What: The Daredevil Christopher Wright
Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 First Ave.
When: Sunday, April 22
Over the past few years, Eau Claire, Wis., has experienced a musical renaissance of sorts. Bon Iver, the project of Eau Claire-native Justin Vernon, has received worldwide attention and acclaim, bringing acknowledgement to a bunch of other bands from his hometown. Or at least that’s how it looks from the outside.
Jon Sunde, who started the experimental folk trio, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, with his brother Jason while at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has a slightly different view.
“It’s been a really fascinating thing to be a part of. It might feel huge from an outside — the scene perspective — and it kind of is, but at the same time, it’s not like the world has completely changed,” Sunde said. “It’s easy to build it into a bigger, more dramatic story than it feels like it is from the inside. It’s not that it is untrue, but the romance of that idea takes on a life of its own a little bit.”
Whether Eau Claire is the world stage that certain stories or popular opinion have made it out to be, it is definitely home to a strong music community. It played a big role in the crafting of The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s last LP, “In Deference to a Broken Back.”
“In the studio, you can be bigger than your parts and do things you can’t do live. So with ‘Deference’ we had this notion where we would try to do everything,” Sunde said. “We invited a lot of friends to play, sing and arrange stuff on the record. It was great.”
The sound on that album was big, emotional, direct and intense. Subject matter was at times heavy, with songs about death, cancer and war. And on it, the levels of gravity are often matched volume, with Sunde often invoking a Mountain Goats-like, shout-over raucous; uniquely arranged folk rock. After its release, it seemed like The Daredevil Christopher Wright would only get bigger and louder, but “Divorce,” the first single off of their forthcoming album, “The Nature of Things,” undoes that notion completely.
“Over the past couple years, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that I like quiet music. With this record, we were trying to change things up and grow — kind of tighten the arrangements more than on stuff we’ve done previously. And I think the product is a step forward for us,” Sunde said. “Everything is a little closer and more intimate. It was an organic move. It was happening in the writing we were doing anyway, so we decided to really own it.”
“Divorce” is definitely proof of a change in sound. The arrangement is unassuming but lush, and Sunde’s vocal melodies go on several unexpected and captivating runs. He and the rest of The Daredevil Christopher Wright will bring this new sound, and maybe some of the old sound, to the 7th Street Entry this Sunday.
Even if the sound is changing considerably, Sunde’s impressive knack for lyric writing and his particular approach to storytelling with his songs has not.
“Some of the most melodramatic and unfortunate singer-songwriter music tries to bite off more than it can chew, like, if they write a love song they’ll talk about all that love is or something,” Sunde said. “But the opposite is much more effective. If you can pinpoint one story or focus, it actually has a broader appeal. I love art that does that.”
But there is a certain comfort in songwriting that deals in generalities. The rewards of it may be minimal, but so are the risks. Sunde, who tells powerful and singular stories, sometimes struggles with the possible ramifications of his approach.
“It is nerve-racking. A few of the songs on the new record are outside my experience. I don’t know about divorce or methamphetamine — I’ve known people that have struggled with both but I’ve never done so myself — so I do wonder if I have the right to speak to these situations,” Sunde said. “I don’t want to disrespect anyone by not telling it correctly. I don’t think I’ve done that, but you get a little nervous about it anyway. But the more honest, humble and reflective you can be, the better the songs work. So being a little nervous is a good way to feel about your art. It means you are pushing something in a different direction.”