Wallows cover the 'Voices of the Next Generation' issue
of Tenner Magazine. - Click here to order your copy!
Photography by Anthony Pham
Words by Oli Spencer
When I catch Wallows, they are anxiously awaiting the Coachella lineup to be released,
“It’s surely moments away” Dylan says with a giddy smile across his face, more than ready to announce to the public that they will be playing, “Since it’s been three years since 2019, it’s like a weird cheat-code where you play two lineups in a row.” he says, “we were technically asked two times in a row… we are proud!”.
Dylan Minette, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston make up the band Wallows, an alternative indie band from LA that jumped into the spotlight in 2019 with their debut album ‘Nothing Happens’ - a personal favourite. Dylan and Braeden met through interesting circumstances, both of them were in LA from the Midwest acting. Their mothers met on an online chat forum for parents with child actors - and although he hadn’t met Braeden yet, was planning to be living with his family while they were settling into LA. It never ended up happening, but when their parents did finally meet at the Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena, Dylan and Braeden both ordered chicken tenders and honey mustard. “Like wow… I can see this guy being my friend forever!” Dylan laughs. The group turned duo to trio in 2009 when Dylan and Braeden participated in the music program Join The Band. You meet with an instructor to play for them, and then are assigned into a group of fellow musicians similar in age to play a show by the end of the six weeks, “So me and Dylan did this together, and we were assigned to this guy called Cole…” Braeden says, “I’d never met him, so my first memory of Cole is walking in and seeing him behind the drum kit and thinking, woah! That guy is Cole!”. Cole laughs, being able to vaguely picture the room he was in when Dylan and Braeden walked in at the same time, admitting he thought he had to be really cool to break through into the ‘crew’. The guys start laughing, reminiscing about the peak Bieber cut era… ‘I think all of us had that at least for a little bit of time…” Cole says hesitantly, “100% for me.” Dylan adds, “I think I had the most intense swoop… out of the three of us. I had the full swoop, you guys had the half swoop… Cole’s was the coolest version of the swoop I’d say.”
“We just thought, this album is not what we thought it was going to be, holy shit. I remember being so excited because it was fun doing something completely unpredictable."
Once Join The Band came to an end, the pair wanted to ask Cole if he wanted to join a real band, an idea they had been hooked on for some time. So really, the origin of Wallows was in the parking lot after Join The Band rehearsals, with everything to follow coming very naturally. I ask them if they can remember the first time they felt chemistry when they played together - the guys struggle to find an answer, bouncing the question back and forth to one another… “I do like to think the chemistry was kind of instant”, Dylan says. He thought Braeden and Cole were such good musicians already, and was amazed at the level of confidence they already had at 12 years old. “When we were playing those classic rock covers, we were killing it for twelve year olds. Braeden was shredding, Cole was ripping it on the drums, I was the front kid… I feel like it was all sort of instant.” he continues. Cole admits the trio were all really confident at that time “Very quickly after we started playing shows and stuff, I always remember the most classic video of Braeden of all time is when we were covering ‘Ready Made’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a soundcheck. He was going sooo hard with this solo, fully leaning back and looking up with his eyes closed!” The funniest part being this was at a soundcheck, with nobody in the venue at all, Dylan adds with a chuckle - “they were setting up the stage and Braeden was just shredding the guitar! He was going so hard, and there was this dude trying to set up some wires or something and he pushed him out of the way. It’s the funniest video ever.” It feels like this is the first time in a while they have talked about this video, reminding me of nights spent with friends endlessly scrolling through old videos.
It’s been just over a year since their 2020 EP ‘Remote’, a slightly experimental shift for the band, created right at the top of the lengthy lockdown. As the name implies, during the process of creating the project the guys didn’t see each other a single time. To bridge the gap between their last album, and whatever their next big project would be, they decided to gather and finish up some loose demos. They always knew that they wanted to take new avenues, playing around with different production styles and finding new sounds - and ‘Remote’ helped Braeden realise how malleable the band has become, adapting to whatever may be happening around them. “It taught me that no matter what the circumstance is, even if you can’t see each other, we can still make a project.” he continues, “I think ‘Remote’ was a little weird to a lot of our fans, very like woah what is this? He says, still taking the reaction in his stride - because after all, to have that kind of reaction certainly shows that they’re doing something different.
“It’s crazy, with ‘Remote’” Dylan chimes in, “the headphones we used to record were AirPods and the microphones were iPhones.” Braeden and Dylan would record vocals into their phones, recording in cupboards to make it sound better. Cole would assemble the takes together and send it off to Sachi and John DeBold, two fantastic LA-based producers who helped put it all together, literally sending files back and forth from each other. “It was very thrown together in this hyper-modern digital kind of way.” Cole says, reflecting on the very computer-like tones throughout the project. While ‘Remote’ was different, it honestly left me even more excited for the next project, wondering to myself what their next possible avenue could be, what will Wallows sound like next? “It’s so vastly different from how we recorded our next album.” reinforces Dylan.
"I will never forget thinking, wow this album is going to take on a lot of forms literally before our eyes.”
Now, Wallows are here to surprise you, with their electrifying sophomore album ‘Tell Me That It’s Over’. The album is a transformative journey from start to finish, with the music feeling like a reconnection of sorts, “I think it is going to surprise people when they hear it, especially if they’re familiar with us.” Dylan says, grinning at me. “I think if our fans are directly comparing it to our last project, then it does sound like reconnection in a way.” Dylan ponders, while ‘Remote’ still could sound connected, anyone could record a project that sounds that way but in person, and a lot of people do - Wallows chose to have a non-organic sound to the project. The sense of reconnection comes through in the very organic nature of the ‘Tell Me That It’s Over’, listening to it doesn't just feel like they are all together again, but it also feels like you are there in the studio with them. ‘Remote’ left them anticipating the next time they could play together, and reminded them of what it really is they love about being together playing music in a room and making music that way. And of course, making music together again felt great. As soon as they saw each other again they made their way to Cole’s place and wrote constantly, pouring out a bunch of new ideas as they got back into the groove of things. Because there are only three of them, they haven’t really written any songs in a room while ‘jamming’ - they totally could, but they feel like there is always an element missing. Because of this, a lot of the writing was just in the computer, bouncing around guitar jams and piecing it together.
Once they began the recording process, their producer Ariel Rechtshaid wanted to really emphasise the fact that they are a band, and wanted to try starting these songs with just the three of them playing in the room. “We were like oh my god, we haven't done this in so long…” Cole admits, “I think that first moment that we actually started playing instruments with each other again wasn't until the top of 2021, so there was a long time where we were just in the box I guess.” The album reflects a sense of spontaneity, the guys talk about how quickly it all started, with Ariel calling them to ask if they could come in the next day - and so they went and started playing everything they had written, laying out song ideas across the studio. The process was very go go go! - hitting record, and playing. “Some of the performances are literally just one take through” Cole recounts, “you can hear that some things don’t really repeat themselves, there are extra noises and things happening, a lot of things that couldn't be replicated” Speaking of this, all three of them continuously praise the work of acclaimed producer Ariel Rechtshaid, honoured to be working with him creatively. “He really elevated the music” Braeden tells me, thinking back to watching Ariel transforming their songs before their eyes. My personal favourite song from the album ‘That’s What I Get’ was one of the first songs they began to work on “It was originally a pop song that we wrote, and we started to record it and Arial started to deconstruct it. He took the guitars out, and added strings and made the drum beats sound different. I will never forget thinking, wow this album is going to take on a lot of forms literally before our eyes.” Through this shapeshifting process, about half of the album are completely different versions of the songs they wrote in the most fantastic way. The excitement bounces to Dylan, “We just thought, this album is not what we thought it was going to be, holy shit. I remember being so excited because it was fun doing something completely unpredictable. We would record sneaky videos of what we were doing and listen to them over and over and over again at home. That was a fun and exciting time.” Cole recounts how Ariel said to Braeden, “Are you ready to be a legend when you play this live?” activating the ‘let's start a band’ teenage Wheezer nerd inside, reminding me of the iconic video of twelve year old Braeden shredding it on the guitar.
“I think that people do have expectations, just because we have grown a lot since our last record came out.” Cole tells me, Because of the pandemic leaving them unable to play shows, it’s hard to actually see the growth of the band. Braeden reflects on a moment with their sound guy recently - he loved the album and told them it wasn't what he expected from them at all. It’s not like they think the new music is what people would expect from them, it was just a strange thing to hear, especially when someone who is so familiar with their music thinks it sounds vastly different. “I do think there is some DNA of our old stuff that people like in there, but it’s good to know that someone that is so familiar with our music thinks it sounds vastly different as well.” Braeden says.
Now, Wallows are just soaking up this moment in time, sitting in anticipation as excitement for the next year bubbles around them. “I think I’d look back on this moment of excitement and the unknown” Dylan tells me, “We are not really sure of what's ahead which makes it fun.” Braeden agrees, adding that he believes this moment feels like the eye of the storm. With the album’s release on the horizon, Wallows also have their eyes set on a string of tours, including an Auckland show set for November 5th. “If we can just get to a show… that first show will be amazing. It’s funny, the first show on our tour is April first… so I really hope that it actually goes down and it doesn't live up to the day… that moment will be very, very exciting.”