Antipodean three piece Wolfmother are a band who quite simply rock with a capital R, and quite likely harder than anyone else out there at the moment.
Indeed, their sound harks back to a period where guitars were not just strummed but bludgeoned to within an inch of their existence, and songs were sung as if there were lit explosives up one’s backside.
Certainly, fans of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Black Sabbath will find plenty to love in their extended, big sounding jams, but judging by the distinct buzz around them in the UK and in the States at the moment (sold out shows, an appearance at the much hyped SXSW), stoner rock of the jumbo sized variety may well be making something of a commercial comeback.
Intrigued by this concept and eager to get a better idea of the latest Aussies to invade our shores with a particular take on a specific period of rock ‘n’ roll (see The Vines and Jet before them), musicOMH caught up with their big-haired front man and guitarist Andrew Stockdale before a recent show in Nottingham.
I begin by asking about the history of his band, something which Stockdale remembers with fondness: “We all met through mutual friends at a party”, he explains, in a thick, laid back Aussie accent. “We jammed just as a hobby for about five or six years. Chris (Ross, bass and keyboards) would write his own songs, Myles (Heskett, drums) would write his own stuff and I’d write my own stuff – we never really wrote things together”.
He goes on to explain how this lead him to put out an album of acoustic songs on his own, and how he was subsequently asked to do a gig – something which he recruited his fellow jammers for as backup. And Wolfmother, the ferocious trio as we know them today, were thus conceived.
“We got together, we jammed on a few songs, did a show, got into it, enjoyed it and thought ‘Yeah, let’s do this again!’. We thought rather than doing singer-songwriter sort of stuff, it would be better to see what happens at the time and do songs that entertain the three of us while we’re all playing together. That’s when the Wolfmother sound sort of started”.
– And so, on the seventh day, Wolfmother were born…
So what exactly has inspired this huge, classic rock-inspired sound of theirs, something that remains relatively unexplored, particularly in the current 80s/grunge/Britpop revivalist musical climate?
“When I first started playing guitar I was playing flamenco. In that there are a lot of rhythmic changes and interesting timings and stuff, so I think that’s imprinted in my sub conscience, which is probably relative to lots of rock ‘n’ roll, y’know, all those bands, Tim Buckley or whatever, there’s always interesting little changes and things like that”, offers Stockdale, keen to get his point across.
“And then all the rock ‘n’ roll classics on top of that – put on Gold FM, or any classic rock station!”, he adds, alluding to their obvious penchant for all things retro.
A record deal with Sydney based outfit Modular was swiftly secured, and pen was put to paper after just their third gig. Committing their cosmic sounds to record was the next thing on the agenda, something which they did in Los Angeles under the stewardship of renowned rock producer Dave Sardy (Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Jet). And did spending an extended amount of time in such an idyllic and iconic location have any direct influence on the recording process or their sound?
– On recording their debut album in Los Angeles.
Despite informing me they spent more time in the studio than anywhere else, Stockdale is quick to agree: “I think lyrically it may have influenced the music – sometimes I’d drive up into the valleys, into Laurel Canyon, and there are pretty interesting deserts and canyons and things like that, and coyotes…so I’d go up there and pull out a book and write stuff off the top of my head. And I think in some ways I think it might have affected Colossal and stuff”.
And what of the current Australian music scene? With the likes of Silverchair, You Am I, The Vines and Jet making loud – and often lauded – noises with guitars over the years, and electro poppers Cut Copy striking a cord with the dance crowd of late, is there something in the water down under?
Stockdale remains unconvinced at any notions of a ‘scene’, in spite of all this: “It’s hard to say if there’s a scene, because if there was, I wasn’t a part of it. I just hung out with friends, played records and that was it. It wasn’t like I knew other people in bands”.
Pausing for thought, he continues: “Maybe there is a scene, but I don’t think there are bars and cafes where musos hang out and jam till four in the morning and exchange ideas – it seems like in the 70s and 60s there was more of that, creative people would get together, but somehow that doesn’t happen in modern culture, and I don’t know why. I think people are probably more competitive these days!
– On their success outside of Australia.
And if it is indeed a competition of any kind, Wolfmother are certainly leading the pack from their homeland. Sydney based station Triple J named their debut record as the best of 2005, and word of their incendiary live performances has been spreading like an epidemic in various musical circles – leading to most venues they play selling out at a rate Coldplay or Kaiser Chiefs might be proud of.
I suggest this to Stockdale, and it’s clearly something that hasn’t gone unnoticed. “It’s been great. Every show we’ve done in the US and UK has sold out, so the response has been amazing. Heaps of press, positive feedback. It’s all good!” he remarks, with a grin and a wink.
This undoubtedly means they’ll be on the road for some time to come, the price many musicians often have to pay when striving for fame and fortune. But it’s all part of the dream, says Stockdale: “You got to get used to packing and unpacking every day, but it’s great – when things are going well you can tour and there’s people who want to see you play, so I wouldn’t complain about it. It’s great that there’s interest in what we’re doing and that we’re able to travel the world and play to people everywhere!”
And in the knowledge that their music provides a perfect remedy to anything vapid or lacklustre, and a real, firm kick up the arse, it’s not only him that should be delighted by this notion.