Wavorly drew its first creative breath as a pop punk assemblage of college students from Tupelo, Mississippi called Freshmen 15. It wasn’t long, though, before vocalist Dave Stovall and bassist Matt Lott caught a grander vision for what their music and purpose could be. A few years of growth and evolution, some line-up changes and a couple hundred shows later, Wavorly bursts onto the national scene with their Flicker Records debut, Conquering The Fear of Flight, a sprawling modern rock masterpiece that blends elements of alternative, classic progressive rock, indie-rock and hard rock with highly literate lyrics, a boldly imaginative use of strings and a sublime sense of melody. In the league of other genre-stretching acts like Muse, My Chemical Romance, Mae and Switchfoot, Wavorly rocks with heart and mind intact.
Though the friends all entered school as fans of pop punk bands like Blink 182 and Relient K, their musical influences diversified significantly by the time they came out the other side. “I went in more of a rock/hardcore direction at one point,” Lott explains. “Then Dave was getting more into atmospheric pop artists like Coldplay.” The guys connected with guitarist Seth Farmer who was a long-time metalhead and drummer Jaime Hayes, a devotee of “crazy progressive music like Dream Theatre,” according to Lott. When they realized their road manager Ryan Coon, a big fan of Muse, could play keyboards he was drafted as well.
Stovall, the product of a heavily music-oriented family, started as an avid drummer at the age of five, before adding guitar skills in high school and chorus and piano in college. He majored in Music Education with an emphasis in percussion before embracing piano as his main instrument. “Because of majoring in music education,” Stovall says, “I took a lot of Music Theory and listened to a lot of classical music, and it definitely influenced my writing.”
Lott, who was literally taught bass by Stovall, serves as the primary lyricist for the band and as a multi-subject substitute teacher when he is home. “I like to make the lyrics easy to understand at first glance,” he admits. “But then if you read through them and listen to the whole song, I like the listener to figure out; ‘Wait, I think he’s saying something deeper here.”
Wavorly’s uniqueness settles across the listener with the first strains of their Rob Graves (RED) produced debut. Intricately arranged and immediately accessible strings and classical piano establish a darkly elegant waltz as the introduction to the album, before devolving into a pounding wall of guitars and drums. Stovall’s powerful vocals ride across the top of the churning, but consistently tuneful brew as he delivers lyrical images heavily colored by author and teacher C.S. Lewis. In fact, Lewis’ classic novel The Great Divorce, served as an influence on several of the disc’s songs, while his sense of imagination and heart deeply shaped the melodic and stylistic inspiration behind the band in general.
Lott enthusiastically admits to the overarching influence the Cambridge Master had on the band and on this album. “Two of the songs are specifically based on The Great Divorce,” he explains. “They describe the main character in this classic and the choice he is faced with to stay in hell or go to heaven.” The driving rocker “Endless Day” directly quotes the book with the line “a thin line of emerald green stretched tight as a fiddle-string.” Lott continues, “It’s about heaven being this amazing wide open place,” Lott shares. “But the song ‘Part One’ puts off a dismal, confused feeling representing his option to stay in hell.”
Lewis’ words were also specifically influential on the disc’s opening cut “Madmen,” but his sense of imagination and scope even influenced the arrangements, melodies and overall style of the disc. Stovall is also their resident Lewis aficionado. “I drew a lot of inspiration from my emotional response to his books,” he explains. “As a result, we found this rock / alternative sound with a sense of mystery and deep meaning.”
“Praise and Adore,” the soaring and instantly memorable lead single is not a worship song in the classic understanding of the term. “When I sat down to write it,” Stovall recalls, “I had no agenda. I wasn’t trying to write a song with the meaning it has. I was really just trying to write a song from my heart to God. From the title ‘Praise and Adore’ and the way it’s structured, it sounds like a praise song; however, the main point is not about praising God. It’s about how people can go their whole lives without ever knowing true life and having an abundance of it.” Lott continues, "It was originally titled 'Some Live Without it,'" he adds. “Sometimes we don't realize that a lot of people exist outside of that bubble in a real world of hurt and despair. We should be thankful and praise God that we have the opportunity to live our lives with the hope that He has given us and strive to help others see that hope."
Whether referring to the cascading melodies, the complex musicality, the artfully beautiful lyrics or the thematic orchestration, Wavorly is a richly layered musical experience that has both immediate “Wow” factor and long-term staying power. But as rich as the band’s creative vision is, their heart is buried deep into the belief that music can have a positive and life-changing effect on people’s lives in ways that really matter.