Wolfmother are a band in demand. My interview with them before their sold-out show at the London Scala tonight is delayed and then cut short as their late arrival means cramming my demented inquisition in alongside my better paid but clearly inferior peers at the NME and several representatives of the international press. Whilst bassist Chris Ross has seemingly baulked at the gruelling schedule of interviews, playing truant at today’s proceedings, the band should be no strangers to attention. They are already superstars in their native Australia, where their debut album has garnered massive success which has been reflected by critical praise. Influential Australian radio station JJJ awarded them their ‘album of the year’ award and the band also had an unprecedented six songs voted on to their annual top 100 list.
When drummer Myles Heskett and Andrew Stockdale, the band’s impressively afroed lead singer and guitarist, finally arrive they are both laid back and happy to chat away, although this could be to do with the fact that they both seem very very stoned. Indeed, some critics have attempted to pigeonhole their sound as ‘stoner’ rock, but they tell me that they’re ‘not that absorbed’. To my ears, they are ‘everything-but-the-average’ rock, drawing influences from countless genres. They say ‘We want to take elements of stoner and mix it in with elements of punk, or take the finger plucking from country and mix it with straight out rock. We take things from hip-hop or anywhere else. I wouldn’t want to designate one scene.’ Myles cites Kyuss, and his subsequent discovery of Pink Floyd as key influences, whilst Andrew seems to naturally draw influences from anywhere he can find them, saying that even at school he could socialise with any scene, and listened to anything and everything from Black Flag to the Blues Explosion. This openness to eclecticism has made for an album with some unusual highlights. ‘I don’t see why people freak out over panflute solos,’ says Andrew, ‘I think for our next album we’re gonna get an entire flute orchestra together.’ Their debut LP was recorded in Los Angeles with Dave Sardy, a big name producer who’s worked with the likes of Oasis, The Dandy Warhols and Marilyn Manson. Andrew tells me that their openness to his ideas helped the band to progress, and to move on from the level they had already achieved after the years of jamming and rehearsing which had led up to the EP they self-released and which brought them so much attention. They are coming towards the end of this tour, and feel triumphant that their work has brought fresh recognition.
It’s been a far cry from the nightmare gig that followed their last visit to London. As Myles recounts the tale, Andrew seems physically pained, wincing “I feel like we shouldn’t even talk about it, I don’t wanna go there” Apparently a hectic departure from London, en route to New York, involved a very stoned Andrew and Wolfmother’s tour manager breaking into his old flat in order to retrieve his passport, then flying half way around the world to a photo shoot which involved sitting in the snow for several hours. By the time they played their New York showcase Andrew had lost his voice and Myles was suffering with flu and finding that his rented drumkit disintegrated mid-show. As their PR shuffles them off to sound check, I hope that the Scala will be kinder to them. By the time I next see them, striding onto the Stage to an exultant roar, they are changed men. Gone is the laid back, not a care in the world attitude, and in its place is classic showmanship. The show is pure foot-to-the-floor rock. Part Zeppelin riffs, part Sabbath howl and part Floyd psychedelia, they unite a diverse audience of hairy head-banging AC/DC fans, huge sweaty skinheads apparently on loan from Millwall riots and skinny girls with blonde pigtails, awakening an initially lethargic Tuesday night crowd. They roar through a crowd pleasing set, with Apple Tree, Another Dimension and Mind’s Eye particular standouts. Be sure to catch them at the Koko for their final British date next month, because as they exit stage right, world domination surely awaits.
Originally published in the LSE’s The Beaver, 14 March 2006.