by Jane Roser
Something Wild duo guitarist/vocalist Mike Reisman and drummer Shelby Keller look like rock stars. They’ve got the attitude, the drive, the stage presence and they’re charming and funny to boot. What’s not to love?
Introduced by mutual friends in the summer of 2011, Reisman and Keller were booked to play a show at PJ Whelihans’s in Cherry Hill for a charity benefit organized by one of Reisman’s School Of Rock students. Their mutual respect and admiration for each other, along with an intense passion to create kick-ass music, led them to create their Philly-based band.
They first called themselves The Blak Sheep, but that “wasn’t original enough,” says Reisman, joking that “the hardest part of being in a band is not the writing or playing music or inner personal struggles, it’s coming up with a band name. It’s like people trying to decide what’s for dinner, but with boxing gloves and bull horns.”
The name Something Wild was spontaneous, Reisman wanted to use the word “wild” in the band’s name, “something that evoked that spirit and image. It’s so unhinged and unabashed and raw and that’s what we wanted to be. I said it has to be something…..hmmmm…wild.”
Keller grew up listening to her “jazz nut” grandpa’s records and she recalls that “he’d put on a record and say ‘just listen to that drummer!’ He collected drum sets and that’s what I started off on.” Reisman adds that Keller “hits hard,” to which Keller quietly and adorably quips, “I have a lot of anger.”
Reisman comes from a family of musicians. “So it wasn’t so much IS he going to play music, but WHEN? My grandpa was a world class cello player with the Philadelphia Orchestra. One of my earliest musical memories is sitting in my mom’s old station wagon and she used to play me Al Green, Queen and Michael Jackson. These albums really set the foundation for my love of music, especially Queen. I was only about three years old. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I wanted to make THAT sound, which turned out to be Brian May’s guitar.”
Reisman was a student at Cherry Hill’s School Of Rock and now he’s an accomplished guitar, vocal teacher and show director there. Along with unofficial bassist, Greg Dress, Something Wild has graced the stages of iconic local venues such as The Trocadero, Khyber Pass, World Cafe, Dobbs and Milkboy. “I love the sense of community in Philly,” says Keller, “It’s definitely the city of brotherly love, but it’s very tough to break into the Philly music scene.” Reisman adds, “The rock scene in Philly still feels very underground, but that’s also what I like about it.”
Their sound is eclectic and influenced mostly by rock, punk, blues, soul and Motown. “At our core, we’re definitely a rock band, “Reisman states, “but for me, nobody wrote a song like Smokey Robinson or sang it like Michael Jackson, there’s something to be said about the soul, the groove, the delivery. No one really had the same fire like the old guys did. If you’re not bringing it out from the inside, you’re just making sounds to make sounds.”
Although they will play covers of The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, Something Wild is an original band through and through. “The set list we played a year ago is almost completely different from what we play now,” says Reisman.
Currently in the process of recording their first EP, Something Wild has already released a single and an official video for their song ‘Give It Up.’ “It’s a shallow, catchy rock song,” Reisman says frankly, “because that’s what it’s meant to be. That’s what I wanted it to be.” The tracks on the upcoming EP will be more personal such as ‘Skin and Bones’. That song is “a lot more introspective,” says Reisman, “it’s more organic and raw. It’s very cinematic in that sense, too. But that song for me, in particular, is cathartic. It’s really getting something out when I sing that song.” Keller’s favorite track is a heavy drum and bass song entitled ‘The Right Vice’. “It shows our blend of styles best,” she says. The lyrics are fun and original, ‘I got a space generator, got a styrofoam crater, blew a hole in the sun. If I’m a bloodthirsty traitor, I’m a sweet serenader, yeah, I’m gettin’ it done.’
I mention a quote I found on their Facebook fan page that really stuck with me: “I want to be corrupted by music, not coddled by it.” Reisman elaborates how they are very disenchanted by a lot of bands today, how some just seem so “subdued, it’s this ironic smugness, this thing where ‘I don’t have to be having fun with my music or enjoying myself’. Music is a visceral thing, it’s primal and if they don’t feel it , then I don’t feel it. It’s like watching a little black and white art house film of a couple having a picnic versus Gladiator. Keller adds, “it’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone is having a good time or else you haven’t done your job.”
Reisman uses Muse and Queen as an example, “their music is passionate, it makes you feel something. It feels like the singer is digging into the deepest part of his gut and ripping notes out. So many bands now are warbling and they’re too cool to be passionate about something.”
Something Wild will be hitting the road and moving to the Big Apple come 2014, so if you live in the Philly area, you should get jiggy with it and catch a show now. Upcoming tours will still include New York, Delaware and DC, but the band is ready to take a few risks, hit the ground running and just like ‘Easy Rider’ are born to be wild.