The Wannabe Hasbeens
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The Wannabe Hasbeens


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""... glossy and bombastic...""

The Wannabe Hasbeens
Former Trans Future, Vol. 1

"I thought we were gonna have to slug it out forever," admits frontman Chris Heille as he considers the unexpected successes enjoyed by the Wannabe Hasbeens over the past year and a half. As I sit at a table in the Uptown Bar watching bassist Derek Ritchison, drummer Gary Spencer, and guitarist no-last-name-offered Mo throw back energy drinks and soda pop, they catalog their misadventures: their recording studio—a laptop computer—was run over by a car, a band member quit the group, and another became unemployed after permanently leaving work on a coffee break. But packing their calendar with local performances has resulted in some satisfying recognitions—the Wannabes booked a slot at the Basilica Block Party, and took first place in the Drive 105 Battle of the Bands.

They market their brand of slick, professional power pop with the tag line "dumb rock for smart people." Their new record, Former Trans Future, Vol. 1, is glossy and bombastic—rich with distortion, double-tracked vocals, and angst-rock lyrical pathos.

Spencer says finding a consistent sound was initially a challenge. "We thought, 'None of these songs go together.' We were practicing three or four times a week, three hours at a time...and it started to come together," he says. Their relentless tour schedule helped too.

For the most part, we played these songs live first, and the sound live determined the record," says Heille.

"I don't know how it happened," offers Ritchison, "but we do everything backwards."

Heille recalls working a song to death: "We were trying to be hip, and have a European kind of deal. It wasn't working," he says. "You wonder if you should zig when everybody else's tastes are zagging, but this is true to our tastes right now."

Yet studio sheen doesn't do the band many favors. "Gimme Substance" starts with grit and a subtle, churning electric guitar, but quickly bursts into vague, unmemorable rock. "Clean," the record's obligatory ballad, lacks the melodic punch of the other songs, an absence made conspicuous by the track's sparse production. The EP's highlight is "Hey George Bailey," which succeeds because of its catchy melody, driving tempo, and Weezer-like arrangement.

If nothing else, Former Trans Future proves that Heille, the band's producer and a soundboard veteran, knows his way around a studio. He also hopes the record showcases his writing. "Hopefully, lyrically, there's more to chew on," he explained. "The lyrics come from experience, when something strikes me. They're cathartic or therapeutic, in some minor way." Heille cops to a love of records produced by studio veteran Mutt Lange, who's helmed projects by AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Bryan Adams.

"I like choruses with a big payoff," he shrugged. "It's a guilty pleasure. I think it's in my genes."

Aside from the new record's release show, the band is on a temporary gig break. "We've overplayed the city," concludes Ritchison. Adds Spencer, "For the first time ever, we're practicing restraint." Let's hope that restraint is short-lived, if only for the band's smart fans. That dumb rock won't play itself. - City Pages

""...heavy rock anthems that beg to be cranked up and enjoyed with a PBR...""

It was surprising to read their press release and learn that The Wannabe Hasbeens are a relatively new band. Though they've been playing their asses off around town for over a year now, scoring huge gigs through battle of the bands contests (opening for Ike Reilly and playing at the Basilica Block Party, for example) and popping up on gig calendars at nearly every local venue, Former Trans Future Vol. 1 is the band's first EP. Is it possible that a combination of their clever name and their accessible, finely-tuned rock songs had me convinced that the band was already headed down the road toward Washedupville, when they're actually just beginning?

I have no idea what the title means, but Former Trans Future Vol. 1 is a slick collection of six of the most basic rock songs I have ever heard and while lately it seems that gimmicks, distortion and loopy effects all but drown out attempts at actually rocking, being basic is a good thing. Keeping up a busy schedule of live shows has helped the band to produce a tight, seemingly effortless collaboration in the studio, and the tracks stretch from syrupy power ballads to heavy rock anthems that beg to be cranked up and enjoyed with a PBR and a fist pumping in the air. "Call Your Bluff" and "One More Night" are breezy and fun rockers, while the slow-burning "Anthem for a Late Bloomer" seems more appropriate for an arena rock concert than a local show at a neighborhood bar. Shaggy-haired frontman Christopher Heille has perfected his rock croon, and though his lyrics sometimes tend toward predictable rhyme schemes and cliches, he makes up for it with buoyant shout-singing and sarcasm. "Dumb music for smart people," their MySpace page declares, and for a listener in the mood to plug in and tune out, that doesn't sound half bad. - Pulse of the Twin Cities

""... a pop production masterpiece...""

Minneapolis’ Wannabe Hasbeens bill their sound as “Dumb rock for smart people,” and we can’t really argue. The group’s new album, Former Trans Future Vol. 1, is a pop production masterpiece geared toward the Basilica Block Party crowd. From the spunky “One More Night” to the teenage panty-grabber “Anthem for a Late Bloomer,” processed guitars, tender lyrics and layers upon layers greet the dumb listener across all six tracks. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a smart move. -

"Cincinnati's CityBeat Spill It Blog"

I began Saturday night where I’d left off Thursday, at The Exchange, as Minneapolis quartet the Wannabe Hasbeens turned in an energetic set comprised of songs from their excellent Former Trans Future Vol. 1 EP (particularly the caffeinated Pop chug of “Hey George Bailey”) and a few extras, including a revved up spin on the Police’s “King of Pain,” turning the song from dour mope anthem into angry declaration. The Hasbeens worked the intersection of Fountains of Wayne and Jimmy Eat World with both directions sporting green lights, producing some entertaining collisions of style and volume. With a pair of talented guitarists and an animated bass player who was the polar opposite of the stoic, stand-and-pluck four stringer, the Wannabe Hasbeens churned out a set that was engaging musically and visually. - Cincinnati's CityBeat Spill It Blog

""... lovingly pounding...""

A Monday morning blast-me-out of bed anthem. “I’m all tangled up in your cosmic bait-and-switch. You got me coming in after dark with the vampires on the wall.” How’s that for a love song? Love this line, too: “Dressed in red from the souls that you bleed.” The conceit of this song is that it’s the last night the narrator is going to put up with what’s being thrown at him, but I can tell by the thought put into these lyrics that the final night is still a long way away. A person really and truly fed up would not be this literate. And the music, the music is lovingly pounding, waking me up, making me listen. “I came here for something good, I’d leave right now if I could.” Naw, this relationship still has a long way to go, and that’s good because there may be a lot more cool songs coming from these Wannabe Hasbeens. A fun shoutout for the Jimmy Stewart meditation in rock, Hey George Bailey -


Former Trans Future - Volume I (2007): featured songs on CMJ radio - "Hey, George Bailey" and "Gimme' Substance"



"Dumb rock for smart people, that's usually descriptive enough." Hesitant to be pegged into some generic category or sub-genre specification, The Wannabe Hasbeens developed their own lingo to wrap words around the music they create. Their self-penned description usually evokes a response with listeners unfamiliar with their material. "It instantly separates those who 'get-it' and those who won't," quips frontman Chris Heille, "people usually laugh or get that mystified look in their faces, we know right away what we're dealing with."

Former Trans Future Volume 1, their debut EP released in March of '07, was completed after nearly 18 months of live shows in and around their hometown of Minneapolis. "We do nearly everything backwards from general practice" admits bass player Derek Ritchison, "we played this stuff live for what felt like forever before we seriously recorded it." The seemingly backwards nature of the process is evident in the fact that The Wannabe Hasbeens were featured at some of the Twin Cities' biggest live music events before their CD was even tracked. They've done Clear Channel's Cities 97 Basilica Block Party (opening for Mike Doughty, The Fray, and Guster), and opened for Ike Reilly, Flickerstick, and others in their brief history.

The dues-paying time racked up on stages trimmed the fat from anything that didn't contribute to the songs. Layers of straight forward rock riffs, pop sensibilities, and honest to experience lyrics make Former Trans Future Volume 1 a no-nonsense listen. The EP charted at 30 CMJ reporting stations the summer following its' release, and was picking up spins all over North America. They've also collected positive reviews in print and online in their hometown.

Frontman/guitarist Chris Heille and drummer Gary Spencer started The Wannabe Hasbeens to escape the shadows of being musical bridesmaids - "sidemen." Their former efforts helped to create a string of "private successes" for others, but no lasting interests for themselves. Derek Ritchison, on bass, confesses to responding to an online classified post for a spot in the band roster. The most recent addition to the band is guitarist/one-man-three-ring-circus, Mo. (No last name necessary, just "Mo" will do.) Together the four crank out a high volume, high energy dose of dumb ambition.