Wallows: “As kids we were maybe too self-aware”

With an appearance on our flagship radio-show-slash-podcast Down With Boring debuting tonight (Monday 12th September) Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston revel in the madness.

With an appearance on our flagship radio-show-slash-podcast Down With Boring debuting tonight (Monday 12th September) Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston revel in the madness.

Words: Finlay Holden. Photos: Patrick Gunning.

LA three-piece Wallows recently settled their hyperactive lockdown-induced sonic approach down for a cohesive, luxurious and surprising second record. Finally bringing some of these tunes to the UK festival circuit alongside a setlist of hits, the trio revel in the madness of Reading 2022.

They may have already walked the boards of Coachella and Lollapalooza this year. Still, the southern fields of England are a new setting for the hazy tones radiated by Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters, and Cole Preston, all of whom quickly establish an appreciation for the directness of British audiences. “Reading is simple”, Cole states: “you’re in a field, you play a great show, everyone’s there to see the music and not so much about having their phones out.”

The fans show their excitement with mosh pits and jumping and singing and… rowing?” Dylan shrugs. “We even had a circle pit to one of our mid-tempo songs. The energy here is unmatched. You don’t get much of that in the states.”

Much of second album ‘Tell Me That It’s Over’ is easy to dance to, such as the whirring ‘Especially You’ which focuses on the debilitating confusion that even a loving relationship can often stun with. Although the LP explores the personal experience of settling into a mature lifestyle as a young adult, Wallows prevent their live sets from becoming too heavy.

“When we get deeper into it at our own shows, the tone can become a little more serious for sure,” Braeden states. “At a festival like this, we’re more repurposed to have a good time. We try to keep the energy a little bit lighter. I love playing the newer songs, though. Having not played shows for so long while writing that record and finally being able to play them live, the whole experience still feels so fresh and new.”

Released in March of this year, the album certainly hasn’t become stale, instead continuing to offer a fuzzy and warm recluse from a world of more large-scale strife. Nonetheless, it still steps up the scope of debut ‘Nothing Happens’, which was a more explorative LP as the band were still exploring their own potential. This venture into a deeper, more crooning project surprised some people – a polarisation the band somewhat foresaw.

“It’s hard to say how it went down because any time we’ve put out anything, you see comments landing on both sides,” Braeden shares. “We just really love the project and have faith in it. You put it into the ether and hope for the best. The thing with music; if you think you know how it’s going to go, it’s going to go the opposite way. Never go into an album thinking it’s going to be great. It’s like throwing a balloon at a nail and hoping it’s going to pop – you can never control it.”

With similes like that, the band are obviously going from strength to strength. Their growth over such a short period of time – they only started releasing music in 2017 – has been astonishing, particularly considering they’re only now reaching their mid-twenties. ‘Nothing Happens’ was a vivid exploration of that growth, and Wallows feel like they did a pretty good job navigating an uncertain period of their lives and an uncertain period for the world.

“I don’t want to give away where it’s going to go, but we’re starting to see where it’s heading, in a sense. We’ll see. It could end up being a hyperpop album.”

Dylan Minnette

“My moral compass is aligned more than it was, so at the end of the day, if I’m able to make good decisions – which I think we all are – then I think we did something right over the past few years,” Cole reflects approvingly. “It was kind of stifled by the pandemic, but more so it was fast-tracked because we had nothing else to do but grow. I feel more self-aware now than I did when we made ‘Nothing Happens’, which could be for better or worse.”

Dylan adds: “Personally, I think as kids we were maybe too self-aware.”

The trio are evolving alongside each other, and their bond is immediately apparent. It’s a comfortable friendship expanded upon even further during their shows; the live band isn’t just full of session musicians, but closer friends accrued through various exploits.

“I lived with Danny, who plays trumpet and keys, in college, so we became friends, and he started playing with us,” Cole shares. We met Kevin years ago because he worked at the same American Apparel store as my ex-girlfriend. All our friendships and relationships go back very far. We’re really lucky to have that. You can feel that everybody really trusts each other on stage. There are a lot of moving parts, but it all comes together pretty easily for us.”

That mental synchronisation, crystal clear as they pick up sentences where others left off, enables a fluid performance, balanced conversations and relaxed social occasions. Even when they’re back in LA, the whole crew manage to gel without ever starting to grate on each other’s nerves. But, God forbid – what if the band did all get sick of each other? What if the music ceases to flow? What if, as it turns out, the trio are all thoroughly prepared for the eventual collapse of the industry once AI musicians take over with various business ideas in the pipeline…

“I want to start a company that helps people wanting to go into the restaurant business; it’s called Entrée-preneurs,” Braeden boldly reveals, before blurting, “shit, I gotta trademark that before this gets published.” Cole shares similar, if less refined, ambitions: “I would love to have a restaurant. Did you see that show The Bear on Hulu? It’s about a chef in Chicago. It’s the best show I’ve ever watched. Being a chef is so sick. Dylan laughs at the pair before serving up his own idea. “I never thought I would want to do anything like that, but I thought recently that I’d actually love to open up a bar,” he admits. “I’d work hard to own a really cool, classic spot. It would be called Bar-Tenders, and I’d sell chicken strips.”

All this talk of food and drink has the gang desperate for their artist catering, but the three members all have distinct cravings for their post-set snack. “Chicken tenders would be pretty great right now,” Braeden enthuses. Alternatively, “you can never go wrong with a wrap,” Dylan suggests. “A turkey wrap; it’s reliable, it’s hand-held, it’s easy to eat. Once you get something with forks, it just becomes too much. A small bowl or a smoothie would be good too, though.” (“Smoothie and chicken tenders would be a good combo!” – Braeden). Cole exhibits his sweet tooth, letting us know that “after we play, I’m always going straight to dessert. Dessert at festivals is always pretty strong. Cakes, little ice creams… yum.”

Reading festival offers more than just food options, if you can believe it. Just 24 hours after Dork let these starved Americans loose, British rock icons Arctic Monkeys will be playing their first UK show in four years, and Wallows are envious that their scheduling doesn’t line-up for them to bear witness. The musical giants have had influence across the pond and, although it might be hard to hear it through their sonic stylings, Wallows are very much evidence of that.

“I would disagree sometimes,” Braeden responds here: “we have a couple songs that sound like The Strokes – maybe ‘Pulling Leaves Off Trees’ – but not in a way that I’d argue that strongly. I can just maybe see where the influence might lie within certain songs. Arctic Monkeys, though, that’s where it gets a bit more interesting.”

“I feel like ‘Scrawny’ or ‘Remember When’ were inspired by Arctic Monkeys,” Dylan considers. “Just the energy captured there – not necessarily the direction of the song, though. Those songs came out of the DNA we formulated as Arctic Monkeys fans. I don’t want Alex Turner to ever read this, but I feel like ‘Remember When’ was at least drawn from inspiration of their vibe. Man, but I’d love to be here seeing Arctic Monkeys. Seeing ‘Brianstorm’ in a crowd at Reading or Leeds… that’d be mad.”

He’s not wrong – ‘Brianstorm’ does indeed kick up some dust. Moving forward, the trio are discussing their new direction and aim for their next era to take people by surprise. Maybe we could hear that rock’n’roll spirit manifest after all?

“The way that I picture is evolving next is not necessarily what people would expect based on ‘Tell Me That It’s Over’. We wanted to approach things differently; we want to approach every project differently from how we’ve approached the one previously, so that was inevitable. I don’t want to give away where it’s going to go, but we’re starting to see where it’s heading, in a sense. We’ll see. It could end up being a hyperpop album.”

Whether it’s channelling Arctic Monkeys or 100 gecs, we’ll be here ready to listen. ■

Wallows are the special guests on the latest edition of Down With Boring, set to debut tonight at 8pm on Dork Radio. You can download the full interview as a podcast straight after from the usual places.

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