Interview: Wild Child

New Sounds writer Eoghan Lyng went backstage at a Wild Child gig, and met up with guitarist Alexander Beggins. The interview occurred on January 17th, 2024.

“I play ukulele, and guitar, and I sing,” Alexander Beggins explains. “I’m one of the founding songwriters with Kelsey. We founded the band back in 2010.” Beggins and I are sitting in the “Green Room”, and although he’s tired – the band only arrived in Dublin a couple of days earlier – he’s clearly excited for the tour he’s about to embark on. “I think this is our third time here,” he giggles. “I want to say we’ve played this venue before [The Grand Social], but it’s all a bit of a blur. We really like Ireland, and always have.” 

Both musicians share family roots in Ireland, and consider the island a place of constant pilgrimage. Beggins seems relaxed, so I ask him how he met Kelsey Wilson. Beggins breathes in, as if to relax himself into the memory. 

“We got hired to be backing musicians for a band from Copenhagen called The Migrant,” Beggins says. “So, we met a couple of days before that.” In an effort to pass the time away, the duo elected to write some songs together, and had completed a “whole record worth of songs” in little over a month. “We released it, and that was our first album: Pillow Talk.” 

“We have been going through musicians for the last fourteen years,” he continues. “I think we’ve been going through musicians of upwards to, gosh, upwards to twenty,twenty-five members.” This latest iteration strips it all back to the bare basics – Beggins&Wilson are joined by only one other musician, John Calvin Abney, for this tour. “John is doing it with us, and I’m kind of doing dual duties with ukulele and guitar. Kelsey’s singing, and it’s been a treat.” 

Prior to their arrival in Ireland, this lineup performed a “few shows” in the States, freeing them to harness their sound. “It’s something new for us,” he chuckles. I ask him what his influences are with some level of trepidation, but he’s happy to answer the question. “Kelsey loves soul, and Aretha Franklin, and she loves a lot of old records,” Beggins says. “I’m kind of more modernly influenced: Indie bands like Kooks and Arctic Monkeys.” It’s this mélange that makes them what they are, and Beggins feels that the differences are a real strength. “By the time our songs are done, they have some unique qualities because they’ve been pulled from different places.” 

I ask if anyone has compared the pair to Eurythmics. He laughs it off, but he can see the comparison. “I think it’s kind of obvious,” he chuckles. Well, if he knocks that down he might not be happy if I ask if he’s a Lennon or a McCartney. “I’m a McCartney,” he replies. That was easy!

“I’ve thought about this at great length. I think [McCartney’s] songs speak to me..[mumbles]…Such ethereal pop hooks, and they personally speak to me.” And then he arrives at the zinger: “I hate the song: ‘Imagine’.” 

Considering the plodding piano line, and the flimsy, fanciful tone of the song, I think I’m with Beggins on that one. Beggins is sitting beside a copy of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, a sci-fi novel Abney recommended to him. The feeling backstage is that the band are relaxed, which is confirmed later in the night when the band take requests from their audience. Clearly, this is a band that thrives on spontaneity. 

He says he’s not a complete anglophile, considering that he devoured The Strokes as a younger man, and worked with Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla on their fourth album. “[We’re] constantly evolving,” he says, but he always returns to his formative influences. I decide to bring up 10cc,a band that featured songwriters Kevin Godley & Lol Creme, two men who brought their own distinctive perspective to the songs they were working on. Is this the same for Wild Child? 

“In the beginning, it was a case of us sitting down, and [we’d] just write; see what happens. We’d sit on the bedroom, and I’d play what riffs I had. She’d say, ‘I like that,’ or, ‘I like that.’Then, we’d go from there.” Abney worked as a third writer on their most recent album,  End of the World, offering a “fresh perspective” to the proceedings. “Kelsey has a really magical ear for melody,” Beggins beams, while he is responsible for the “riff” hunts. 

They are preparing themselves for a trip up North. Belfast is the next on the agenda. “Over here, everything is new and exciting, and get acquainted with the cities,” Beggins explains. He says he enjoys being around Irish people, although he confesses he isn’t a U2 fan (“I don’t know if that’s blasphemous,” he cackles.) Unlike his geography, he isn’t sure where the music will bring them next. “We kind of got burned out to the ground [in 2020],” he sighs. By the end of the pandemic, Wild Child were ready to release new music. “Happy to be here now,” he says. The music will find them when it’s ready to. Which makes sense, as Beggins is a disciple of Robbie Robertson’s. 

He has a rough setlist, although Wild Child are open to requests from the fans (the band admit that they haven’t performed some of the choices in years, but this adds to the ramshackled fun.) “Rolling with the punches,” he smiles. Beggins is handy on the ukulele, but don’t expect a George Formby from the man (“We’re not doing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” he laughs.) 

So, this is “peel back the curtain”: “What we hear the first time, and staging ground zero for the songs.” He says their early stuff “was a lot of fucking around,” stating that he likes the “nonsense” and “shitty is pretty” mentalities. Wilson belongs on the stage, but Beggins admits he could “take or leave the stage .” “Brian Wilson is a great example,” he says. “The older I’ve gotten, the more I relate to him [and working in the studio].” 

That reminds me of a Johnny Marr quote: He preferred the studio, whereas Morrissey was born for the stage. “I get that,” Beggins says. “It’s what feeds your soul, or makes you tick.” It’s time for one last question: Ireland, or the UK? “Ireland,” Beggins smiles. 

New Sounds heard it first!

Photo Credit: Megan Buse