The Welcome Wagon was first introduced as a homespun gospel-infused folk duo. Presbyterian minister Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique were packaged as a near twee musical group whose most comfortable venue was their own home. Although many of those qualities remain true, the current structure of their sound is somewhat of a new construct–one that no longer fits within the walls of a small living room.
Their first two projects, Welcome To The Welcome Wagon and Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, were released on Sufjan Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty. The records were filled with repurposed and rearranged hymns, while their newest release, Light Up The Stairs, is a collection of songs that incorporate original lyrics.
The album, produced by Jeremy McDonald (Beyonce, Kevin Garrett), is a more urgent, lively endeavor than ones previous. “McDonald was a marvelous producer. He made me record live to drums and live to guitar, explains Aiuto. “I plugged in my acoustic and he made me play an electric. It was all very intuitive, and it woke the album up.”
The Welcome Wagon’s first single, “All These Trees,” is an example of the band’s venture into transparency. “One of the reasons I started writing retuned hymns in the beginning was because I loved that there were words out there I could sing that weren’t mine. I wouldn’t have to hear my own thoughts. This time around we were more willing to share ourselves–something that’s inside of us. I was nervous to do that in the past, but a little less so now.” explains Aiuto. “The song ‘All These Trees’ for instance–those lyrics I wrote. The song is a collage of thoughts from the mind of someone who feels hopeful one minute, and desperate to make it through the day the next. I hope I move to a place where I’m not broken, where I don’t have spiritual battles, where I’ll be a better husband. I want the progress.”
Their progress as musicians, however, can surely be seen. “On our first album we were able to observe Sufjan,” Aiuto notes. “With our second project we experienced what it felt like to be more in charge of the arrangements. And this newest record is a further progression of that. The narrative here is that we’re getting better and better. It feels good to grow skills as musicians. In that way I’m as proud of it as anything we’ve done.”
“All These Trees” was released to digital on October 6th. Light Up The Stairs will be released on Gospel Song Records on October 20th.