In the grand tradition of Led Zeppelin, Mountain and Cream, Australia’s Wolfmother play hook-heavy, riff-packed, thunderous classic rock. Led by charismatic singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale, the band has delivered four amazing CDs of pure guitar-driven bliss in the last decade. Their latest, “Victorious,” is the most real rock ‘n’ roll thing you’ll hear this year.
In advance of their upcoming gig at the District’s 9:30 Club March 2, Mr. Stockdale sat down to discuss the power and the glory of the mighty Wolfmother.
Question: Have you played D.C. before?
Answer: We have played there two or three times before. Always at the 9:30 Club. It’s such a classic venue. There is always a welcoming atmosphere from the moment you load in. And the crowd is fantastic.
Q: What is the best part of being back touring in America?
A: The touring circuit is so well established here that you feel kind of like respected for being a band. It’s nice. That’s not always the case in some places.
Q: The lineup of Wolfmother has always changed. Is it hard to keep a band together?
A: Ian [Peres] who plays bass has been with me since 2009’s “Cosmic Egg” album. He’s consistent.
This new album, “Victorious” I thought, “What would happen if I just do it all myself?” People have come in as touring members of the band, and I had experimented in bringing them into the writing process. They either didn’t have the right style or feel for it. But for touring they were great. This record, I thought, “What if I bring it back?” I play everything and try to get that style back that I like. Create these rough sketches
Q: When you do it all yourself, is it easier?
A: You miss out on having someone there to say “maybe not.” But you also miss out on the encouragement. Which could be good because you’re left to your own devices. You listen to your own voice, which can be more critical. It was good being in there by myself. I was very brutal with my opinion of what I was doing. The second opinion came from [producer] Brendan O’Brien. It was good to have someone who was qualified to take that role.
Q: How quickly did the album come together?
A: It took me about two and a half weeks if you spend five, six, seven hours on a song a day. Then you go in the next day. And the next day after that. You get a lot done. I had 16 songs. Some came together in three or four hours. A couple were collaborations, but I wrote all the rest myself.
Q: Did you finish a song a day?
A: The first day with a song is just broad strokes. The second day is like a second draft. You revise it and look at it. But each song is usually done in two days. I find that when I walk into the studio, the first thing I play always turns out to be the best idea. I cottoned on to that. When the energy and ideas are fresh, you get best results.
Songwriting is one of those things you can forget how you did it. I always kind of look for that “out-of-body” experience when I write. I don’t want to be too literal — searching for something that is bigger than self, really.
Q: How did you get drummers Joey Waronker and Josh Freese involved?
A: I met Joey way back before we even put out Wolfmother’s first record. He was playing with either Beck or Air at the time. When I decided to get someone on board, Joey was available. He has a fluent style that really suits Wolfmother. He did the first part of the record, then he had to go back on tour.
Josh Freese was just finishing a tour. He came in and finished up the album. Songs like “Victorious” really suited his playing. He has a bit more power in his approach.
Q: Are you better at writing electric or acoustic songs?
A: I do like to do acoustic songs for my solo stuff and follow it through with Neil Young’s production approach. When I go back to picking up electric and trying to write a powerful riff and get a good groove, I realize that’s the place for me. In some weird way, that’s the thing that I can do well. It has become more obvious to me now that writing riffs is more appropriate. Acoustic stuff is cool, but there are some acoustic people there doing acoustic stuff on another level.
Q: Wolfmother’s sound is very classic rock. Which bands inspired you?
A: Black Sabbath for sure — Tony Iommi’s guitar playing. Bill Ward’s jazzy drumming. That first album. It wasn’t exactly metal as we know it now. It was a bluesy jam band sort of thing.
Some Bowie songs. Zeppelin. Cream. Mountain. The bands that were playing blues- and jazz-influenced rock served as inspiration.
Q: How will you spend your downtime in D.C.?
A: I got a tip off from another band, Dead Meadow. They said to go to this soup kitchen that has vegetarian food. So I went there last time. It’s opposite of the university. Good food.
It was pretty trippy because I think it was like this African pow wow vegetarian place. I was the only white dude in there. I started talking to all these different people there, put them on the guest list. I’ll be back there. I loved walking around that area and meeting all these different people.
Wolfmother plays the 9:30 Club March 2. Tickets are $35 by going to 930.com.
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