Australian heavy-hitting rockers, Wolfmother, will be making a stop at Webster Hall in New York on March 3 during their Gypsy Caravan Tour after last month's release of their fourth studio album, Victorious. Frontman Andrew Stockdale shared his thoughts on the trio's new record, his experience fronting the group for over a decade, and some of his experiences on the road.
Amid changing lineups, Stockdale constantly adapted to change in order to maintain the signature Wolfmother sound. Aside from certain singles in which Stockdale incorporated some collaborative efforts, all of the fuzzy and chugging guitar work on the album was an element he wrote and recorded himself.
"It's definitely good to just walk into the studio, write a song, and just walk out with the song by the end of the day. It's a nice feeling. On 'Gypsy Caravan,' I collaborated with a guy from another Aussie band called Spiderbait named Kram. Aside from the collaborations, the rest I wrote myself, and I guess it was nice to have that freedom."
For Stockdale, the hectic array of 70s inspired blues and psychedelic stoner metal has always come naturally, and Wolfmother has always been able to distinguish its style from that of contemporaries through a carefully studied and arranged assortment of loud, vintage riffing that is captured in a revitalized, newfound way. Though it's an easy cop-out to categorize the group as a revival of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era tunes through the signature riffs they put out, the trio has an authenticity to their completely fuzzed-out, cranked up vibe. Stockdale was eager to show that his primary motivation is coming up with great guitar licks that are the driving force behind each track. With all that said, Victorious is a relatively experimental project for the band which verges away from the traditionally sludgy and pummeling vibrancies of earlier works to make room for different kinds of instrumentation without abandoning the very thing that makes Wolfmother what they are.
"I like to stick to the riffs and good beats. There's stuff I'd like Wolfmother to maintain going forward. We've always had some acoustic stuff...looking at things like 'Vagabond' off the first record. That's always a fun time, and there's definitely always been an acoustic side of Wolfmother. I think it helps to have a bit of variety on there."
I wanted to see if Stockdale had any influences that no one would have guessed, and he definitely had a few.
"The Stooges, maybe Iron Maiden, maybe Hendrix, maybe Dylan, maybe Supertramp."
Fueled by the constant drive to play rock and roll for its own sake, as a means of gravitating towards what music is capable of making one feel, has been a constant priority for the group, and it's something they've stuck with throughout the lineup changes, constantly being on the move through touring and changes of atmosphere and experience. Stockdale's drive to constantly be moving on without regret, and trying something novel was present within Victorious.
"Sometimes you're just magnetized to music and you just want to play. That desire to play just keeps you going, and with an audience that's interested and willing to support you, just put the two together to keep going. You've gotta want to do it and people have gotta want to hear you. We were very fortunate that was the case.
Some people have come along and contributed, and inspired for a while, that does influence things in some way. Ian's been in the band for about seven years now so that's been pretty consistent. But we've had some crazy moments where we've had like conga players. It looks like we've had lots of people, and I mean, some of those people were playing like castanets and stuff. But that was good at the time; it added a good part of a song."
On any regrets he had on the album, he said:
"I think you've got to leave it. In this line of work you've got to own it. You've got to just let go; you can't entertain such thoughts. You've got to move on; let it take its passe, otherwise you just go crazy. You're better off doing something else, moving on to the next record.
Getting a good arrangement is challenging. Trimming up all the fat and making sure that everything works, maintaining everyone's attention and making sure that it doesn't lag on. And lyrics are definitely challenging, to make sure everything can be compelling and have good rhythmic quality, so lyrics are definitely challenging. This record didn't cause a lot of difficulties. I think the solutions seemed to present themselves pretty quickly throughout the process. On this record, there was one song called "Baroness" that was truly an experiment because the chorus for it was actually from another song I wrote, and once I got to L.A. I heard another song, and Brandon suggested we put these two songs together. So "Baroness" was really challenging to finish."
Stockdale seemed more than eager for all of his upcoming tour dates. Being able to play to an audience and have positivity reverberate as feedback to the group's set is a huge aspect in what keeps the constant momentum of creativity within their growing and evolving repertoire. Wolfmother remain true rockers at heart, and their kinetic aura electrifies by cranking it up to eleven and filling up a venue with blasting riffs.
"'Vagabond' feels good, having a little foot stomp at the end of the set seems to get to the crowd. 'Woman' feels great. And 'Joker' has gotten to the point now where it doesn't even feel like a song...it feels like I just kind of levitate. So that's definitely a highlight. 'The Love That You Give' and 'Victorious' are definitely coming along now, they're more familiar with the crowd.
The shows being sold out, and just getting such a positive response has definitely been an unexpected, pleasant surprise."
Like any great rock artist, having over a decade of touring under his belt inevitably has given Stockdale some crazy experiences about being lost in a place entirely foreign and new perspectives on life.
"I remember once, two years ago, when we were playing in India and we had these two vans come pick us up to take us to the venue. We were driving along on the highway, out in the middle of nowhere. One of the vans breaks down and we pull over, and the petrol meter was down and I was like, 'what's the problem? Have you run out of petrol?' and he goes, 'no, the petrol meter's broken.' Okay, that's fine, so we all get into the one van and keep going, leaving the other van behind and then they take us to this abandoned hotel that looked like some kind of dilapidated amusement park. We were like, 'we ain't staying at this amusement park, bro. You need to take us to the hotel you showed us on the internet!' They were trying to get us to stay at this amusement park, but that didn't happen, and they took us to the right hotel. Then we end up going to the venue and there's donkeys and carriages and stuff on the street before we get to the venue, and then the stage was covered in this freaking red carpet with about 5,000 Indian students going nuts. So that was a pretty interesting trip."
Stockdale's experiences touring, traveling the world, and experiencing life have all come to inspire him in the work he does artistically, and many of the songs he packs with kick-ass riffs reflect upon the wild ride experienced as a constantly touring band.
"I think we all have a bit of a philosophical side in life that we usually don't talk about. We contemplate ideas and things like that in life. I like to talk about philosophy, and people, and life, and how people connect. Or whatever, you know? I guess songs like 'Gypsy Caravan' are meant to reflect on the sort of transient lifestyle of being in a touring band, and how that can be a good thing. Moving around sort of gives you gain a new perspective on things to get a new creative headspace."