Wallows Is Entering a New Era
A lot has happened for Wallows in the last four years. After the band’s self-released EP Spring in 2018 landed them a deal with Atlantic Records, the Los Angeles-based alt rock four-piece managed to release their debut album, Nothing Happens—a dreamy collection of songs all but predicted our imminent home arrest—in the final moments before pandemic lockdowns began in 2019. In the intervening years, one track on the album, “Are You Bored Yet?,” featuring Gen Z mouthpiece Clairo, became a flat-out TikTok sensation—boasting over 500 million streams on Spotify. Last Friday, the band released their sophomore album, Tell Me That It’s Over, ten tracks’ worth of blissed out, lo-fi pop. Next month, they’ll launch in their first global tour—one that will have them trekking across Europe at this time next year. Before things change dramatically for Wallows, we caught up with the band to discuss their post-album release plans, their love of touring, and their fear of (small) crowds.
SOPHIE LEE: Do you guys have plans for tonight, when the album drops?
DYLAN MINNETTE: The label’s taking us to dinner and we’re doing a virtual listening thing for fans—
BRAEDEN LEMASTERS: Is that tonight?
MINNETTE: It’s in a couple hours.
LEMASTERS: Oh, shit.
MINNETTE: I don’t know, we want to be together when it drops. We’re used to things coming out at 9 pm in LA, so we’re like, “Midnight? Where will we be at midnight?”
COLE PRESTON: Honestly, we have to waste time until midnight.
MINNETTE: We’ll probably hang out at our hotel, do a little cheers.
PRESTON: Clink some glasses.
MINNETTE: Then obsessively look at people’s reactions online and go to bed at four in the morning.
LEE: 9 p.m. feels unceremonious. I think midnight is more exciting.
MINNETTE: True, there’s more buildup. I do like listening to albums right when they come out, and it’s easier to do that if they come out at nine. Play a little Yahtzee with my girlfriend, just listen—
PRESTON: You play Yahtzee?
MINNETTE: Oh yeah.
PRESTON: I’ve never played Yahtzee.
MINNETTE: What? It’s addictive.
LEE: This album’s a bit more eclectic, a bit different than what you’ve done in the past. How do you compare it to what you’ve released previously?
PRESTON: It’s definitely more eclectic. We didn’t put any conscious effort towards that, but on this record we were willing to chase what instinctively felt right. Us and Ariel Rechtshaid, our producer, had specific references and treated each song as its own piece. Obviously, we want the songs to have a through-line, but I think part of what draws them together is their eclectic-ness.
LEE: How do you see it as a continuation of your previous albums?
LEMASTERS: It feels like, with all our early singles, you plant the seed. Spring was the tree kind starting to grow. [All laugh] Nothing Happens was the first branches. Remote was the acorns falling on the ground. [All laugh again]
MINNETTE: What is this?
LEMASTERS: This album feels like the leaves and the fruit of Wallows. It feels like we’re entering another dimension of what Wallows can achieve, like a natural progression. You get older and inspirations change, but it’s never like you wake up and you’re like, “This is going to be so different!” You just pick up a guitar and woah, there’s a song.
MINNETTE: In the process of recording this, we just let the songs become what they were naturally supposed to be. We tried to get rid of our preconceived notions of what our second album should be, because you can really overthink sophomore albums. It is an eclectic batch, but it came together in a way that makes a lot of sense to us. It’s my favorite thing we’ve done yet. I feel like we hit the mark a little bit more each time. It’s rare to make something and be like, “I think I would like this. I think, unbiased, I would listen to this and be impressed by it.” I like this version of Wallows.
LEMASTERS: I like this era.
LEE: Do you guys think of yourselves as an LA band? When I listen to this, it sounds very LA, or what I imagine to be the LA sound. Are you connected to the music scene there at all?
MINNETTE: We are from LA, and it’s very much in our blood. We’ve been making and playing music, always in LA. But in terms of an LA music scene, we never really entered one. A lot of our friends in music are from all over the place, so we’re part of a scene now that’s not necessarily LA based—it’s more genre-based or fan-based.
LEMASTERS: Plant-based. [Laughs]
PRESTON: I grew up in LA, went to a totally suburban—in the San Fernando Valley, PTA land—high school there. You guys were my only friends that really cared about music at all. We were never really a part of anything larger than just what was happening between the three of us. I would go to places like The Smell and see bands from Danger Collective and all that. The closest I ever came to that scene was I had a friend from Junior Lifeguards was signed to that label and I was like, “Oh you’re so cool!”
MINNETTE: Was that Franky Flowers?
PRESTON: Yeah, such a nice person. But, that’s probably as close as we got to any of that.
MINNETTE: You know what’s interesting about L.A.? I love L.A. to death, but I do think its like its own state. I’ve noticed, when we tour all these cities, that what L.A. doesn’t have is community. That’s just my take on it.
PRESTON: With our first record, there was a ton of buildup in our minds, because it’s this collection of songs that you had your whole life to curate and make. You finally do it and it’s like, “Oh my god!” I was so aware of the minute details of the release. This time, we’ve experienced so much more as a band, touring and other things, that I’m treating the release of the album as the beginning of the process. It’s literally coming out tonight and I’m just like, there’s still so much more that needs to get done. This is kind of like Phase One of this whole thing for me. It’s really different, and I don’t feel stressed about it or anything. Maybe that’s just because we’re a little more mature and we feel a little more confident in what we’re putting out.
LEMASTERS: I feel the same.
PRESTON: But you feel differently, [Dylan]?
MINNETTE: It is different because there is a lot more buildup with your debut and you’ve been looking forward to it your whole life. Being back here in this office, doing press again, it feels identical to me almost. I think it’s the first time we’ve ever been away from home when a project to came out. But it’s cool. It feels eventful.
PRESTON: It is exciting.
MINNETTE: I’m excited, especially seeing our fans enjoying it. It’s just weird, we spent 11 months making this album. Now people have the 34 minutes of music and they’re just flying through it. I’m really confident in this record, so I feel really excited.
LEE: What is the process when you put together a song?
LEMASTERS: Cole, or Dylan, or I will send through an idea, then we’ll build it up from there. Usually we all write the song together. I’d say Dylan’s really good at lyrics. Cole is really good at production. I don’t know what I’m good at, but we all have this different, unique take.
MINNETTE: You’re good at the performances.
LEMASTERS: Yeah, they always have to make my ideas make sense, because sometimes they’re all over the place, but I feel like we each have a strong suit. We each make a Wallows song the best version it could be.
MINNETTE: It’s a democracy.
LEE: How’d you guys end up working with Ariel? It seems like that had a real impact on this album.
LEMASTERS: Well, we always wanted to work with him because we loved his work on Modern Vampires of the City, the Vampire Weekend record, and he’s worked with Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira, HAIM—we were like, “This guy’s amazing.” He produced a song on our Remote EP via FaceTime. He’s one of the nicest, most creative people ever.
PRESTON: What’s fun about Ariel is he will give you his full, undivided attention. He’s so friendly and will just talk to you about anything. Pretty much all of 2021 we were going to his house and working, and so much of that time was spent just shooting the shit with Ariel.
MINNETTE: We have grown up, at least for our teen and adult years, being fans of his work. We know that he’s really excited about this record, proud of it like we are. It just feels like we really put our hearts into it, and let our inhibitions go.
LEE: I read that Neil Young and Blur were some of your influences. Do you have a sense of where those influences come through?
MINNETTE: Neil Young is what originally inspired “At the End of the Day,” but it’s more like Neil Young meets New Order. “Hard to Believe” pulls inspiration from Pinkerton-era Weezer and My Bloody Valentine. “Especially You” is Blur, Gorillaz, Midnite Vultures-era Beck. “Marvelous” is “Hey Ya!” by Outkast meets “Groove Is In The Heart” by Dee-Lite. “Permanent Price,” was inspired by “Here Come the Warm Jets” by Brian Eno. I’m sort of rambling. “Hurts Me” is like HAIM. “That’s What I Get” is like One Direction meets Kate Bush meets The Beatles.
LEE: One Direction meets Kate Bush is the wildest description I’ve ever heard.
MINNETTE: And then Arcade Fire sprinkled in there.
LEE: Do you guys have a preference between recording an album or touring it? I know some musicians lean one direction or the other.
LEMASTERS: Little cop out answer, real quick, I think both are equally important and great. I love touring and making music. So, I don’t know what I like better.
MINNETTE: They’re both equally rewarding. Right now, I think we’re more excited to tour because we haven’t done it in years. A lot of artists don’t like touring, but for us it’s so easy. It’s our comfort zone. We love getting on that bus and playing shows.
LEMASTERS: Sleeping on the bus, love it.
MINNETTE: We have a really amazing time with it and it feels like a lot of validation in front of your eyes. You can see people talking about [the music] online, but until you see them singing it, or feeling it, it’s hard to be able to say to yourself, “This album worked.” I’m excited to have that feeling in one week’s time. This Sunday we’re playing a show here in New York, and if people know the words by then, it’ll be wild.
LEE: Are you feeling like you have to flex your touring muscles again, or are you just ready to go?
PRESTON: We rehearsed more than we ever have this time. We have a bunch of new songs, so we were on the rehearsal grind for the course of a few months. I feel like we are totally ready to go. I don’t know how you guys feel. I say that now, but when we’re backstage I might get nauseous. I’m excited about the shows.
MINNETTE: I’m a little nervous. Especially because the first show is the biggest room we’ve played ever played.
PRESTON: I find that bigger shows are, the easier it is to not be nervous. When you look at those crowds, you see kids out there eating hot dogs. In a big room like that, people have license to pay as much attention as they want to pay. At a festival, I don’t feel nervous when there’s just like this ocean of people—
MINNETTE: You say that now…
PRESTON: Yeah, talk is cheap.
LEE: I heard you weren’t expecting “Are You Bored Yet?” to be a hit. Do you guys have any early predictions for this album?
LEMASTERS: Ooh, here we go.
MINNETTE: No, I don’t. It’s unpredictable. If anything happens, we’re pleasantly surprised, and if it doesn’t, we’re not disappointed.
PRESTON: Those viral hits are so random…like, someone on TikTok will edit dialogue from The Batman over the bridge to one of our songs and then suddenly we’ll have 500 million streams.
MINNETTE: It doesn’t make any sense.
PRESTON: We’re not writing for TikTok, the way some people would. So, who knows what people will gravitate towards—if anything? We can only do what we can do, which is be ourselves and play shows.