Somewhere in Australia, before they were a band called Wanderers, drummer Matt Birkin and guitarist Dusty Lee Stephensen met onstage at an open jam session in 2014. They decided to make a record, and, along with “other guys known from playing around the local scene”,they’ve been making soulful music with a retro vibe ever since.
“Originally the band was called ‘Dusty Lee’s Wasted Wanderers’,” says Stephensen, who also serves as lead vocalist, adding that in an effort to “downsize his ego”, they shortened the name to Wasted Wanderers. “Which was fine for a while, but there were many assumptions that we might be a punk band or that we were alcoholics, whereas the intention behind the name was that we were genre-less, and trying to find a direction as a band, or in life, who knows,” he says. “But after a while it seemed fitting to just drop it to Wanderers. Because if there’s one name that’s gonna be real easy to Google it’s one that is shared by countless sports teams the world over!” he says.
Stephensen classifies their vintage sound as: “Your favorite albums from Dad’s record collection, that you only listen to while he’s out because you don’t want him to know you think it’s cool. It’s a bit of everything really. Funk, soul, neo-soul, disco, fuzzy guitars, sax lines, harmonies… it’s all the shit we like to hear on records, put into our own music in whatever way we sit fit.”
In January they released their self-titled EP, showcasing their signature ‘70s almost-not-quite disco groove combined with, as Stephensen puts it, “catchy hooks and big choruses”. As with so many bands, the album’s projected 2020 release was delayed.
“We started making an album here in Australia, then went to the USA at the end or 2019 and began striking up a deal to instead record at Foo Fighters HQ (Studio 606) in L.A., to only find ourselves rescheduling over and over again during the first year of the pandemic, eventually icing it completely,” Stephensen explains. “That was a bitter pill to swallow so after some deep breaths and screaming into our pillows, we dusted off the record we started making before the detour, whilst recording a couple of new songs written during our time in LA and during the beginning of the pandemic. So, the songs on this record actually span about 4 years. The process was really reflective of the way the world had been operating at the time. Fitting in studio sessions in between lockdowns, recording and re-recording vocals at my home studio, bouncing and sending sessions to other members to do their parts. It was actually pretty unreal hearing it all come together. I think it helps that at the core of every track is still just us in the room jamming. We managed to get all our bed tracks done live and they really set the foundation.” You can catch Wanderers next week at SXSW.
Here’s a day in the life of Dusty Lee Stephenson of Wanderers.
Date February 21, 2022
Time I woke up 7:00 a.m.
Every day starts with Me darting up thinking I’m late for something, but I only am some of the time.
Breakfast consists of Coffeeeee.
To get going I always Play the piano in my lounge room, gets the creative juices flowing, but then I realize by that point I am actually late for something, for real. Which gets me going even more.
I don’t feel dressed without Clothes on.
Before I start working I must Have another coffee, go for a run.
Currently working on This interview.
But I’d really love to be Playing squash.
Book I’m reading The Alchemist.
I don’t know how anyone ever Gave me up, let me down, ran around and deserted me.
If I had to play one album on repeat, it would be Tough call! Probably a Beatles album, so many flavors, they got it all covered. Abbey Road, White Album, Sgt. Pepper’s. I’ll draw one of those out of a hat and be happy.
The perfect midday consists of Depends on the day. But seeing as I normally skip breakfast, a decent feed involving avocado and halloumi is a safe bet.
To help get through the day I need Reminders set for every single thing that’s slightly out of the ordinary. Deadlines will not be made otherwise!
Not a day goes by without speaking to My five-year-old daughter Etta…Lesley, my love, and Sian our manager, she gets it done, keeps me in check. Some real decent women in my life.
My daydreams consist of Playing music all around the world without the worry of COVID.
In a perfect day, in a perfect world I’d be having a jam with Jimi Hendrix.
I’ll always fight for Truth.
Currently in love with These crisps called Harvest snaps, essentially snap frozen snow peas that are salty and stupidly addictive. They’re basically just air and MSG, but heck they’re good.
Hoping to make time to watch Hanging for the new series of Peaky Blinders.
By my bedside I always have A slide and some pics, which I often forget to grab before gigs.
To help get through the night I try to sleep.
Bed time Internal monologue goes “Don’t look at your phone” then phone goes DING with an email and I’m right there, stimulating my retinas with its evil glow, seemingly disabling my ability to sleep for the next hour or so. You win this time Steve Jobs, but I’m building the strength to look away, I swear!
When I think about tomorrow, it’s always I hope I wake up in time for that thing I gotta do.