WRVU Unplugged: Without Vocals

     Maybe you’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bradley Wheaton. You might be aware that he’s a junior in Arts & Sciences, studying Sociology.  What you may not know is that Bradley is the creator and host of WRVU’s show Without Vocals. If you haven’t tuned in yet, get yourself in the mood by imagining this:

You’re driving alone through west Texas, heating lightning in the distance. 300 miles of nothing…somewhere between despair and unseen beauty, an epic expression of soul.

Now, Bradley’s job is to provide a soundtrack for your lonely voyage – and he knows exactly how.

Without Vocals is a post-rock show. For those of you familiar with the genre, feel free to move your eyes along to the next paragraph. For those who aren’t so sure they know what post-rock exactly is, I’ll help you out. Post-rock is kinda sorta similar to the larger genre of rock music (see: punk rock, folk rock, classic rock), which uses beaucoup electric guitars, electric bass guitars, and drums. However, rock music uses these instruments to facilitate a typical verse-chorus structure and lyrics (usually, not always) about love and heartbreak. On the other hand, post-rock focuses more on the instrumentals themselves. With post-rock, those same instruments facilitate intoxicating patterns of musical textures and tones. Still unclear? Check this out. Or this.

Think: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Rós, M83, This Will Destroy You, Mogwai, and Tortoise

According to Bradley, he was first introduced to post-rock music by a high school English teacher. “She would project an image up on the screen and play really these really inspiring sounds and she would ask us to just free write based on our reaction.” He later asked her about the specific artists she was choosing to play during class and once he went home and listened for himself, he “downloaded a fuck ton of it.”

Among a lot of other artists, he downloaded a whole lot of music  from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. He explains, “It’s like poetry. It doesn’t have a ton of lyrics. You don’t even necessarily need to know what they’re saying. It’s telling you something that’s not vocal.” I asked Bradley more about his interest in this band and he explained that, “If there was one band that I was going to collect all their records it would be Godspeed. [They have] really long and epic songs – beautiful and epic, depressing and weird, and scary. They don’t depend on anyone else for their style.”

With a long musical hiatus from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and a growing interest in other styles, after a couple of years, Bradley says he became a “regular hipster,” listening to a lot of indie and folk rock. He told me that, to this day, the music of Passion Pit, STRFKR, and Fleet Foxes represent him as a person more than anything else. It wasn’t really until college that he revisited his love for the post-rock genre. For Bradley, Without Vocals has become a source of both personal growth and reflection – allowing him to spend an hour each week to return to and explore the genre that so inspired him in the formation of his musical identity. 

Without Vocals isn’t just for Bradley’s own nostalgia. He wants to show people genres that they might not be typically exposed to. 

In the name of growth and exploration, Bradley made it clear to me that he isn’t interested in playing “just just post rock.” It’s true that you won’t hear electric rock, indie rock, or classic rock on his show; but you might hear songs that fall into the categories of experimental music, ambient music, soundscapes, or “weird clickety things.”

When I asked him what sort of people should listen to his show, Bradley responded by saying, “I would hope to reach people who were really into Pink Floyd in eighth grade and who felt like ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ changed their lives a little bit… but now they’re looking for something long and epic.”

Be sure to check out Bradley’s show on Fridays (today!) at 5pm CST — and if you like what you hear, take note that one of Bradley’s favorite bands, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, will be playing here in Nashville tomorrow night at Marathon Music Works.

Albums Bradley Says You Should Listen to:

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven — Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The Earth Is Not A Cold And Dead Place — Explosions in the Sky

Rest — Gregor Samsa 

In A Safe Place — The Album Leaf

any Sigur Rós album

& here’s a little something to help you out with that