The introspective, goth-tinged rock of American producer, composer and singer Wendy Rae Fowler has been over 25 years in the making. Despite not being a household name, her story and work to date traverses some of music’s biggest names and instantly recognisable popular culture moments.
Growing up on the “obvious” musical diet of country and classic rock in the American South, her initial connection to music was in the form of dance. Encouraged by her mother, dancing was initially seen as her “calling”.
And it was dancing, through a Performing Arts school scholarship, that took Fowler to LA in the early 1990s where punk rock and alternative culture would hit her hard, changing her life forever. After an accident curtailed her dance career, Fowler found herself employed at the legendary Viper Room, where she ended up “seeing some of the most incredible acts ever, on accident.”
In a short space of time, Fowler went from being ignorant of punk to being surrounded by scene legends and witnessing them in action on a regular basis, often unaware of the importance of the clientele she met. This is highlighted by stories of her, while working on the venue’s door, not recognising Iggy Pop or the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
She talks fondly of meeting Siouxie Sioux, an artist who can be heard echoed in the gothic tones of Fowler’s recent work. This club and the people she met there formed the foundation of what was to come next.
In 1997, after a friend’s boyfriend heard her playing early songs she had written, Fowler was asked to play bass in Earthlings? the legendary Joshua Tree space rock collective co-founded by Pete Stahl (Scream, Goatsnake, Wool), Dave Catching (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal), and Fred Drake.
While working with Earthlings?, friendships with acts in the group’s orbit led to a period of notable collaborations. After perviously embarking on tours in support of Queen’s of The Stone Age, under the pseudonym Wendy Rae Moan, she contributed vocals to Queens of The Stone Age’s classic second album Rated R (2000), and was a contributor to Eagles of Death Metal’s Death by Sexy album in 2006. Fowler can also be seen in four QOTSA’s music videos over this period.
This connection with QOTSA also led to a creative and personal relationship with Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, Mark Lanegan Band), with Fowler contributing to Field Songs (2001), the Here Comes The Weird Chill EP (2003) and Bubblegum (2003). Her marriage to Lanegan is recognised by Fowler as another formative experience, with Lanegan introducing her to myriad music in a short period of time.
Away from these collaborations, Fowler was exploring her own musical voice on the Los Angeles circuit with acts including More with Charlie Wadhams, Brian Waters & the Sounds of Dynamite and Love Lies Sleeping with friend Chris Watson, whose debut album was produced by Alex Ebert, aka Edward Sharpe.
While these acts could be considered a footnote in Fowler’s career, they are pivotal in her exploration of new ideas, different instrumentation and soundscapes. The freedom of this period put Fowler in the right position to capitalise on a meeting with U.N.K.L.E’s Richard File in 2005.
Connecting over similar influences the duo formed experimental rock act We Fell To Earth, shortly after, Fowler moved to London. It was in the dark atmospherics and nascent electronics of their eponymous debut album in 2009, that Fowler’s voice truly found a home. And others agreed, with the release being heralded as “eerie and unforgettable” by the Guardian and “brutal and beautiful” by The Sunday Times.
Momentum gathered fast with extensive tours across Europe with the likes of Air, Thirty Seconds to Mars and The Big Pink, helping them gain a growing and devoted fan base. The cinematic scope of the music saw it feature in shows like Gossip Girl, CSI: New York and The Prisoner, while they also composed the theme-song to AMC’s award-winning murder-noir series The Killing. We Fell to Earth seemed poised for big things but was placed on hiatus in 2011.
This started a decade of experimentation and collaboration which saw Fowler appear on work by artists as diverse as U.N.K.L.E, Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something, Timo Maas, Yawning Sons, Toydrum and Maya Jane Coles.
The atmospherics perfected in We Fell To Earth took on new life as Fowler began composing for film. Her ambient soundscapes propped up the acclaimed BBC documentary A Year in the Garden: Flicker + Pulse and Clay and Bone featuring Will Self.
By 2018, the Wendy Rae Fowler that released debut solo album Warped was a different musician, person and creative to the one who had started out in Earthlings? Assured and with a different view of music, Warped gave a gothic, experimental sheen to songs that had been written as far back as the early 90s – taking the past to show the present and hint at her future. Fowler had continued to write after We Fell To Earth disbanded, initially as Katie Cruel, with some success, but this was different. Under her own name, Wendy Rae Fowler established her own identity via old songs and the vibe of We Fell To Earth.
It should have been everything! But it was fraught with issues and sunk into obscurity. Gaining the rights back, Fowler released the improved and remastered version Warped:Resurrection on Ghost Rhythm records in 2021.
This release cemented the potential of Fowler’s solo music with bewitching vocals dancing with psychedelic guitar swirls, tribal beats and inventive electronics, a blend that touched on every part of her varied career up to that point. Leaving the past behind, her forthcoming EP, Loose Ends, is a first glimpse at a new future, not reworking the past, this is Wendy Rae Fowler now and, finally, it feels like she is ready for the world to know her name.