Speed The Pilgrim’s Uncommon Sound Sets Them Apart

The Casper-based band joined KHOL at Treefort to discuss their unique brand of melodic space rock and overcoming the tragic loss of a fallen band member.
Speed The Pilgrim are a melodic space rock band from Casper, Wyoming. (Left to right: Travis Winchell, Josh Wolfson and John Posten) (Jack Catlin/KHOL)

by | Oct 20, 2021 | Local Music, Music

The Casper, Wyoming, based band Speed The Pilgrim’s music is an eclectic mix uncommon in the Cowboy State.  The band was one of six bands to hit The Hideout Stage at Wyoming Art Council’s Wyoming Showcase during the recent Treefort Music Festival in Boise.

Lead singer and guitarist Josh Wolfson and bassist Travis Winchell joined KHOL Music Director Jack Catlin on the day after their set to discuss their unique brand of melodic space rock, the music scene in Casper and overcoming the tragic loss of a fallen band member.

Listen above for more and check out a transcript of the interview below.

KnewJack: Alright, this is KnewJack, the music director at KHOL, 89.1 FM in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, coming to you live from the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho. I’m here with Speed The Pilgrim, who performed yesterday here as part of the Wyoming Showcase, put on by the Wyoming Arts Council. Sitting across from me is Josh Wolfson and Travis Winchell. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Well, for listeners who are new to your music, can you tell us more about your sound?

Travis Winchell: Indie rock, I guess, would be the blanket to throw over it. We’re big fans of the Pixies and Built To Spill, who we saw yesterday.

Josh Wolfson: I like to just say rock and roll, but yeah, I think indie rock would probably be spacey. A lot of reverb.

KnewJack: In your bio, it states, ‘Speed The Pilgrim makes melodic space rock that fuses intelligent indie pop with soaring guitars and an unconventional rhythm section.’ With so much Americana, bluegrass and folk music in Wyoming, how does it feel to be providing a different perspective, offering something unique to your community in Casper?

Josh: You know, I don’t know. I’ve never talked to like one of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos, but I would imagine that like we might have, I would imagine that we could like sort of really vibe. I think that like it sometimes feels very isolating a little bit, you know, you have a lot of Americana. And then in Casper, you have a probably a pretty vibrant sort of metal or punk scene. And I feel like we’re sort of float in some sort of world that sort of outside of all of that. Whenever, whenever there’s another band that’s even partially indie rock in the area, it’s almost like, it’s like, Well, let’s be please, let’s be friends. God, we could use some friends.

KnewJack: So you mentioned the metal scene, but what is the general music scene there in Casper, Wyoming? Can you touch on that for us?

Josh: I mean, I think that it’s probably a lot of metal. I would say metal and punk rock and then country. So you have a lot of like classic country, you know, people who are like listening to like a contemporary country and listening to bands that would be played on contemporary country. And then you have a lot of like either guys that like tuned down to like drop C sort of tunings of like the metal. And then you have punk that’s like, you know, just like as fast as you can go again. So we’re sort of like operating in a little bit of a different world than all that.

Travis Winchell: A fun part of Wyoming though is that there are so few musician communities that we all support each other. I mean, we’ve played on so many bills with like heavy bands and country bands and everyone like the crowd’s embrace all of it. We all are friends with these drastically different styles of music. I think that’s what makes part of the Wyoming music community so special is that we do work so well together.

Josh Wolfson: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I think that if we were a band that was set up in a bigger city, we would have only hung out with bands, you know, with similar sort of tastes. And I think it’s probably helped us grow as musicians or as people to be interacting with some of I mean, we share a practice space, for example, with his band that like plays really, really heavy, sort of grimy punk rock almost like anti music, music and like. Again, those are some my really, really good friends. I probably would not have had those guys as my friends if we were living in Denver or something like that or Salt Lake.

KnewJack: Yeah, it’s nice. It forces you to be more open minded and, you know, accepting of different styles and genres and approaches to music. So how does it feel to be representing Wyoming at a bigger festival like Treefort here in Boise?

Travis Winchell: Oh, it’s terrific. It’s quite the opportunity to to get our music out there and meet some new people. Maybe make some new fans, make some new friends for sure, and kind of represent the state we all grew up in.

Josh Wolfson: Well, I also think it’s cool because, you know, we can hopefully provide a little, you know, show that like there. I think maybe in a lot of people’s minds, if they were to think of a Wyoming band, they would think of maybe a band with like a pedal steel guitar or something like that, like a country or Americana band. And so I think it’s kind of cool to be able to be like, no, we’re like some sort of space rock indie band from a blue collar oil town in the middle of the state.

KnewJack: On your latest album, Old Rollers, the track Valley Kids struck a nerve for me personally as it touches on those patchwork memories of a past life coming back to the front of your mind. Venice beers in the Sun, surf wax melting, Dodge’s on the AM, et cetera. It’s almost a love letter to Los Angeles, where I lived for a very long time. Can you tell us what your creative process is when gaining inspiration, constructing a song, an album, etc.?

Josh Wolfson: Well, I mean, I think that a lot of them just come out of strumming a guitar somewhat vacantly absentmindedly and, you know, an idea formats. In that case of Valley kids, I was actually singing in my backyard. It was the middle of the summer. This is a couple of years ago and my kids are playing outside and I was sort of thinking about how like I have this whole life that they don’t see, like all of these experiences that like they whenever I bring them up, they look at me like, I’m sort of I’m a Martian or an alien. Like, that doesn’t, though I know you as like Dad. I don’t know you as like a kid that, like surfed, you know, in Los Angeles. And so I think that, you know, that just sort of like struck a chord as I was striking chords and, you know, off we went. And then, yeah, so it’s just I mean, there was a song that like took like two hours to write like, I mean, you know, it’s just it’s just sitting there. And I, you know, I kept thinking about like, yeah, they they just wouldn’t believe they don’t believe my stories. And so that was sort of the idea behind it.

KnewJack: During your show yesterday at The Hideout here at Treefort, you announced to the audience that one of your band members, Seth McGee, had passed away in March earlier this year. It was a very touching tribute on stage, with Josh using Seth’s trademark pink guitar throughout the set. How important is it to you to carry on Seth’s legacy in the band, and how has his passing impacted the band’s songwriting and performances?

Travis Winchell: He was so excited to come to this show, so when he passed in the spring, we took some time off and had a discussion like there’s no other option. We have to go do this for Seth if for no other reason. So I mean, Laramie, where I live, he was a staple. He’s part of that community as part of the downtown. He’s part of the music scene across the whole state and Seth is just massively important to all of us. So being here for him has been, I mean, bittersweet, certainly. But it feels great to be able to kind of bring a piece of him here with us, with that guitar. His niece was kind enough to let us borrow that, and it’s meant a lot to us to be able to play that here.

Josh Wolfson: It’s something I’ve thought about pretty much every day that I’ve been here. And, you know, I would have thought like, Oh, you know, we’ve done this moment, and what would you know? Last night we were watching Built to Spill and Japanese Breakfast. I was like, Oh, you know, thinking of him being there in that moment? Or what bands would he have wanted to see last night? And he would have totally agreed with me on which bands to see. But, you know, I definitely think he’s sort of there and present in and sort of what we’re doing, and we wanted to sort of represent him. But in a way that was sort of I don’t know that I think he would want to be represented like, I don’t know that, you know, well, who knows with Seth? But like, I don’t know if, you know, writing a song and saying, Okay, here’s our song now. It’s called Seth. It’s about Seth. I think maybe, you know, showing up. We’re going to do the thing. We’re going to do it on your guitar. You know, this guitar that would have been here that you would have played. So I mean, it definitely has changed. I mean, John, our drummer, had actually taken a break from the band and specifically came back. We called them up and we’re just like, Do you want to do this one set when Seth died and John was really graciously, you know, gracious and jumped back in. And I think he’s had a really good time and it’s been really special to have him there. So yeah, I mean, it’s it’s tough, but I’m trying not to be blue about it because I think Seth would be really mad if we were going to, like, show up at Treefort and be blue.

KnewJack: Yeah, I mean, that’s what he would want you guys [to do], to rock out and kill it and carry on.

Josh Wolfson: Exactly, exactly. Like, I just think that he would have wanted us to shut up and play. So and I think we were really questioning whether it’d even play any more after he died. Like I felt at first when he died, it was like, I don’t even know. I mean, it seemed kind of stupid to be thinking about playing rock and roll. And then it was like, and then I just thought, like, he’s going to haunt me and haunt us. So he’s going to show up and rattle chains. Yeah, I mean, if he, if we like the band broke up because, like he died like they would. Yeah, I think that would be unacceptable to him, especially since he was, I mean, literally the last conversation we had was about Treefort. You know, literally was sitting out in the Sun. It’s like day in Wyoming. It’s like March and it’s actually nice outside. And we just taking our time and we were talking about this and how excited we were, whether it was going to happen, you know, and all that. And yeah, I mean, you just have to do it.

KnewJack: Speed The Pilgrim, thank you so much for joining us here at KHOLl. You can hear Speed The Pilgrim right here on KHOL during our local music hour. That’s 3 to 4 p.m. every weekday here on KHOL. I’m Jack Catlin and this is KHOL Jackson.

Support for this coverage is made possible by the Wyoming Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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