Wilkes-Barre psychedelic rock group Signs & Wonders considers itself a “living art project.”
“The music begins by writing itself,” singer Jami Kali said. “It takes us along with it.”
Ray Novitski (vocals, guitar and bass), Kali (vocals and synth), Chris Wallace (keyboards, synth and bass) and “Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber (drums) formed Signs & Wonders in 2013. As they scout out-of-town venues and work on recording an album, the quartet took a break to go On the Record about their journey as a group and their hopes for the future.
Q: Where did your band name come from?
Jami Kali: The Bible says, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” We are not a religiously influenced band, but this is a profound statement and holds much relevance in our current state of existence.
Chris Wallace: I love the mystical connotations of the words “signs and wonders” together. I don’t believe in the concept of “god” as widely accepted, yet I find ancient religious scriptures to be an account of the magic humans once possessed, now forgotten, evidenced in this passage: “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” It’s a nice thought and we, as a band, are mystical beings conjuring our signs and wonders through music.
Q: How did you each get involved in music?
JK: I was raised by my mother and father in a very musical environment. It was only natural for music to become my passion. I began singing and playing with instruments at a very young age and continued to teach myself throughout my life. I’m still learning many things from others, myself and the world.
Ray Novitsky: I was always banging on stuff when I was a kid and have always been obsessed with music. When I was 20 years old, I bought a guitar and taught myself how to play.
“Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber: I have a family history of musicians. My grandfather was a percussionist in the Navy during World War I, and my dad was very accomplished with brass instruments. He could play just about anything that you blow into. It was obvious at a young age — beating on tables, boxes, pots and pans — that I would follow suit.
Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
RN: Our first show took place at the Rattler, a rock ‘n’ roll bar operated by James Callahan. We were surrounded by friends and had a very positive reception.
PW: Not just the first night, but every night we play out together, it’s always so fun. Even if I have a bad day, it’s still a blast playing with these guys (and girl). All three of them are excellent at what they do and are far more experienced at live performances than I am. I use that to keep myself grounded. They make it fun because they are so good.
Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
RN: We jam out and sometimes something sounds so cool that we go with it and continue to layer it with new parts. It keeps growing until it sounds the way we’d like it to sound. The writing process is very free and spontaneous. We don’t even set out to write anything. It just happens.
Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
JK: I am continuously evolving and growing as a musician. My tastes change, my mind takes on new interests, and every day life is different from day to day. These things influence how I approach my creative endeavors.
RN: I’ve become more comfortable and confident. The constant experimentation with sounds has caused me to become more daring. I’m less shy on stage than I am in my everyday life.
Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
JK: The NEPA music scene is like a rollercoaster. It is currently at one of those butterflies-in-your-stomach peaks. This summer, thus far, has been packed with many amazing performances and wonderful times with our fellow local musicians. It’s incredible to hear so much original music coming from the valley. There are many talented musicians out there doing their thing, and there are so many good friends supporting all of us.
RN: In the Wilkes-Barre area, a ton of venues closed, and that has led to heavier competition to get a show. They have to be booked further in advance than was the case previously. While some faces have disappeared, there are many new ones popping up. However, the Scranton scene is booming.
Q: What music do you listen to? What inspires you?
JK: I am heavily influenced by ’90s grunge, the psychedelic movement, the sound of one hand clapping, modern and post-modern poetry, Buddhist dharma and the music of nature.
PW: I listen to anything with good drummers and intelligence. And if I hear autotune, I autotune to something else.
Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
JK: There are challenges around every corner, and that keeps things very exciting. Not only does a ton of effort go into the creation process, (but also) it is always very important to me to spread my music to as many ears as possible. Promotion is near the top of my list, and it sometimes takes a lot of time and energy to get your sounds into the right ear canals.
RN: It isn’t easy to get your name out there. Social media like YouTube creates an overload of new music, and you can get buried in that mass of data. You have to come up with unique ways to make yourself stand out in all of that madness.
Q: What are your future goals?
RN: I want to have as much fun as possible and hopefully one day make this my full-time job.
JK: We hope to keep evolving together as musicians, reach as many people as possible and go on tour through our beautiful country. I hope for things to keep getting better and better.
Meet Signs & Wonders
Members: Ray Novitski, vocals, guitar and bass; Jami Kali, vocals and synth; Chris Wallace, keyboards, synth and bass; “Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber, drums
Genre: Alternative Psych Rock
Online: signsandwonders.bandcamp.com; facebook.com/signsandwondersband; instagram.com/_signsandwonders/