Interview: Wallows on their 'Spring' EP, debut album, and more.
One third of Wallows is sadly staring at the ground where he's dropped his favourite flavour of mentos, while another third of Wallows is contemplating a polaroid photo and wondering where his arm disappeared to, with the final third of Wallows having been freshly berated by his fellow band members for being late and forgetting to bring any clothes to the photoshoot ("I was just trusting you guys," he insists).
Wallows' decade-long friendship began when Braeden Lemasters (guitar and vocals), Cole Preston (drums) and Dylan Minnette (guitar and vocals) met at Join The Band, a Los Angeles music programme, aged 11. Fast-forward through various different monikers and past iterations, and the trio officially became Wallows last year - this April releasing their major label debut EP, 'Spring', on which they share anecdotal ruminations ("We were wanting to grow up every weekend / Now we're watching the moments as they're leaving") and paint quaint musical portraits of sincerity and candour, peppered with their signature wit (in '1980s Horror Film' they ask, "Why are girls in songs always seventeen?").
Coup De Main met Wallows in a Los Angeles backyard-jungle last month before they flew out to play Lollapalooza Chicago, to discuss songwriting streams of consciousness, the double-edged sword of social media, and when exactly you can hope to expect their debut album...
Whether it be partying, drinking, smoking weed, or whatever it is, kids just want to grow up and do those things because it's in front of them all the time - the people that they look up to are probably older than them. Back when our parents were our age, they probably didn't really have anything to look at [like social media] or look up to in that way, so they could just enjoy their youth and just focus on the days that they were in.
COUP DE MAIN: How does your songwriting process work?
WALLOWS - BRAEDEN LEMASTERS: It kind of differs. Usually one of us comes up with an idea, like a general thing, and that's how it all starts. And then we'll bring it to the other guys, or voice memo it to the other guys, and then we'll all just build the song around that. So yeah, it's kind of different. Sometimes a song could be 100% done, or sometimes it could be 3% done, and then the other two make it 100% done. So it kind of just goes back and forth. And there's a song called 'These Days' on the ['Spring'] EP that Cole and his housemates started working on first, and then I heard it, and I was like, 'What?! Dude! This should be one of our songs.' And then we all completed it. So, literally, it can be out of the blue - in any way, shape, or form.
CDM: Are the lyrics that you and Dylan sing in your songs the specific ones that you wrote? Or do you normally work on lyric ideas all together?
BRAEDEN: What's funny, is that I was actually just thinking about that. The music, and parts we play / the lyrics we sing sometimes, are totally random. There's words that Dylan sings that I wrote, and there's words that I sing that he wrote. Most of the time we write the lyrics we sing, because that's just how it is, but I did think it was funny how with 'Pleaser', Dylan wrote all the lyrics, and I wrote the melodies, so it's really random.
WALLOWS - DYLAN MINNETTE: It really is random.
BRAEDEN: But yeah, it mainly is that who wrote it, sings the lyrics. But recently, kind of not, which is weird.
DYLAN: It's like, whoever writes the melody will normally sing it more so, and then we can just change words together.
CDM: Do you tell each other what your lyrics are about? Or just leave them open to interpretation?
DYLAN: God, we're so funny with writing lyrics.
WALLOWS - COLE PRESTON: Especially going into the album that we just did. We definitely took a lot more time with the lyrics, and started to realise what's good and what just isn't. So, recently, yeah, we've been really trying to. Even with just the EP songs and everything, we really just want to have lyrics that kind of make sense and not just wing 'em. So yeah, I think we try to have an idea about what the song is about.
CDM: In 'Ground' you say, "We were wanting to grow up every weekend / Now we're watching the moments as they're leaving.” Those lines touch on wanting to grow up too fast. Why do you think our generation in particular always wants to grow up faster than they actually do?
DYLAN: A lot of it probably has to do with social media, right? Like being able to admire and look up to people of any age, especially people that are older than them, and trying to rush to get there. Whether it be partying, drinking, smoking weed, or whatever it is, kids just want to grow up and do those things because it's in front of them all the time - the people that they look up to are probably older than them. I feel like, maybe back when our parents were our age, they probably didn't really have anything to look at or look up to in that way, so they could just enjoy their youth and just focus on the days that they were in. I think it's because there's so much for all kids in their youth to look at now.
CDM: Do you think we take our youth for granted?
COLE: Yes and no. It's funny, I don't think I was ever one to strive to grow up or anything like that, which is interesting. I always loved childhood, and I still do. I wish I was still a child and I love looking back on my childhood and I love cartoons and I love anything that goes with that - like, 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' shout-out, I just saw that documentary yesterday.
DYLAN: It's called, 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?'
COLE: That's right. What's funny, is someone recently just said that, 'Education's wasted on the young,' which I thought was interesting. It's kind of out of context with what you just said, but I thought that was interesting because the older you get, probably the more you want to learn information, more than a child would want to learn about space rockets or math.
CDM: In a similar vein, in the second verse of 'Pulling Leaves Off Trees' you say, "Can I make my own opinion tell me all about it," and you also refer to how society links the importance of an opinion to age, i.e. that age equates to wisdom. Do you think that living in an information overload makes it harder or easier to be a young person with opinions?
DYLAN: That's interesting. Weirdly, right now, I would maybe say easier. Simply because with all of the madness going on in politics right now, kids are able to see it right in front of them, because that's really all that's in Twitter feeds or anything all the time now. We are the next generation that will be going into these positions in the future, and kids are already forming their own opinions on it now 'cuz it's right in front of them. Like I was saying earlier, the thing with social media is that everything is right in front of you all the time, no matter what you want it to be. So I feel like it's easier now for kids to make their own opinions on certain things, especially when it comes to politics or something like that, or what they believe is right or wrong. But, I don't know... That's the only way I can really answer that question. Anything else, I'm not really sure, because when we were teenagers, we didn't have social media to the extent that we have it now. I mean, we had it, but it's all that a lot of kids focus on now, really.
COLE: It's kind of like a double-edged sword, where it's easier to access all of this information and generate an opinion, but it's also way easier to be influenced by these things, which I don't know if that's for worse or for better. Also, too, kids are more empowered to share their opinions, and there's just more of that going on than there ever was, which I don't know if that's good or bad.
DYLAN: I think it's pretty good.
COLE: Yeah, I think it'll be good.
CDM: Better education than ignorance.
CDM: I really like the imagery of the line, "Can you sink into my dreams?" in 'It's Only Right'. What were you thinking about when writing that line?
DYLAN: That was me, huh? The song is very simple. It's about missing someone, or wanting to be with someone, and the only way you can really be with them is probably in your dreams. So it's like, 'Can you please be there?', and then I'm just not gonna wanna wake up, because I just want to be with you.
CDM: That's cute.
BRAEDEN: It's a good PG-13 lyric.
CDM: Braeden, in '1980s Horror Film' you sing, "She / Was only seventeen / Oh, why are girls in songs always seventeen?" What do you think it is about that age that is so significant that it's always romanticised in songwriting?
BRAEDEN: God, who knows. It think it sings well, seventeen. It's better than fifteen. Or twenty-seven. <sings> "She was just twenty-seven." That's weird. [Abba's] 'Dancing Queen'. There's a song by Kings Of Leon called 'Seventeen'. 'I Saw Her Standing There' by The Beatles. Everything. Seventeen's like the dream number. Seventeen is just what everyone always sings about.
DYLAN: That line was taking the stereotype of that age and flipping it on its head, I feel.
COLE: Just, like, posing that exact question.
BRAEDEN: It was actually inspired by 'I Saw Her Standing There'. The original rough lyric was literally that.
CDM: 'Seventeen' was actually the original title of 'I Saw Her Standing There'. Fun fact of the day.
BRAEDEN: Yeah, that's right!
DYLAN: Really?! That is so funny.
BRAEDEN: <sings> "Never been no beauty queen," that was the original line as well.
BRAEDEN: Yeah they didn't think it sung well.
COLE: Instead of, "You know what I mean"?
BRAEDEN: Lennon wrote it.
DYLAN: "You know what I mean," that's so much creepier.
BRAEDEN: That's a Lennon line for ya.
CDM: A lot of the writing on the EP refers to the goings on in your mind (“White noise that plays in my head” and “back and forth in my mind” in ‘It’s Only Right’, and “my mind is open wide” in ‘These Days’). Do you find that most of your songwriting is based on your own experiences and thoughts in your mind?
BRAEDEN: Yes, I do. I think it has a lot to do with things you've experienced, things you've lived through, and also just streams of consciousness. I've realised recently that half the lyrics I ever sing are literally just streams of consciousness, I don't think about them, I don't write them out or anything. And I think that's kind of where the weird thing happens, where you don't know how that happens - you just sing words and somehow they make sense. Like '1980s Horror Film', those lyrics didn't really change at all, I just sang that song when I sat down to write it. It's weird, it comes from a place I don't even know.
CDM: I like that stream of consciousness in your lyrics, it makes your songs sound like you're sharing a personal anecdote with a friend. Like in 'Sun Tan', which is really sarcastic.
BRAEDEN: God, 'Sun Tan'. That has some deep layers to it, yeah. <laughs>
CDM: Why do you think the human mind is so fascinating to examine in songwriting, and such a different experience for every single person?
DYLAN: That's a tough question. I don't know. I don't really ever think about it that deeply.
BRAEDEN: The first thing that came to mind, no pun intended, is that the mind is another whole dimension or world. This is a world, but then there's also a world in there, and I guess you could put on your adventure shoes and go trek around in there and see what you find... A lot of neurons. And morons.
DYLAN: A lot of neurons and morons?
COLE: That's a good album title.
CDM: You just released the song 'Underneath The Streetlights In The Winter Outside Your House’. Was this a song you used to perform in your previous band, The Narwhals?
BRAEDEN: It actually was, yes.
DYLAN: We were recording our album recently, and wanted to hit a certain amount of songs, and we just had one left, so we were like, 'Let's just bust out that old minute banger we used to play.' And funny enough, fun fact, that was the last song we actually tracked in our album sessions. So that's a very new song that we just put out. Newer than some of the stuff you're going to hear, but it's just because we did it last, 'Hey, that's fun.' And then we heard it and we thought it sounded cool, so we were like, 'We should just put this out for fun.'
CDM: So it's not going to be on your album?
CDM: It was just a fun thing you just wanted to do for your fans?
CDM: What can you tell me about the debut Wallows album?
DYLAN: Oh my god.
BRAEDEN: <sighs> What can we tell you?
CDM: What are you allowed to tell me?
DYLAN: Not too much.
COLE: It's really terrible. It's sounding really bad.
CDM: Noted. I will not listen to it when it comes out.
COLE: Uh-huh, don't listen to it... There was a dog named Hans around. So Hans will be in the atmosphere of the album.
CDM: So the album cover will be a photo of Hans, right?
COLE: Most likely Hans, yes. Hans Solo!
BRAEDEN: Han solo by himself.
DYLAN: Harrison Ford is the album cover.
BRAEDEN: Yeah, that'll be great. I don't know! I don't know! I don't know! I don't know... I guess you can just expect new Wallows songs--
BRAEDEN: You can expect Cole hitting the drums. Cole playing the bass. Cole playing guitar.
CDM: There will be singing and lyrics?
BRAEDEN: Yes, there will be singing and lyrics.
COLE: Yes singing, and some sounds.
BRAEDEN: Sonic sounds!
DYLAN: I feel like it definitely sounds like a progression for us in terms of certain sounds, instrumentation, production here and there, and certain songwriting things, but at the same time I feel like if I'm putting myself in the shoes of a current Wallows fan, I feel like it has any element that you like of Wallows so far within it as well. So I think it's a nice amount of progression, but not too much.
COLE: Yeah it's not too much of a total departure from what we've already done.
CDM: Like a natural evolution?
CDM: When can fans expect it to be out?
DYLAN: Next year.
CDM: Most importantly, when is Wallows going to come and play a show in New Zealand?
DYLAN: Oh my god. <turns to look at the band's manager> Andrew, when are we going to New Zealand?
COLE: This one's for you, Andrew.
ANDREW: Hopefully within the next year or two.
DYLAN: Start a petition.
ANDREW: You can quote 'unnamed manager'.
CDM: If W.A.L.L.O.W.S. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
<everyone in unison>: Loch Ness Monster!
CDM: And what's next for Wallows?
COLE: A lot of mixing this year.
BRAEDEN: A lot of music mixing. Some of our first music festivals we're performing at--
DYLAN: And relaxing as much as possible before our big album release and world tour and all that kind of stuff.
CDM: World domination?
DYLAN: That should just be the answer. "What's next for Wallows?"
<everyone in unison>: WORLD DOMINATION.
Wallows' 'Spring' EP is out now - click here to purchase and watch the music video for '1980s Horror Film' below...