The birth of W.A.C.O. (Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra) was a reaction to the predominance of the guitar-guitar-bass-drum formula and the growing use of samples. The band morphed out of the Boston/Los Angeles group the Wild Stares -- singer/keyboardist/composer Steve Gregoropoulous, bassist Fran Miller, guitarist Justin Burrill and drummer/percussionist Kyle C. Kyle. The story goes that Miller booked the Stares for an acoustic night at an L.A. nightclub. She traded her bass for a cello, and Gregoropoulous tackled the mandolin, while Burrill and Kyle played their regular instruments. The group played classical arrangements of their songs and kind of liked it. The band soon became known at Wild Stares Acoustic Chamber Orchestra, and later simply Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra. And with the new sound came new members. Many new members. Beth Bergman played viola, Tassia Sonnabend played violin, Elizabeth Herndon was the flutist, and Possum Dixon's Rob Zabrecky played stand-up bass.
The band became part of Los Angeles' artistic Silver Lake scene, which revolved around bands that played at Spaceland. The Silver Lake group also included the likes of more well-known acts such as Beck in his folk days and Possum Dixon as well as more locally known bands such as Abe Lincoln Story and the Negro Problem. The band released Darling Clementine on Pan (which became Spaceland founder Nancy Whalen's Angel Dust Records) in 1998. W.A.C.O. creates a unique sound that has elements of Neil Young (mainly from Gregoropolous' vocals), the Beta Band, Mercury Rev, and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. Gregoropolous' arrangements are careful and well-crafted, and the band is completely organic -- no samples or computers -- even in the recording studio. Lyrics are sharp and wry, offsetting the indulgent and lush orchestration. The current lineup includes Ted Attebury on bass, Rebecca Greely on oboe, Heather Lockie on vocals and violin, Rebecca Lynn on vocals and violin, Elana Scherr on bassoon, Jennifer Tefft on flute, and Dave Travis on cello -- as well as Burrill, Gregoropoulous, Herndon, and Kyle. W.A.C.O. released the 16-track Sylvania in 1999 on the co-op label True Classical/Transparency as well as a CD of a film score, Wig Rodeo. The group also performed with premiere of Gregoropoulous' ballet The Selfish Giant in Los Angeles. The band's third release Game of Cards is set for release in June 2001. ~ Suzanne Sanders, All Music Guide
Written by Suzanne Sanders