W.O.M.B.'s music is a funky-folky-punky art-rock combination of electric squall, acoustic caress, hip-hop chants and polemical rants. These warriors use flamboyantly theatrical performances--incorporating costumes, props, psychodrama and film and slide projections--and art works (each member is also a visual artist) to draw deeply from the imagination. But the way of W.O.M.B. is anything but imaginary.
"We came up with Warriors of Make Believe as a way of tapping into our love of folklore and stuff like that," says drummer Cristiana Joy Wiley.
"In one sense, we believe in mythical things; all our artwork revolves around it, too. 'Make Believe' means we want to make a new world to believe in. We are trying to make believe a new way of living. We choose to see through the rose-colored glasses until the world is really rosy," Wiley says.
She and her older sister, guitarist and lead vocalist Marta Wiley, formed the group in 1995 while enrolled at the University of Arizona. Longtime friend Debbie-Lyn Lorray flew in from Florida to play bass for W.O.M.B.'s debut as a trio in 1996 at the Casbah Tea House on North Fourth Avenue, and she stayed.
The W.O.M.B. members, all in their mid-20s, met as young children in Miami. Lorray's family originally is from Jamaica, and the Wiley sisters were born to a Mexican mother and American father in Mexico City.
"Our family moved to Miami when I was 2," Cristiana says. "And I've known Debbie since I was 3. Marta started music at a young age, like 15, and Debbie and I were always together when we were very young. So the three of us put on performances together from a young age.
"Marta and I both went to the UA. Debbie went to Pima (Community College) for a while. We all studied art, then our interests went more and more in the direction of making music."
Attempts often are made to define the trio's sound. On MP3.com, where several of W.O.M.B.'s tunes are posted and available for downloading, various descriptions are slapped on the song files, such as experimental/post rock, indie, groove, acoustic, progressive electronica, progressive rock, alternative general, leftfield and Western swing. That last applies to the twangy, tongue-in-cheek instrumental rave-up "Tucson."
W.O.M.B. left Tucson in 1999 to seek opportunities in the vast concrete of Phoenix. The group plays here two or three times a year.
Cristiana Wiley says W.O.M.B. had grown as much as it could in Tucson, although there are elements of the music community here that she and her band mates miss. "The support unit is stronger and more tight-knit in Tucson and the level of creativity there is more nurturing. But in Phoenix, because there is more population, there is more opportunity for a band like ours to get more attention in the outside world. All three of us love Tucson, and we try to return there as much as possible. Tucson, to me, is a little timeless world that's full of magic."
Without a record contract, the group has released two CDs--Warriors of Make Believe in 1999 and last year's Kinetic Music for the People. They're available in Tucson at Antigone Books and Zia Record Exchange, as well as on the Internet at Amazon.com and CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com). A total of about 5,000 copies of the two albums have been sold.
Although the band finds the Internet an invaluable tool when it comes to promotion, marketing and distribution, W.O.M.B. is receiving some major-label interest, partly generated from a trip last fall to the CMJ New Music Showcase in New York City.
The trio played there in October, less than a month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and the members of W.O.M.B. visited Ground Zero. Those world-changing events and that experience have changed the manner through which W.O.M.B. approaches music making, Cristiana says.
"All three of us, definitely, are very aware of the reality that you might not be here tomorrow, that you should live each day to the fullest and follow your dream. And love is the most important thing. We want to make this place a better place to live."
Every W.O.M.B. composition has a message, whether it concerns the environment, gender roles, sex, religion, economics or female empowerment. Says Cristiana, "There are a few carefree songs we have, but most of what we sing has a message. Or the message could be just feeling carefree."