Wolfmother are on their way back with new music. The Andrew Stockdale-led outfit will be releasing their fourth studio album, Victorious, on Feb. 19 and we recently had a chance to preview some of the new songs off the disc. Let’s just say it’s a return form for Stockdale, who played guitar, bass and sang on the album and the songs we heard have the vitality, energy and muscle that put the band on the musical map back in the mid-2000s.
Stockdale was joined in the studio by producer Brendan O’Brien, as well as highly respected drummers Joey Waronker and Josh Freese who took turns adding the beats to the disc. Check out our chat with Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale below:
Did you have an idea or mindset of what you wanted to do going into this album?
Um this one, yeah I think on New Crown just the year before this one, it was sort of like a return to roots in some ways and this one was sort of like an extension of doing that. You know, going back in some ways to a similar thing to what I did on the first record where like I’d play a riff just be in a room, you know, and just put down ideas and just kind of put everything together like that. Like I’d construct the song, have the hook at the start, have the riff, then get the beat happening. So that was what I had in mind for this one.
It’s gotta be fun, as a musician. Can you talk about the studio experience, getting the chance to play different instruments and construct songs from the ground up?
Well, you can probably hear on “Victorious,” you’ve got the “do do do do dodo” (*drum sounds*) you know, “ding doo goo do” (*drum sounds*) you know, lots of cymbal grabs and lots of tom action on there. I get to indulge my own things that I like. A lot of those things now, you know people are going “that sounds like Wolfmother.” Before the vocals even start, they’re like, “That’s the Wolfmother sound” so I figured, I may as well keep doing that, If it’s found its feet and it’s found its own kind of signature style, just keep exploring that approach.
The title track just kicks you in the ass. Let’s talk about “Victorious,” where it comes from and how it came together.
I bought this really out there 80’s, sort of Flying V Explorer kind of pointy-looking guitar, it was kind of this humorous-looking instrument that sort of brought out this more extroverted kind of riff fantasy, early kind of metal kind of thing so you can hear on those riff (*guitar sounds*). It sort of brought out this kind of, humorous riff kind of theme, if you could say? I was just walking to my studio in Byron Bay and I would have a desk here and I would just play for like 20 minutes and then I’d have a listen back and I would just pick the bits that sort of stood out and put them together and then play along with the drums. Then lay down the vocals, lay down the bass and within 3-4 hours I would have a song. I did that every day for about a week and a half, two weeks and then pretty much I had the record after that. It was a pretty quick writing process.
That song in particular sounds very Wolfmother, but then right about the middle – I hear a Sabbath thing.
If you play, if you hold a power chord these days it’s gonna reference Iommi, I think, cause he’s kind of – that’s his signature move.
Listening to the song, the lyrics are “SHE will be victorious,” not he, we or they. I guess you had a female in mind to be the focus of this?
Well, initially it was “we will be victorious,” then I just kind of thought, I didn’t want to make it like enemy-driven. I thought if I put in “she” it sort of rounds it off a little bit. Essentially the message is like, if you wake up in the morning that’s a victory, you know? It’s all about small victories we have, whatever it might be. More so than a battle, you know that kind of competitive thing because that can be a bit one dimensional. That’s how I see it at least.
I noticed there’s now a teaser online for another song. What was that?
“Love That You Give?”
Yes, let’s talk about that.
That was the first song that I started off with this year. That one I was just in the studio, in the live room and I just played guitar for half an hour to lay everything down very quick. I think the main thing I was conscious of writing this record was the parts to be different to each other. The chorus would be completely different to the verse, you wouldn’t just be able to – meat and potatoes, keep time, you would actually have to be active throughout the whole song.
Keeping things different, “Pretty Peggy.” Love that song, nice change of pace. A very mid-tempo track. Where was that in the process?
“Pretty Peggy,” I wrote that last year. That one I just picked up the acoustic, played it once, put down the lyrics, put down the bass, put down the drums. It was done in probably an hour. That was one of those songs that just wrote itself. I left it for maybe a year, I didn’t even have a copy of the demo, until we started making the record in LA with Brendan O’Brien. We got to about the 4th or 5th song and I thought, “I should send him this song, he might like it”. He’s a bit more open to the acoustic songs, I could see he wasn’t just a “riff-focused” producer. So I asked Kev, who does a lot of engineering for me, I was like, “Do you have that song ‘Pretty Peggy’ anywhere? Can you email it to me?” So he sent it through and I forwarded onto Brendan. He was like, “We gotta do this one”. It was a bit left field. I wasn’t sure if it would suit the whole thing but I think it’s turned out to be — from people we’ve played it to so far, it seems to be a standout track, as they say.
Loving that one, I’m envisioning the “woah’s,” and the audience getting involved. How excited are you to get out there and play these songs live?
I love playing live. I get a lot of energy from it. The people, it’s a good atmosphere. It’s one of those things, I think musicians thrive off it. It’s an unusual thing. You can’t buy it, you can’t make happen. It’s one of those things that either happens or it doesn’t. If people are singing along to those parts, it’ll be a magical thing to experience, you know?
You mentioned working with Brendan O’Brien. Your manager mentioned it was a very quick process in making this album. Can you talk about the sessions and what it was like working with Brendan?
Well, I sent through the demos about a month before we started up. I got a call maybe two days before we started, “Are you ready to go to LA?” It was Saturday and I was like, “I don’t know”. I asked my family, daughter, I was like “Do you wanna go to LA?” and they just rolled out the suitcases and the next day we were here. I didn’t even bring a guitar. I didn’t bring anything, didn’t bring a band, didn’t bring a guitar, just walked into the studio. So it was a whole new experience.
We would just sit there, like us and guitars and go, “OK, Pretty Peggy!”, then we’d play it and record it. And then we’d maybe do that three times and then agree on the arrangement. Bring in I think Joey Waronker. I think he did the first half, Josh Freese did the second half. He was on tour and he would come in, play on the demo, play it out there maybe 4 or 5 times, lay down the bass, lay down the guitar, lay down the vocals. We were doing a song like every day, every two days and that just took a month and a half, and we walked out of there with a record.
I’ve seen some of the things you’ve been posting on Facebook with the SSL board and a lot of the gear you had in the studio. Coming into an experience like you said, you didn’t even pack a guitar. Is it frightening to approach recording like that or is it more like a kid in a candy store?
I mean, I think I thrive off it. I do like the big … because I have my own studio and I’m in there all the time. I’ve got 30 guitars, I’ve got all this stuff so I know what it’s like to maintain a studio, maintain all the equipment and do all of that stuff. I was like, “This is your problem now [laughs] I can just sit back and play.” I do enjoy the atmosphere in these studios, they’re incredible. But, someone else can take care of that and I can spend more time writing lyrics or coming up with more creative stuff.
You recorded at Henson Studios. So much history there. Does that phase you at all?
It definitely has a sense of occasion and there’s a profound energy that emanates from a place like that, it’s all good. It’s like playing in a big arena or something, you feel the importance of it so you want to give it your all.
“City Lights” is another standout. When I think of Wolfmother, I think of the ’70s influences, but this one is more classic rock and I hear more of an ’80s influence. Was that where you were going with that?
Yeah, I thought I’m going to play around with the different vibe and that was sort of that — 80s style of leather jackets, New York kind of vibe. Just getting into a different headspace and trying to visualize what that would be. It’s like, I live in a small town in Australia. It’s like 30,000 people so every time I go to the city, it’s like I just love the anonymity and the buzz of it. People watching, different restaurants. I think it can bring about spontaneous experiences, the good and the bad. Maybe I romanticize over it, but after a couple of weeks i’m happy to retreat back to where I live.
Joey Waronker and Josh Freese, both played drums on different parts of this. What did each bring to the table? What are you looking for when those guys come in and play for you?
I met Joey about ten years ago when he was touring with Beck and I had said I’m a massive fan. I loved his drumming style. He’s a huge influence on what we do. So when I got here, we were looking for some drummers so we gave him a call to see if he was available. The next day he was in here. He’s a very mellow. He’s like, “I’m a soft hitter.” I’m like, “That’s cool because you can’t tell.” People have said Bonham was a soft hitter. It all comes through on the recording, you don’t have to hit it that hard to get a good sound. You listen to “City Lights” and he’s just flying off the handle with every single paradiddle you can imagine under the sun on that thing, [laughs].
I met Josh when I did one song with Slash that took half a day to record. We just went in and we worked with Josh for half a day. He’s an all arounder, he’s a solid “go to” drummer. He’s a hard hitter. He brings an air of confidence to the session which is awesome. He’s a proficient musician, he’s great.
With the exception of the two that came in to drum for you, this album is mostly you. When it comes to getting back on tour, what’s the live lineup look like to you at this point?
Well, Ian [Peres] who’s been in the band for seven years, he came over and played keys on everything. It only took two days. We had everything set up, he just banged them out. We Just recently did a show in Bali, this big festival over there. We had Dave [Atkins] on board from Cosmic Egg, but yeah, we’ll see schedule permitting who’s up for it.
Off this record, what is the song that you’re most excited about getting out there and playing live in front of an audience?
I think “Love That You Give” is a solid one. It’s got that swinging beat and the simple kind of, riff. I played it maybe five times. I played it in a small venue in Australia and played it headlining big festivals, and I’ve seen a mosh pit go nuts. You see the crowd erupt to different levels, we didn’t play “Victorious.” Maybe that’ll get there as well, but when we played “Woman” it was like, “Woah. This one is working.”
It’s been ten years since your first record came out. Any recollections on that one? Anything stand out to where you remember it taking off and blowing up?
There were different times. On a small scale, I remember it was just when websites started and we started an email. I remember seeing 40-50 emails, “Can you play here? Can you play there? Would you play this snow field? We’ll fly you here, etc.” That was the first, when you think, people want to fly us around? That was a good sign. Then, when you see your friends who come along at the start and they’re like, “Yeah, I love this band because they’re our friends” and then you see your friends get pushed out of the venue [laughs] and they’re looking around because there’s 500 or so people and they’re like, “Hey?!” You see that happen and then relatives who aren’t into music start to know about your band and then it’s more and more awareness outside of your usual kind of, people who you might talk to about music. They start to get to know what is going on, and then every step along the way — you play a festival and you meet big bands, get on a radio station. Then you’re like, playing a KROQ thing and Dave Grohl is saying hi to you. Then it’s all sort of a gradual thing, bit by bit.
Dave Grohl saying hi is one thing but I read about you being personally invited by Led Zeppelin to be their guest at an honors show. How cool is that?
What an honor! Jimmy Page made a very … and there’s no way I can honestly live up to this, but he said, “You’re like Page and Plant in one.” [laughs] I’m like, “That’s nice to say, thank you. But I can’t play like that, bro. [laughs] I can lay down some good chords and embellishments, but Zeppelin stuff – I’d need a lot of time to get my chops up to that level.” [laughs]
What does 2016 look like to you at this point?
We’re looking to tour the States in February and then Europe just after that, starting off in the U.K. and then across Europe. Then we’ll come back, we’ll see how it goes from there I think.
Are you thinking of shooting a video for “Victorious”?
Yeah! We’re making one early next week. We’re casting, the director is working hard casting girls for the role right now as we speak [laughs].
Our thanks to Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale for the interview. As stated, the Victorious album will be released on Feb. 19 and you can pre-order it via iTunes here. You can also purchase the songs “Victorious” and “City Lights” via iTunes as well. If you want to check out some new music, Zane Lowe is premiering a couple of tracks on Beats 1. Check it out here. The tracks “Victorious” and “City Lights” can also be heard on Spotify. And look for Wolfmother returning to the road with North American dates in February, March and early April. Check out their tour dates below.
Wolfmother, Victorious Album Art
Wolfmother 2015 North American Tour
2/24 — Minneapolis, Minn. – First Ave
2/25 — Chicago, Ill. – Metro
2/26 — Detroit, Mich. – St. Andrews Hall
2/27 — Toronto, Ontario – Dansforth Music Hall
2/29 — Boston, Mass. – Paradise Rock Club
3/2 — Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
3/3 — New York, N.Y. – Webster Hall
3/4 — Philadelphia, Penn. – Trocadero Theatre
3/5 — Raleigh, N.C. – The Ritz
3/7 — Atlanta, Ga. – Center Stage
3/8 — Nashville, Tenn. – Marathon Music Works
3/9 — Memphis, Tenn. – Minglewood Hall
3/11 — Lawrence, Kan. – Granada Theater
3/12 — Oklahoma City, Okla. – Diamond Ballroom
3/14 — Dallas, Texas – Granada Theater
3/15 — Houston, Texas – House of Blues
3/21 — El Paso, Texas – Tricky Falls
3/22 — Tempe, Ariz. – The Marquee
3/23 — San Diego, Calif. – House of Blues
3/25 — Santa Ana, Calif. – The Observatory
3/26 — Los Angeles, Calif. – The Fonda Theatre
3/28 — San Francisco, Calif. – The Fillmore
3/30 — Portland, Ore. – Wonder Ballroom
3/31 — Seattle, Wash. – The Showbox
4/1 — Vancouver, British Columbia – Commodore Ballroom