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In the clubs with Ola Podrida

David Wingo's nomadic life suits expansive sound of Austin's Ola Podrida

Patrick Caldwell
Ola Podrida is David Hobizal, left, Andrew Kenny, David Wingo and Colin Swietek. The band will take off on a two-week tour after tonight's show at the Mohawk.

David Wingo, frontman and songwriter for winsome Austin folk pop quartet Ola Podrida, wasn't born a nomad - 'Dragonball Z' just made him that way. After Wingo graduated from the University of Texas with a radio-television-film degree, he returned to his childhood home in Dallas and found a job handling audio production for the United States repackaging of the enormously popular Japanese children's cartoon.

Of course, the prospect of a career reducing the decibel level of fireballs and stilted dialogue might not be the only factor behind Wingo's eventual flight from home - but it certainly didn't help.

'It was the most soul-sucking job. There was nothing creative about it. Eight hours a day I would sit with headphones on and individually lower all the kicks and screams and laser blasts,' Wingo, 35, says with a cringe. 'My ears were just fried. I was living with my parents, saving my money to live somewhere else, and I'd get home at night wanting nothing to do with any noise. I was like "Silence, please!'''

Wingo eventually left the Metroplex behind and kicked off a decade of wandering from city to city: Oakland, Seattle, New York, Austin, back to New York and, in 2009, back to Austin.

'I just had wanderlust big time. I had lived in Texas all my life and felt inexperienced. I think once I started moving a lot I came to really like the act of it,' Wingo says. 'I know it can be traumatic for some people, but I get very excited moving. Driving by myself at night across the country - those are my favorite alone times ever. I felt a lot of clarity and freedom. Usually after a year of being in one place I started to get jumpy.'

Wingo says he's planted enough roots in Austin that, for once, he can't see himself leaving anytime soon - 'I've bought furniture and we have a dog' - but he'll briefly reprise his nomadic lifestyle after tonight's Ola Podrida show at the Mohawk, which kicks off a two-week tour that will take the band to New York and back in support of sophomore album 'Belly of the Lion,' released on Austin's Western Vinyl last year. The record showcases Ola Podrida at its best, with nine concise-yet-sprawling folk rock gems that recall Calexico's mercurial charms and Iron and Wine's evocative imagery, held together by the echoes of Nick Drake and Ray Lamontagne in Wingo's whisper-thin voice,

Though he might have concluded the cross-country chapter of his life, the wanderlust of Wingo always seemed vaguely appropriate for the artist, who leads something of a musical double life. In his ostensible day job, he crafts film soundtracks - several for acclaimed filmmaker and childhood friend David Gordon Green, including 'All the Real Girls' and 'Snow Angels.' He composed the whimsical music for 'Napoleon Dynamite' director Jared Hess' 'Gentleman Broncos,' and assembled the scores for recent documentaries 'Gerrymandering' and 'Soundtracker.' The two contrasting halves of Wingo's musical duality - film composer on one hand, singer-songwriter artiste on the other - once felt worlds apart to him. But that, he says, is no longer the case.

'I think at this point they're not so far from each other as they used to be. I used to feel like it was a pretty different creative process. But at this point I feel like I approach writing my own stuff in the same way as writing soundtracks: with subtlety, thinking mainly in terms of images,' says Wingo. 'I'm really trying to create a specific atmosphere with the music, whether it's in film or in my own songs, that takes you some place.'

Wingo's musical wanderings began with guitar tinkering as a high school freshman in Dallas, which eventually blossomed into experimentation with four-tracking. In both high school and college, Wingo shied away from playing in bands in favor of creating ambient, instrumental guitar textures - soundscapes which Green began using in his films, bringing Wingo's work to the attention of indie filmmakers.

All the while, Wingo wrote songs of his own on the acoustic guitar - personal, confessional laments and autobiographical stories that, for more than a decade, he kept bottled up inside.

'I had times when I didn't focus on it, but it never really stopped. And then, when I was about to turn 30, I realized I'd seen a lot of my friends get successful with bands of their own and I was like 'Gah, time's getting away!'' recalls Wingo. 'So I kind of moved back to Austin to take that time to really focus. I set my goal of having a cohesive, finished album by summer.'

Wingo dubbed the project Ola Podrida, after the Dallas artist's market where he had his first job. Written and recorded entirely by Wingo, Ola Podrida's self-titled debut garnered attention and praise from Paste to Pitchfork. The band cycled through multiple live lineups, settling today on Wingo, drummer David Hobizal, guitarist and former Octopus Project member Colin Swietek, and (for the time being) bassist Andrew Kenny, the front man for indie rock outfit American Analog Set and Austin's Wooden Birds - for whom Wingo also plays.

After years of keeping his songs largely to himself, Wingo says the key to developing the confidence to pursue Ola Podrida came from approaching the band's lyrics much as he approached his film work - with less focus on his own life and more of an eye toward setting a scene.

'I'm not really happy with my older stuff lyrically as much as I am now. That was probably why I never had the confidence to pursue it,' says Wingo. 'With the first record I took a different process, stopped being so confessional or autobiographical and took a larger focus outside of my life. Once I could separate the lyrics from my own life I really started writing a lot more. Writing got a lot more inspiring for me.'

pcaldwell@statesman.com; 912-2559

Ola Podrida with Dana Falconberry and Bosque Brown

Where: The Mohawk, 912 Red River St.

Cost: $7, $9 minors

When: 10 p.m.

More info:www.mohawkaustin.com