Ola Podrida with Ben Jones and Julie Odell of Giant Cloud
10 p.m. Saturday
Circle Bar, 1032 St. Charles Ave., 588-2616
Despite the difference in mediums, there's never been much of a disconnect between David Wingo's film scores and his folk/pop songwriting for the Austin band Ola Podrida. Penning ambient melody and accompanying mood for the independent pictures by his childhood friend, adopted New Orleanian David Gordon Green, Wingo worked with Lusine mastermind Jeff McIlwain on 2008's Snow Angels and sat next to likeminded musicians Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and the late Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) on the soundtrack for 2003's All the Real Girls.
Wingo's occupational gulf widened with last year's Gentlemen Broncos, in which his delicate, spacious compositions appear alongside such gently ruminative luminaries as Black Sabbath, Kansas, Scorpions and Cher. The sci-fi-defiling spoof, written and directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), called for Wingo to reach beyond the subtle coming-of-age fare of Green's pre-Pineapple Express films and score a blond-tranny Buck Rogers battling cyclops villains on rocket-strapped Bambi jousts in outer space.
"I got to do crazy stuff," Wingo says, laughing. "The movie has scenes that are not like scenes in any other movie, so there's some songs that are, like, spaghetti Western meets Logan's Run synth stuff. ... It was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone big time. But it was a lot of fun."
The music of Ola Podrida, a four-piece outfit featuring Wingo on lead vocals and guitar and American Analog Set singer Andrew Kenny on bass, comes closer to that comfort zone, but that doesn't mean it's comfortable. On its second LP Belly of the Lion (Western Vinyl) — issued in November, two weeks after the release of Gentlemen Broncos — the group turns spaceward as well, a new wash of electric guitar adding tension and atmospheric texture to Wingo's finely drawn, finger-picked fiction.
Working in film has colored the way he composes pop songs. "All the Real Girls and George Washington (2000), I watch now and I see how we were approaching every scene as a separate thing, almost. Not thinking in terms of a unifying theme. I don't know if that's a bad thing, but that's not a traditional film score, for sure. I think with the first record I definitely was approaching it on a song-by-song basis. Whereas with the film scores I've learned to really think more of the big picture and a unifying characteristic. The last record, I certainly had that in mind."
Wingo's evolutions as a film scorer and songwriter have happened in leapfrog fashion. Ola Podrida's eponymous 2007 debut, like those early scores, felt like a series of vignettes, most recalling the lovingly domestic bedroom recordings by Sam Beam (as Iron & Wine). Belly of the Lion, though written and recorded almost entirely solo during a sojourn to New York City, sounds more like the work of a band — Wingo's tenor bravely thinning on highpoints "Donkey" and "This Old World," a chain of banjo and guitar winding ever tighter around his verses as they rise and repeat, moving toward an inevitable breaking point and precipitous hook.
The heightened drama of these "characters" — "Let's do it tonight," he sings ambiguously, over and over, at the end of "Your Father's Basement," referring either to the titular teenage raid or an impending sexual awakening — has lent Ola Podrida's songs a cinematic bent. It's a tag Wingo doesn't refute. "[Working in film] has definitely made me think a lot more in terms of atmosphere — subtle expansiveness, I guess, would be the best way to put it," he says. "Kind of trying to make things feel soaring and big sometimes while still maintaining a sense of subtlety. I guess that is an apt description for 'cinematic.'"