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The Indiana Daily Student

arts music

IU alum releases album inspired by freshman year 20 years later

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The Indianapolis band Wick released their debut album “Forest,” on Dec. 1. Each song was written by lead singer John Wick 21 years ago, when he lived in Forest Quadrangle in 2002 at Indiana University. 

Wick said songwriting became his passion when he was a freshman at IU. As an English major and music minor, he kept an extensive collection of lyrics and compositions. Emulating artists such as Elliott Smith, Wick often wrote about his relationships or intimate feelings he had while living away from home.  

“At the time I probably recorded 20 to 25 songs,” Wick said. “They are all inspired by Elliott, and that time period in my life, but also they’ve transformed into their own entity.” 

He recorded each song with just his vocals and an acoustic guitar with a computer microphone. While Wick’s simple setup worked for him in his college days, as an adult, he wanted proper recordings.  

The “Forest” project took flight after Wick reconnected with his former musical partner Andrew Gustin. The two first met as undergraduates at IU in 2006 while working in Wright’s C-Store. After bonding over their shared love of music, they eventually started their own band together named The Dwellers.  

“John is an amazing person to be in a band with,” Gustin said. ”He’s really collaborative. We write really well together.”  

Wick and Gustin wrote numerous albums together after they graduated, often experimenting with different psychedelic sounds while keeping within the indie/rock genre. After several years of making music together, the Dwellers eventually disbanded. 

In 2021, Wick reached out to Gustin to help record the songs he had written as a freshman. Originally, Wick wanted the songs to be shared with just his friends and family, possibly for a Christmas gift. However, once Gustin listened to Wick’s 25 demos, he knew the songs could be transformed into a full-fledged album.  

“I just thought the world would appreciate those songs,” Gustin said. “My mission is to spread the word of Wick. Light the flame.” 

Gustin is the owner of Ameliorate Records in Indianapolis, a label driven to uplift local artists. Gustin worked with Wick to pick out 10 tracks from his dorm room demos to be on the album. He produced, arranged, recorded and played various instruments on each song. He also pressed 250 vinyl copies of “Forest,” available on his website.  

Originally the idea was for the project to be Wick’s solo album debut. However, in an effort to not be associated with the “John Wick” movie franchise, the group decided to cut the band’s name to simply “Wick.” The name also pays homage to John’s family and closest friends, who eventually joined the project. 

To enhance each track, Wick and Gustin reached out to friends and family who were musicians, eventually forming a brand new band, making music together again for the first time in eight years. Wick’s sister, Katie Jones, was on vocals. Wick’s older brother, Ian Wick, sang background vocals, and Wick’s younger brother, Dan Wick, played guitar.  

Also included in the band ensemble is bassist Eric Brock and drummer Dan Johnson. Johnson is a longtime friend of Gustin, and said being a part of the band rekindled his love of playing.  

“My favorite part has been creating music again,” Johnson said. “I had gotten stagnant with it and life had taken over. Little by little this passion that I’ve had kind of buried down is finally coming back to life.” 

To Wick, many of the songs he wrote 21 years ago not only sound different, but they hold new meanings as well.  

He referenced the song “Angel Baby,” the album’s first track, as an example. 

“I wrote that song originally about a girl I dated in college, and now I sing it with a 7-year-old daughter,” Wick said. “It’s turned into a song about her, and it’s taken on a new meaning, a bit more powerful to me now.”  

The Wick band has played three shows together so far. Their first-ever performance as a band was at Fountain Square Brewery of Indianapolis in September. Their second show was at Lafayette’s The Spot Tavern in October.  

Wick’s most recent concert was at The Church Within for their Indianapolis “Forest” album release show on Dec. 2. The venue was filled with around 100 people in attendance, including friends, family and coworkers.  

The band intends to grace various venues across Indiana with live performances, and a potential show scheduled for Bloomington in February 2024. 

To stream “Forest,” visit Spotify or Bandcamp. 

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