BEMIDJI -- When the five guys in the local rock band WILDVIEW were younger, the wide-eyed kids had visions of making it big.

“Whatever that means,” said Tony Naylor, the band’s frontman and lead vocalist.

Fast forward a few years, and Naylor says the fivesome’s outlook has changed. Now it’s about having a good time writing and making music.

“Most of all, we’re having a lot of fun doing this,” Naylor said. “What really works for us is the idea that we don’t know. But we’re absolutely OK with the fact that we don’t know. We still love it, we still yearn to do this, and we’re going to keep doing it. We just have a different outlook.”

WILDVIEW will perform a concert in the ballroom at the Sanford Center at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, following the Bemidji State men’s hockey game. They will perform original songs from their album, “Life is Life,” which was released last year. The concert is free for anyone who has a ticket to the Beaver hockey game. Tickets are available at the Sanford Center box office, and must be purchased prior to the end of the hockey game that night.

Matt Jensen on guitar. Photo courtesy of Gary Ussery.
Matt Jensen on guitar. Photo courtesy of Gary Ussery.

All of the WILDVIEW band members grew up in the Bemidji area:

  • Guitarist Matt Jensen, 31, works in maintenance at Sanford Bemidji, is the band leader and has written all of the instrumental music for WILDVIEW.

  • Drummer Ben Aube, 32, is the audio-visual technician at Bemidji High School.

  • Guitarist Eric Jensen, 28, is a substitute teacher at St. Philip’s School. He is Matt’s brother.

  • Bass guitarist Brent Gilge, 29, is a design engineer at Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls.

  • Vocalist Tony Naylor, 27, is a personal trainer and a student at Bemidji State University. He has written the lyrics for WILDVIEW songs.

They all got together nearly three years ago after Matt’s instrumentals and Tony’s lyrics started to mesh. They released their first single, “Self,” in January of 2018, and the entire 10-song album later in the year. It was all recorded and produced in Matt’s home studio.

They played their first full gig on Sept. 1 of that year at the former Toddy’s in downtown Bemidji, then held an official album release concert a month later at Rail River Folk School. They’ve also performed at regional venues in the Twin Cities and Fargo. This weekend they’re on the road in North Dakota with concerts in Mandan and Minot. They also have made videos of three of their songs.

Matt Jensen said the band’s music has appealed to a growing number of fans because of its hard-driving beat and the real-life messages of its lyrics.

“We’re not trying to bring anybody down,” he said. “It’s all just life experiences, really.”

Naylor agreed. “The lyrics are very personal to me,” he said. “I’ve listened to the songs with friends who absolutely connect. That makes sense to me, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Life experiences shape the group’s dynamic, too.

“I think it’s the journeys we all traveled to get to where we are now,” Matt said. “We all had to live through certain things to end up the people we are now. I, for one, think that I’m in a way better position in life than I was before. We’ve all definitely matured. Back in the day we all put so much stress on ourselves because we were all trying to make it. I tried too hard and it wasn’t fun anymore. Now it’s like we’re not trying at all and we’re having a blast.”

If you go:

What: WILDVIEW in concert

When: 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17

Where: Sanford Center ballroom

Tickets: Admission is free with a Bemidji State men's hockey ticket from that night's game. Tickets may be purchased at the Sanford Center box office, and must be purchased before the game ends (typically around 9:25 p.m.) General admission tickets cost $12.