One of the buzziest byproducts of Taylor Swift’s titanic 2015 was Ryan Adams’ collection of melancholy, indie-rock covers of Swift’s platinum-selling 1989. But the singer-songwriter didn’t get inspired to record the cover album in a vacuum. His work on La Sera’s Music For Listening to Music To — the indie outfit’s fourth album, which EW is excited to premiere below — prompted him to unite with the group’s Todd Wisenbaker, and bring his version of 1989 to life.
“After we recorded our record, Ryan said, ‘That was a really great experience, when I get back [from touring] we’re going to start a band,’” Wisenbaker tells EW. Adams made good on his promise and recruited Wisenbaker. After a day of jamming and recording, the two went to a restaurant and Adams unveiled his plan. “He said, ‘We’re going to cover 1989.’ It was very much ‘OK, that’s what we’re going to do.’ I didn’t think of it as being ever released, and then he tweeted about it that day and then [Swift] retweeted it and it just turned into this crazy thing.”
But the high-profile project began with Adams’ work on Music For Listening To Music To. La Sera’s founder — and Wisenbaker’s wife — Katy Goodman had met Adams years earlier, and Wisenbaker knew him through their mutual collaborator, Jenny Lewis. When Wisenbaker and Goodman began planning the album, they naturally tapped Adams to produce it. From there the pieces fell into place. “We were just like, ‘Let’s go for Meat Is Murder-era Smiths,’” Goodman recalls. “That was our initial bond. What we have most in common is an undying appreciation of the Smiths.”
The gloomy, guitar-rock vibes made their way to Adams’ version of 1989, but on La Sera’s album they’re leavened with the jangly stylings of classic pop-rock. “It’s a throwback to those ’60s records,” Wisenbaker says. “It sounds like a silly title, but there’s meaning behind it.”
Recording with Adams eventually brought Wisenbaker into Swift’s orbit — they met when Adams played her his version of 1989 — but now he’s focused on La Sera once again. “I got like a million Instagram followers, which is cool,” he quips. “They were just, like, guitar dorks. It was a very cool experience.”
Hear Music For Listening To Music To, due out March 4, below.