Wendlo is the Atlanta-based folk-pop duo of Jacob & Chelsea Hamilton
Jacob & Chelsea met in 2011, when Jacob moved to Chelsea's hometown of Anchorage, Alaska. They soon found they shared a passion for music, and started playing open mics together whenever they could. Jacob proposed to Chelsea in October 2015 at their first official show, on the outdoor patio at Boulder Creek Coffee in Buford, Georgia. The music they played that night became the inspiration and the playlist for their eponymously-named Engagement Party EP.
Approaching their first EP with wide eyes, Wendlo have introduced themselves with honest arrangements, emotive melodies, and intimate harmonies, presented with the sincerity of best friends.
After playing together on and off for the past 5 years in GarageBand, actual garages, and countless open mics, the now-married duo were invited to record Engagement Party—their first studio venture—just outside of Chelsea's hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, where the couple met in 2011.
"We had been writing, and not, and playing, and not, for a long time," says Jacob, one half of the duo. "Then Chelsea came to me with the idea last December of playing Christmas songs on Facebook Live."
It is to these videos that Jacob attributes the invitation to return to Alaska and record their first EP. "On New Years Eve, we got a text from our dear friend, Kris Carmody, one of the heads of Satellite Heart Records in Anchorage, asking if we would come record in the spring. I almost couldn't say yes fast enough."
If the titles on their debut release are any indication, Jacob and Chelsea have spent enough time together to be well acquainted with the constant emotional oscillation of two people in a relationship. Seasick, the EP's opening track, establishes this theme of "back-and-forth" from the very first line.
"Crisscross, tip-toe, lean back, let it go..." The two sing a capella, suddenly being joined by only as much instrumentation as the rest of the track requires. "We hoped the songwriting would be able to stand on its own," says Jacob concerning the surprising vocals-only cold open, and bare-bones arrangement of the song. "We could have done a thousand different things with the song and gone in twenty different directions stylistically, but Chelsea is such a great melody writer, we didn't want to cover it up too much with production."
The next three songs on the conveniently abbreviated Engagement Party—EP—take a turn for the more acoustic-alternative, singer-songwriter genre. Hinting at ambient and moody modern influences like Vance Joy, Noah Gundersen, and Bon Iver, Soft Spot and For Now seem to tell a story in reverse—of love newly regained, and love slipping away as if in slow motion. "People always wonder if these songs are about us," says Chelsea, without conceding too much. "Most of them are about us, but a song can be deeply personal, whether or not the story in the song itself is a personal one."
If these songs are personal, Just You & Me may be the most hopeful in the collection. The song winsomely staves off another breakup in the first verse: "Why don't we talk this over, it's plain to see this isn't over," Chelsea sings hopefully. "People often think this song is about divorce, but I like to think it's really the opposite," she explains. "True, it deals with uncertainty and indecision, like every other song on the album—like every other part of life."
On that note, we end very near sonically to where we began: dual melodies and beat machine drums. Wild is less a descriptor of the song, and more a descriptor of life. "I said when we picked these songs that listening to the EP the whole way through would probably give someone a seizure if we captured each song in its truest form," Jacob jokes. "Listening to them now, I think they actually just tell a very human story. To me it's very fitting to end the album with a song entitled Wild, because that's exactly what this whole thing has been."
Wendlo is currently gaining traction playing shows around Atlanta, building a following online and building connections with fans in person, and planning to release more music in 2019.