Band To Watch: Wishy
There’s nothing wishy-washy about Wishy. Indianapolis singer-songwriters Kevin Krauter and Nina Pitchkites are magnets of indelible melodies and purveyors of beatific dream pop — the kind that pairs perfectly with the crackles and pops of a cassette player and implants a desire to briefly shapeshift into a flowy-haired nymph and twirl around. Given their hook-stuffed, pirouette-worthy songcraft, it should come as no surprise that this isn’t Krauter and Pitchkites’ first rodeo. Krauter has released two breezy soft-rock solo albums on Bayonet Records, in addition to work with Indiana guitar groups Hoops, Matrix, and Sacred Copy, and Pitchkites has made wispy electro-pop under the name Push Pop. Joined together as Wishy, their smudged yet crisp songs emit a balmy glow — one that’s led to a record deal with Winspear and sent them on tour with like-minded artist Tanukichan. The band’s new Paradise EP, out today, celebrates their bewitching chemistry and sonic versatility — embodying both the sweet scrappiness of Velocity Girl and the towering sheen of ’00s and ’90s radio pop.
Krauter and Pitchkites share songwriting duties — writing almost totally separately, often from their cars — and lead vocal roles, and in a live setting, their lineup is filled out by guitarist Dimitri Morris (also of 81355), bassist Mitch Collins (also of Tony), and drummer Conner Host (also of Pat and the Pissers), resulting in a triple-guitar attack, which helps to capture their full splendor. As a matter of fact, you may have come across Wishy’s catchy, swirled pop before and not even realized it. In the early days, the band went by Mercury, but later changed their name to Mana to avoid confusion with an up-and-coming Nashville artist. This past June, Mana released a self-titled EP — the grittier, groovier and more brooding first seed of Wishy — which calls to mind the gauzy, funky pop of Chapterhouse.
While Mana were still active, the duo went to Los Angeles to record with producer/drummer Ben Lumsdaine (Durand Jones, Daniel Villarreal) for fun, but the resulting handful of songs excited them. Initially, they thought about forming a side project called Wishy to put out these freshly recorded tracks — until they realized having two guitar pop projects with both Krauter and Pitchkites as primary songwriters didn’t make much sense. Thus, Mana was absorbed by Wishy and the previously released Mana EP was brought under the Wishy umbrella. This merging of projects also allowed them to steer clear of a potential moniker conflict with the uber-popular Mexican group Maná — knock on wood and say a prayer to the moon that no baby-faced, TikTok-famous teen suddenly blows up with music under the name Wishy.
In case their enchanting connection in Wishy wasn’t an indication of longtime ties, Krauter and Pitchkites go way back. They attended the same Indiana high school, where Krauter’s younger sister and Pitchkites were friends. “When we were in high school together, Kevin was in a group of friends that I wanted to be in, because I thought they were so cool — and I kind of was, but I wasn’t in their grade,” Pitchkites recalls. “I always thought Kevin was super cool and talented. I always joked that his family was like the von Trapp family from The Sound Of Music because Kevin has six other siblings, and they’re all mega-talented in various ways.”
Eventually, they became part of the same friend group in Bloomington while Pitchkites was in college at IU and Krauter was playing in his then-band Hoops. “When we were down in Bloomington, hanging out in the same circle of people, I was like ‘Oh, Nina’s dope. I always figured Nina was dope,'” Krauter says. “Turns out she’s sick as fuck and funny and cool, and her music’s tight. We actually talked about starting a band before she moved to Philly that never ended up happening, just because I was in Indy, and she was still in Bloomington.”
One of the things the pair bonded over was their love of English dream pop outfit the Sundays. Wishy are floatier and not quite as jangly as the Sundays, but it’s easy to understand why they gravitated towards the music of Harriet Wheeler and co. “I don’t know too many people who idolize the Sundays as much as we do,” Pitchkites says. “I think Kevin’s one of the only people who I can bond with over twee pop and jangle pop, especially when Indy has a huge hardcore punk community and that’s kind of the soul — the juice that drives the Indianapolis music scene. So it’s just nice that we had that in common.”
“The way the singer of the Sundays crafts melodies and moves her voice around is something we both geek out on really hard,” Krauter says. “Ever since I heard Nina’s solo music, I was just like ‘Literally fuck yes. That’s exactly what I want to hear. I would love to make some shit together.'”
Like the Sundays, they lean on a sparkly acoustic guitar sound, but Wishy are also noisier, often coupling distorted electric squalls with pretty acoustic tenderness. “When I discovered acoustic guitar and fuzzy guitar mixed together in a song, I was just like, ‘This is it. I’m doing this forever,'” Krauter says. Wishy was partially born out of a desire to step away from their respective solo projects and be part of a group — and not just any group, but a loud one.
“I was just feeling — not exactly jaded — but wigged out a little bit by having a project with my name tied to it, my face and feeling like it’s kind of all on my shoulders,” Krauter explains. “And also feeling like there’s these other avenues I want to explore that I don’t know if I feel confident making an album that sounds totally different from my last one.”
Pitchkites was on a similar wavelength, feeling somewhat burnt out by her solo work. “I definitely became jaded during the pandemic,” Pitchkites says. “I was trying to push my own music really hard, and then I started doing these virtual shows because I was like, ‘I need to do anything and everything to put myself out there.’ But it obviously grew increasingly harder to do that, and I realized I didn’t like doing virtual shows. It didn’t feel sincere, and so I kind of stepped away from it, and I didn’t even really play music for almost a year.”
Both were itching to crank up the volume and have more fun on stage — especially Krauter, who was also seeking something different artistically — and Wishy provided the perfect opportunity. “I got really bored of playing soft indie music,” Krauter says. “Hoops was a little more upbeat, but my solo stuff was more soft and tender, and after a while, I just got so bored of singing quietly and having this subdued vibe, where I was just like ‘Man, I want to fucking rock out with a band.'”
Five songs that sprung from the duo’s two trips to Los Angeles make up the tracklist of their Paradise EP. It’s a deviation from the Mana EP’s lo-fi vocals and drum-machine grooves, as it blooms with a smoother, distinctly ’00s and ’90s pop flair. “Spinning” — which was originally released by Push Pop — has a subtle Michelle Branch-ness, with its lofty vocal moments and intoxicating sunshine, while the swoon-worthy R&B-pop chorus of “Blank Time” recalls a lost ’90s boy band classic or a deep cut from the 1975. But there’s also the foggy, pacifying pop of “Paradise” and the throttling shoegaze of “Donut” — the latter of which is considerably more punishing than anything on the Mana EP — which open Paradise with a generous helping of wiggly distortion and noodling melodies. Then, the EP ends on a satisfying note with “Too True,” a happy medium between murky, squealing guitars and delectable radio pop melodies that make you want to sing into your hairbrush in front of a mirror.
Although dream pop is often characterized by abstract lyricism, Wishy sprinkle in lines that paint evocative, specific scenes of personal significance. On “Donut,” Pitchkites sings about a failed romance (“I never even went in your car”), an unexpected moment of intimacy (“I threw up upside down/ You touched my forehead/ Touched my insides”) and America’s maddening reliance on cars (“Don’t follow me/ I’m fine but I’m driving on a donut”). And later on “Spinning,” Pitchkites muses on the beauty of mundane spontaneity (“Spinning around on the kitchen floor/ I don’t know what I’m dancing for”) and honest self-reflection (“I didn’t know me then/ I don’t know me now”). Krauter’s songs are less tangible, but no less stirring. On “Too True,” Krauter recounts the morphing of a relationship with someone they once lionized. “Too true I wanted to be like you/ Wanted to reverse myself/ Tough break all the hell that I created/ Finally pouring out my mouth,” Krauter sings on the power of self-growth and forgiveness.
Wishy are currently working on their debut album, which will include unreleased tracks from their Los Angeles sessions as well as songs initially intended for Mana’s eventual full-length. Guitarist/songwriter Steve Marino (Angel Du$t, Jacky Boy) was also present during those LA sessions, and though none of the songs Marino co-wrote with Krauter and Pitchkites appear on Paradise, those collaborations will surface on Wishy’s first LP. Like the duo’s compatible songwriting partnership, Marino’s addition practically feels fated.
“Steve is really awesome,” Krauter says. “He’s a fucking homie. He, Nina, and I really all connect on that ’90s, ’00s radio pop, Michelle Branch, the Sundays, stuff like that, so the songs we wrote together reflect that … And that was one of the first times I’d been in a session where the three of us had guitars out and were like, ‘Alright, what lyrics should we put here? Here’s how the melody goes. Should we change these lyrics up?'”
Everything about Wishy is rooted in friendship. From Paul Cherewick (aka Paul Cherry), who plays keys on Paradise, to Mark Tester (also an esteemed ambient electronic musician), who frequently books Wishy at Indianapolis’ beloved Near Eastside bar and underground music hub, State Street Pub, Krauter and Pitchkites gush just as enthusiastically about their friends as they do about the music that brought them together. “It’s just cool how everything we’ve done — our recording, mixing, even our label — we are all either friends or from Indiana or both,” Pitchkites says.
“The inspiration for this band was mostly like, ‘I want to make some loud, fun, pop-y, hard-hitting, hooky, compelling music to play for my friends,'” Krauter says. “When I envisioned this band, my first thought was playing at State Street, like, ‘I can’t wait to play this song with the band at State Street and have all the homies there and impress my friends.'”
When Wishy aren’t busy crafting hooks that fall deliciously between C86 and early aughts MTV pop-rock, they’re basking in each other’s presence — savoring every joke, acting as each other’s hype people and possibly even emulating a charming, fictitious motley crew of treasure-hunting pirates. “I’ve been watching this show One Piece, and it’s about this pirate crew,” Krauter says. “They’re all best friends, and they face unbelievable odds and always overcome them through the power of love and friendship, and I really feel like that’s what our band is like. We’re just the best team — and we love each other.”
Paradise is out now via Winspear.