couple of weeks ago, and we have some holdovers from the last session that’ll probably make it onto the album as well. But the new songs that we tracked, the vibe is definitely more alt-rock, heavier, not really in the poppy vein. It’s a lot of songs that I had written for Mana that haven’t been recorded yet, and when we were gearing up to do the Mana album, it was going to be a rock album, and this side project is poppy and fun. So we were like, well, now it’s all Wishy, but we still have all these like rock songs. We can just make a Wishy rock album, and it’ll still be poppy, and then when we do the next album, we can change it up. We already have the territory covered where it wouldn’t be totally crazy to change it up. So as far as what people can expect from the full-length, it’s gonna rock. It already rocks.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. 

    Wishy’s Paradise EP is out now via Winspear.

    Arts in one place.

    All our content is free to read; if you want to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date, click the button below.

    People are Reading