Portland Duo Wonderly Steps Out From Behind The Curtains For New Release Story We Tell Volume 1
Writers behind The Daily’s theme song and musical scores for everything from acclaimed indie features to BoJack Horseman create their own sonic universe one song at a time.
What if longtime friends Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk came clean about the fact that their bevy of instrumental theme songs and film soundtracks—including the New York Times’ famed podcast The Daily, Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar Radio, and many indie film scores—were only half of the story? Well, there’s no need to get rhetorical, because the day has come for Brunberg and Landsverk, known collectively as the Portland-based duo Wonderly, to share their other side with the world. Today, the band released a brand new EP, Story We Tell Volume 1; five new songs—including a deeply groovy appreciation of legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper, a soulful tribute to self-care featuring Portland soul legend Ural Thomas, and an ELO-meets-Elliott-Smith bop about a troubled dude named Steve—each accompanied by their own epic, narrative music videos that expand and embellish on Wonderly’s sonic storytelling. Ahead of Volume 1’s release, the Portland Tribune dubbed Wonderly “storytellers extraordinaire,” while Glide Magazine called the duo “two seasoned songwriters attempting to surprise, delight, and outdo each other at every turn.” Yesterday, Vortex named the duo’s recent single “Bayocean” the PDX Song of the Week – listen via KINK FM.
Wonderly’s self-produced songs benefit from a deep affection for music across genres and decades. Their rich and ambitious vocal harmonies, forged by years of friendship and collaboration—whether backing up some of their greatest musical idols like Smokey Robinson, Van Dyke Parts, and Kristin Hersh, or in more recent collaborations with luminaries like Liz Vice, Laura Gibson, and Laura Veirs—drives the pair’s broad collection of stories home with soul and style. While both men have spent time in nationally touring acts, their recent work and community activism have kept them closer to home. Brunberg helms the beloved club Mississippi Studios in Portland, produces and co-hosts a podcast (Roam Schooled) with his two daughters, and tends to a working farm outside of Portland. Landsverk is active in Portland’s indie scene as a session musician and musical director and he’s the co-founder and leader of the prolific drop-in pop choir Low Bar Chorale.
The duo’s eclectic, creative backgrounds shine when combined as Wonderly. When Brunberg and Landsverk head into the studio to record, whether for their own songs or for a film score—with their instrumental work, the duo sounds equally at home making epic symphonic soundscapes, twangy Americana, and bubbly pop—they tend to let their musical imaginations run wild. “What we really like to geek out about is combining genres,” Brunberg says. “We might aim for Gillian Welch if she were plopped down in the middle of an early 1968 Beach Boys session—what would she do? We consciously try to defy categorization, and keep the arrangements fresh.”
On Story We Tell Volume 1, and its companion Volume 2 EP to be released later in 2021, Wonderly is in truly fresh form. This is two seasoned songwriters attempting to surprise, delight, and outdo each other at every turn. If they tell a few stories in the process, that’s what makes it Wonderly.
Story We Tell Volume 1 Track Listing:
1. Hey Steve
2. Ain’t That A Bitch
3. November, 1971
5. Please Please You
More About Wonderly: Wonderly is pan-idiomatic music for film, records, podcasts, and radio shows, by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk. Their scoring credits include New York Times’ The Daily (podcast); feature films At the Video Store (2019, dir. James Westby), Last Ferry (2018, dir. Jaki Bradley), Luz (2019, dir. Jon Garcia); and television series Tending Nature (PBS, 2019) and BoJack Horseman (2019). Other composition clients include WBUR’s Dear Sugar Radio (w/ Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond), The Aspen Institute, The Heavyweight (Gimlet), Live Wire Radio (PRI), Kia, Honda, and Budweiser. Wonderly has been featured by The New York Times and on the critically-acclaimed music podcast Song Exploder. In 2019, they were voted “Best Theme-Song Smiths” in Willamette Week’s yearly “Best Of Portland” issue. Before forming Wonderly, Jim and Ben performed and recorded with artists such as Smokey Robinson, Kristin Hersh, Mark Orton, Jack Casady, Van Dyke Parks, Holcombe Waller, Storm Large, Alela Diane, Pink Martini, Ashleigh Flynn, Liz Vice, Matt Sheehy and John Wesley Harding. Wonderly composes, arranges, performs and records music for any production. Their music elevates and intensifies the emotional center of any moment.