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Wolfmother | Interview

The walls of the Olympia are reverberating to the sound of Wolfmother’s soundcheck as I arrive.

They make a hell of a racket for a three piece.

Given the volume and bombast of the music, I anticipate that mainman Andrew Stockdale will be a Simpsons-style caricature of an Australian; loud, brash and outspoken.

In person, he could hardly be more of as contrast to the image in my head. He gives a warm handshake and greeting but looks at the floor more than at me.

He is gentle and speaks softly.

Contemplative but friendly, he laughs easily. He admires my tape recorder and protests when I tell him I’m contemplating going digital.

He’s here kicking off the European leg of Wolfmother’s world tour in support of their latest album, Victorious and getting over a serious case of jet-lag.

So: you did the new album with Brendan O’Brien.

“It was good working with Brendan. He keeps the show on the road, keeps the ball rolling, and gets good performances out of everyone too. He keeps that kind of objective distance from everything. He always has his eye on the prize of just making a good record.”

He seems to have a really good effect on people.

“He knows how to run a desk. He really throws himself into it headfirst when he’s mixing and tracking. He spent a lot of time on that thing. I don’t envy that. Not that I would envy it. If I find myself in front of a desk, I fall asleep. Too many numbers and things to be confused about.”

I went back to the first album and you can really hear the difference in the songwriting. The music and your voice were impressive from the start but the songs have a better flow now.

“Thanks. I’ve honed my craft, I guess, over the years but I’m still searching for the next thing. We’ve been demoing a few things at soundchecks on the last American tour. I was listening to some on the way here.

The approach on this record was that I wrote everything. I wasn’t sure if that was, politically, the right thing to do but it think it helps. It’s just having a very personalised approach to writing stands out.

I’ll keep doing that. Probably a bit of jamming with the band and a little bit of writing by myself too.
Just getting in a room with a guitar for an hour and trying to find riffs and editing it together. It seems to be a good approach at the moment.

The other thing I want to do is to write the music first and then sing along to the music. I used to do both at the same time. Now I think it’s good to focus on the music and then sing along to it later.
You get different sort of melodies that have an interplay with the chords. Whereas the other way you can end up singing the same thing that you’re playing.”

You can hear that on ‘Victorious’, your voice is going to different places all the time.

“There’s a bit more melody. I used to, because I was learning to sing, just kind of yell, and sing as a consequence but now I’m singing a bit more, which is different. I like both.

The energy of the first one was what connected with people. I wanted to keep that spontaneous energy on this one.

It’s good to see people singing along as well. You have people moshing which is great to see, and people clapping along which is great to see, and lifting a lighter, but when you have people singing along it’s the ultimate.

I saw that with Crowded House in 2007 or 8 when we played with them at Live Earth, Al Gore’s thing. I saw Crowded House and the whole crowd were singing along. I said to Neil Finn “That’s just massive when you see everyone singing along and you don’t even have to sing it.”

Tim Finn used to live locally, not far from here.

Really?! He moved here from New Zealand? …I can understand that.

It’s a similar climate.

“And the people too. Very similar to Australia. I don’t know about New Zealand but even today just walking around. You know they say about seeing your double? I’ve seen doubles of, like, five people in one day. “That’s exactly like someone back home, exactly the same!” So I could see how people from Australia would definitely fit in.”

I’ve been listening to The Drones lately. They’re not well known over here, are there other Australian rock bands that we’re missing out on and we should be hearing?

There’s a few. I live in Byron Bay where there’s hippies, there’s metalheads, there’s the conservative farmer types.

There’s a good few bands like Angus and Julia Stone, Parkway Drive, they live around there. There’s a lot of up and coming bands. Babe Rainbow, which is like that psychedelic Kinks sound. All that San Francisco love sound.

King Lizard and the Gizzard Wizards, they’re doing well. Another psychedelic band. Have you heard of them?

King Lizard and the Gizzard Wizards?! I want to now! That name is great. It’s like with The Drones or even Wolfmother, once you hear the name, you want to hear the music.

“It’s interesting. The band name paints a picture. I think that’s important. The name allows people to own it. It allows them to use their imagination and allows it to be what they want it to be.”

I wanted to ask about ‘Pretty Peggy’. It’s really different but it’s really good. It suits your voice, will you do more in that direction?

“I’m going to play that tonight so! With that one I went into the studio, played it once, played the bass, played the drums, it was done in like 15 minutes. All the lyrics came out on the spot. I have never found it so easy to write a song.”

That comes through on the record.

“Yeah, didn’t force it at all. I didn’t think it would be right for the record. I didn’t even send it to Brendan O’Brien until we’d almost finished the record. I went to LA. I didn’t even have a copy of that song with me.”

I called the engineer in Byron, “do you have a copy of that song, ‘Pretty Peggy’?” And he was like, “I’ll have a look.” He found it on his laptop and sent it to me. I sent it to Brendan and he said “We’ve got to do this!” It almost wasn’t on there.”

Its un-Wolfmother-y but it still fits. I read that you went into your studio for two weeks and just jammed out the album?

“Yeah, about two weeks. I think it was January 2015, January / February. I’d go in at ten o’clock in the morning and usually start on the guitar, that’s always a good place to start, and play for about twenty minutes.

Just play anything. Just go nuts and do whatever you can and then I’d play drums along to it. Play different fills and stuff to complement the riff. Bass after that, and then make an arrangement from the jam.”

You’re starting the tour here tonight, then seven dates in the UK, eighteen dates in Europe then the festivals on top of that, busy times?

“Yeah, we just finished a twenty five date tour in the States. We had four days off before starting this so were kind of in the midst of it.”

Do you feel the jet lag?

The jet lag is hard. I’ve fallen asleep at two in the afternoon until about eleven thirty and then been awake until eleven thirty the next day. But today is good. So far, so good.

It’s your first time in Ireland since 2010, you’ve had a couple of records in the meantime?

I put out a solo record, ‘Keep Moving’. That was kind of like a more relaxed effort, just built my own studio and bought all the equipment. Just after ‘Cosmic Egg’. After that I was off the label. I was completely off the label. I recorded the record New Crown and just uploaded it from my laptop onto this music distribution service. Cost me fifteen dollars to get it out there.

It was in the top ten in the rock charts worldwide. It didn’t have any marketing so it went under the radar a bit. So this time I’m back with Universal, with the backing, using a big producer, doing the whole shebang, which is great. It s good to have that.

It’s great to see you back in Ireland again.

It’s great being here. This trip I’ve soaked it in a bit more. I got here yesterday and just, it’s all sinking in. I get it, I really get it. Whereas the last two times it was just a massive jet lag blur.

– Interview by Marc Edison ::: 10/04/16

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