Technically, Warey’s first gig was last summer. However, James Everest points to the final few gigs in 2011 by the defunct band Roma di Luna as the group’s unofficial start.
RdL’s members had to fulfill a handful of booking commitments without one of their two leaders. “We had to figure out some things on the fly and develop some songs that hadn’t been fully formed, and under the unfortunate circumstances it went well,” recalled Everest, the bassist in both bands.
Born on that improvisational and collaborative approach — along with the friendships that made them good bandmates in the first place — Warey came to light in recent months through a series of gigs at Icehouse leading up to the penultimate slot in Saturday’s Best New Bands of 2014 showcase at First Avenue.
Of course, these musicians aren’t exactly “new.” Also an alum of Lateduster and the Sensational Joint Chiefs, Everest figures he has performed at three previous Best New Bands installments.
After her split from co-leader Alexei Moon Casselle led to the abrupt end of Roma di Luna, singer Channy Leaneagh started a little band called Poliça, which spent the past three years bouncing around the world playing festivals and winning international acclaim. Despite her busy schedule, the icy-voiced siren said she was eager to start writing and recording with Warey when she finally had the chance.
“There is a level of comfort and trust that comes with years of playing together through the good and bad times of the past 10 years,” she said.
Everest and the other two members of Warey, guitarist Ben Durrant and drummer Ryan Lovan, stayed close and cozy musically in the interim. They eventually formed the instrumental group the Grave Trio and became the backing band for experimental Duluth singer/songwriter Toby Thomas Churchill, one of many acts to record at Durrant’s Crazy Beast Studio in recent years.
Last winter, Leaneagh informally joined one of the Grave Trio’s rehearsals to improvise some song ideas.
“The chemistry was obviously still there,” Durrant recalled. “There’s something that feels very familial when we play music together, and it was something we all really missed.”
No one wanted to cover old musical territory, though. Warey sounds almost as different from Roma di Luna as it does from Poliça. Ditching the former’s earthy, folksy approach and the latter’s futuristic, electronic grind, the new band explores more of an atmospheric and elegant, mellow but not light soundscape, with echoey guitar work and crescendoing drums.
One clear delineation from Poliça: Leaneagh set aside her Helicon vocal processor and uses only minimal effects on her voice.
“Naturally, it’s good to not sound the same or dance the same dance in different projects,” said Leaneagh, who believes each band will complement the other creatively. (Poliça has started working on its third record.)
“[It’s] always good to challenge yourself creatively and search for new inspirations that might be hiding in a dusty corner of your rib cage — especially if your job depends on staying creative and inspired.”
Leaneagh was in her early 20s and just starting to learn her trade when she started playing with the band.
“They feel like my brothers,” she said, “and I [still] learn from them with every practice and show.”
Her bandmates are learning as much from her now, Everest said: “She always had the talent, but she’s a lot more confident now. She has a clearer vision of what she wants and really works on things collaboratively, which is important in this band.”
After more formal songwriting sessions and a few more gigs — including a coming-out set as Warey during the Totally Gross National Product party at Icehouse in August — the band recently headed to northern Minnesota for recording sessions at Rich Mattson’s rural Sparta Studio. Their debut release is tentatively planned for late spring.
“Something just kicks in when we play together, which comes from having so many years of playing together already,” Everest said. “I’m sure we’ll have many more.”