Jam-packed with fun


November 24, 2006


'It's such a fine line between stupid and clever," David St. Hubbins famously declared, long before his partner Nigel Tufnel ever appeared in that annoying car commercial. Some cynics dismiss their spiritual progeny in Wolfmother as a Spinal Tap-like parody, while champions of the Sydney, Australia, power trio hear a loving homage to the vintage psychedelic metal of the early '70s, heavy on the Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Hawkind.

In the end, the question of authenticity doesn't make much difference -- not in the metal world, and not when a group rocks as hard as this one in concert and on its recent self-titled Interscope debut. For what it's worth, guitarist-vocalist Andrew Stockdale maintains that he, bassist/organist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett arrived at their sound just by making the music they enjoyed playing the most.

"What happened is that we were jamming from 2000 to 2002 on this sort of Money Mark/Beastie Boys stuff, because that was the direction that Chris and Myles gravitated toward," Stockdale says. "Jamming was cool -- it was great to randomly play along with anything and not really have a direction or any pressure -- but I had a curiosity to actually write a song and see how it worked. So I kind of drifted off and recorded a few songs at home with an acoustic, and I found it to be a really rewarding process.

"I wanted to do rock 'n' roll. I wanted to do riffs, and I wanted exciting, compelling live shows. I wanted speed, chaos, jamming and the whole thing! I wanted to do a show that had the energy of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; I didn't just want to see a singer-songwriter singing some crap songs about how someone broke their little heart.

"Eventually, a friend offered a support spot opening for his band, and I said, 'Look, I've got this gig lined up; would you be keen to learn these songs?' They were keen, so we practiced three days a week for a month and got really tight. It was a good feeling to actually be in a band and playing cohesively as a unit. We did the gig, and we got really good feedback, so that just boosted our confidence that maybe we could keep going. From then on, the phone started ringing. It went through the roof, and it hasn't stopped since."

Indeed, the group arrived in the States last March as one of the biggest buzz bands at the South by Southwest Music Festival, and by August, it was a key draw at Lollapalooza, where it was simply impossible to resist the rampaging charms of head-banging anthems such as "Mind's Eye," "Dimension" and "White Unicorn," complete with their clever/stupid lyrics and imagery. How big a role does fantasy play for the trio?

"For 'Dimension,' I got the influence from the Bible, actually, and some might say that's fantasy!" Stockdale says, laughing. "When you talk about lyricism, all of a sudden, people are like, 'Oh, The Lord of the Rings<! But I just got that from the first story of Adam and Eve -- the serpent, the apple and things like that. For 'Mind's Eye,' I got the idea from reading a book about mind expansion and tapping into creativity, and with 'White Unicorn,' I heard this Tim Buckley tune, which was a sort of carnival song, and I liked the idea of capturing that feeling of the traveling gypsy lifestyle."

Perhaps the biggest reason for Wolfmother's success is that the group makes it all sound so much fun, so natural and so easy -- although it's really anything but.

"Paul McCartney said that rock 'n' roll is the hardest type of music to write," Stockdale says. "I think it's incredible that we've come along with a song like 'Woman' and 'Joker and the Thief' in the face of the tradition of straightforward rock songs and we've made this music that has captured people's imaginations and that it's successful and it's worked. People want to hear it! And that's really the hardest thing to do.

"As far as us trying to duplicat some other era, we're really not. When AC/DC made their music, they were thinking of the blues artists that they loved in the 1950s and '60s. As far as I'm concerned, rock 'n' roll is the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, and it's all there: All the guitar tones, the lyricism, the experimental stuff ... everything you need to know is within those bands! Then you've got 50,000 other smaller bands that weren't as successful that essentially were pushing the same direction. I just see it all as, 'This is rock 'n' roll, and this is what it's about!"

Spinal Tap couldn't have said it better.