Wayne Graham

Shows at the Purple Fiddle

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Wayne Graham has gained a reputation as one of the best bands shaping the New Appalachian
Sound that includes acts such as Tyler Childers, John R. Miller, The Local Honeys, and others
who are making music that is shaped by tradition but intentionally set on also forging a new
sonic landscape. Wayne Graham has long been at the forefront of the movement. Their
innovative new album, Ish, is bound to broaden their audience and firmly establish them as one
of the architects of this vibrant movement in new music coming out of the hills.
Wayne Graham is a four-piece band named for the grandfathers of the core members, brothers
Kenny and Hayden Miles, who have been together as an official group for a dozen years and
have been playing together since they were children. They’re joined by Lee Owen on lead guitar
and auxiliary synth parts, and Jose Oreta playing bass. Wayne Graham is well known for their
exhilarating live shows, which have created a devoted following. The band centers on the
collaboration between the brothers, whose onstage chemistry and familial instinct is matched
only by their vocal harmonies. The key to their success is a mutual desire to boost each other’s
best. “I genuinely want to assist in bringing Hayden’s vision forth, and I think he feels the same
way,” Kenny says.

The Miles brothers grew up in a musical family and community that made playing accessible to
them from a young age. “I was never intimidated to pick up an instrument and try because so
many relatives dabbled in everything,” Kenny says. “It was a passion and hobby long before it
was a profession.” They also found church to be a formative part of their music. Hayden got his
first drum set when he was nine and started playing at church a couple years later. Kenny was
around the same age when he started to play bass guitar with the main intention of backing up his
father during church services. “We would play with friends from time to time, but church felt
more professional and put together,” Hayden says. “Our dad was also our band leader, so we
wanted to make him happy with what we played. It was a large education, as far as listening to
know what to play and how to stay out of the way on your instrument.”
Hayden believes being raised in Appalachia is also foundational for their sound, mostly because
of family bonds, but also because it is a more sonically eclectic place that most people think.
“People try to sum up Appalachia with one word or one idea all the time, but it’s a complex
region full of different people. We never wanted to be an old time band. We didn’t want the
music we made to be defined by our region or the kind of music people might think comes out of
Appalachia.” Growing up near Whitesburg, Kentucky, which has cultivated a vivid hardcore and
punk scene over the past couple decades, also helped them to think more complexly about their
own sound. “I think part of that comes from a need to express ourselves as something different or
more out of the typical box people might have in mind about the region,” Hayden says.

Ish is their eighth studio album. The record first grew out of a series of drum beats that Hayden
recorded, to which Kenny wrote chord progressions. They fleshed out the songs together with
the lyrics coming late in the process. The result is eleven songs that are mostly joint
compositions exploring the concept of a fall from grace, whether that be ideas of sin or obscure
theories about the concept. The brothers think of the album as mostly exploring how we define
good and bad in our culture and for ourselves. “Good for one being can mean terror for another,”
Kenny says. Another inspiration is the story of Lilith, Adam’s first partner who left the Garden of
Eden after refusing to obey his commands. The title of the record, Ish, is the alternate name they
gave to Lilith. “Ish means to me a sort of state of being,” Hayden says. “I’ve joked before that if
I could assign myself a nickname, it would be ‘ish’, just because I don’t feel like I’m strongly
one way or another. I’m always in between.” It’s an experimental theme and the music matches,
taking the band in new directions while staying true to the signature sound of catchy
guitar-and-drum-driven melodies. That’s all anchored by Kenny’s smooth, lead vocals that can
amble about low and knowing or reach high and full of longing.

“ish means to me a sort of state of being. i’ve joked before that if i could assign myself a
nickname, it would be ish, just because i don’t feel like im strongly one way or another. im
always in between. im always ish, in between this or that.”
They always knew they wanted the sound of this album to be bigger than previous ones. “We
wanted it to feel deeper and more expansive,” Kenny says. The resulting sound is “folks songs
with an experimental rock and roll treatment,” according to Kenny. Influences on the album
range from Talk Talk, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, David Bowie, Warren Zevon, and the
Grateful Dead.
Like all of their albums, Ish provides a mediative, foot-tapping groove that can simultaneously
put the listener at ease while also making them completely aware of the combination of precise
lyrics and skilled instrumentation. Danceable even while they’re existential. Ish is a true album
in that a narrative unfolds when listened to from beginning to end, yet each song stands
completely on its own, providing multiple earworms in melodies that are almost instantly
knowable. Ish is the kind of album that is perfect to put on while going for a long drive through
the countryside or on the record player at home for chilling out. But it’s also a careful
exploration full of profound longing, a recording that is rife with great beats and riffs yet also
satisfying to someone looking at the world more philosophically. That’s Wayne Graham: fun to
listen to, but also reflective, always providing songs that are easy to sing along with even as they
are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Ish is an important new album from one of our best and
most reliable bands.