For a band primed to be one of the next great pillars of rock music, you’d expect a more rollicking origin story. “We became friends through our moms. Sounds funny, but they met online.”
But that’s the story of 3-piece LA alt-rock outfit Wallows, a charming one that pairs well with the ambition and energy of 2018 release, “Spring EP.” Hear this tale in full, along with talk on specific EP tracks, details about working with producer John Congleton, and the story of playing basketball where Prince once shot around.
Interviews: Cole Preston, Braeden Lemasters, Dylan Minnette, Austin Rice (Atlantic Records A&R), Caiti Green (Marketing Director, Atlantic Records), and John Congleton (Producer).
Jesse Cannon: Hi, my name is Jesse Cannon and I’ve devoted my life to trying to go deep and figure out what goes into making great records. I’ve produced over 1000 albums, written two books and recorded hundreds of podcasts, pursuing the hidden secrets of how great music gets to the world’s ears. Now I’m proud to present to you Atlantic Records’ Inside the Album Podcast, where we get to go deeper on how some of Atlantic’s artists have made the amazing songs in their catalog. We will hear firsthand from the artists and the team behind them that helped craft this amazing music and get to know the little secrets that go into making an amazing album.
On this episode, we’re going to go deep on Wallows’ debut EP, “Spring.” You don’t often hear about bands meeting because their moms met online, but that’s exactly what happened over a decade ago in the San Fernando Valley. The trio Wallows seems to be a lot of things that are unexpected. In my time with them, I was blown away by how authentic and fun they were. In a world rife with think pieces on how millennials are nothing but affected personalities, much like the filter on an Instagram camera, Wallows’ honest selves seem to shine through in everyone they encounter.
When you hear their music, you hear this too. They are some fun California boys singing about the joys of youth as they experience them, and their music feels exactly like what they’re singing about. You can hear the charm of friends having fun around a laptop as their songs take shape making music that gets a character-filled production that feels unique and great to listen to, all the while hearkening back on influences that span across genres and decades. Their debut EP came out this April and we talked to them to find out how they got here, what made the EP so great, along with what’s next for them as they navigate the path of debut EP into debut LP. First, Braeden is going to catch us up on how we got here with them.
Braeden Lemaste: We kind of started playing music when we were pretty young guys. I met Dylan when I was nine. He was nine as well. We became friends through our moms. Sounds funny, but they met online. We both came from the Midwest. I’m from Ohio. He’s from Indiana and they met because we moved to L.A. We started bonding over classic rock music like The Beatles, Zeppelin. That’s kind of like where that started from, where it stemmed. Then we started writing songs when we were like ten, eleven. We started this music program called Join The Band and met Cole and then it basically, you, they bring kids together and teach them songs, three songs. Then you perform them at an iconic L.A. venue, like the Whisky, Roxy, those kind of things. We did that, met each other and then after that we were like, “Oh! We should start a band, like legit band,” and then we’re like, “Cole, you should be in that legit band. Said legit band.”
Jesse Cannon: You’re now going to hear from the band member Cole.
Cole Preston: We were like, 12 at that point in the timeline. We started under one name at first that will remain unmentioned.
Braeden Lemaste: You can find it somewhere.
Cole Preston: You can if you dig. And then played a bunch of shows in L.A. Started writing original music. Dylan and Braeden had been writing original music since they were like, when you guys first met. Is that wrong?
Braeden Lemaste: That’s right.
Cole Preston: “Margarita Taco.”
Dylan Minnette: That was our first song.
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah, our first song was “Margarita Taco” and “Mr. Biggers and His Grandfather Clock.” That was the same writing session.
Cole Preston: The official session. Yeah, but then played shows in L.A. Was doing it, changed the band name for the first time, something new, just another brutal name. We won’t talk about that one either.
Braeden Lemaste: You can also find that.
Cole Preston: You can also fine that online, too.
Jesse Cannon: And this is about to be Dylan telling the story.
Dylan Minnette: Then last year we decided, you know, there was kind of a year of in between where we knew we didn’t like our band name and we knew we were going to change it but yet we just still kept playing a show here and there as that old name. Like, “We’re gonna change this soon,” and then last year we decided to hop in the studio nameless and we just recorded a few songs that ended up being the four singles we put out before our EP, like I said, without a name. And during that session, we’re like, “We should probably pick a name and just roll with it.” And wallows is a term that Braeden had had around for a while, whereas originally we thought we were going to call an album Wallows or something but wallows is a, it’s a famous skate spot in Hawaii, which is already cool enough as it is to have your band name be kind of named after skate culture but also if you look up the word wallow on Google or anything there’s pretty amazing definitions for it, more than you would think. If you pair any of them with the experience of listening to music, it’s really, really cool so we just thought it was an interesting band name to just have.
Anyways, we decided on that during the session and then just as soon as we were done mixing, one of the songs, just put it out. Here we are, nearly a year later, exactly. What, tomorrow’s a year later or two days from now? Anyway, this’ll be later when you hear this but at this moment in time, we’re exactly a year old, Wallows, but now we’re just doing our thing. The term wallows became the term.
Jesse Cannon: So after that recording session they got the music out to the world by putting it up online.
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, self-release. We just put it out and figured out how to submit it to streaming services and just did it and then we’re incredibly overwhelmed by the people who immediately kind of jumped onto it. We did not expect anything. You know, you always hope for the best but we had no idea. I mean I remember we had, it was really weird, but we started having emails from people in the industry the next morning. That was really super weird for us. Cole knew, had all this knowledge about how the music industry works so he was our pre-manager. He guided us through all of our meetings, setting up all that shit so Cole is super, our hero in that time.
Cole Preston: Oh thanks guys.
Dylan Minnette: We ended up taking meetings and talked to labels and all that stuff and super crazy process that now when you look back you’re like, “Well, that was crazy,” but at the time it doesn’t feel like anything. You see bands or artists talking about the time they were talking to labels or whatever, setting up their team and you go, “That sounds like such an insane process,” but then we’re doing it and it just felt so, just kind of what it was.
Jesse Cannon: So what we haven’t gotten to is how they found their way to Atlantic Records. I’m going to let them describe that a bit.
Braeden Lemaste: What was funny was after we put out our song, I believe the first person we met with was Austin Rice.
Cole Preston: Oh yeah, yeah.
Braeden Lemaste: From Atlantic.
Cole Preston: Yeah yeah yeah. He was the first, okay so I am in this music industry program down at USC at school in L.A. so having that ability to sort through all the BS that was coming into our email inbox was invaluable. Austin was the first legit lunch meeting we ever took, when he happened in L.A. one weekend. Which is crazy how that came back around. Didn’t he, I mean Andrew right here, didn’t he tip us off to, he emailed you about us, too?
Dylan Minnette: Andrew’s our wonderful manager, Andrew Freeman. Loves pancakes.
Cole Preston: I don’t know but shortly after that we met Andrew and just kind of came together.
Jesse Cannon: I then talked to their A&R man, Austin Rice to get his side of the story.
Austin Rice: I think I first got in touch probably around April of last year, 2017. They put out their first song “Pleaser” and the first place I heard it was on, I think actually Spotify on the viral charts and sort of make a point to check that every once in a while just to comb through and see if anything catches my ear. I think just having the list playing in the background “Pleaser” jumped out to me and I was definitely intrigued and interested so dug in a little bit more. There wasn’t at the time a ton of info. I think they maybe had like two Instagram photos up. As I heard the song, did some digging, I don’t think I had a ton of info but reached out to their email, had to follow up a couple times but they finally got back to us and you know from there just sort of kept in touch, I think hopped on a film call, learned a little bit more background, how the band had been playing together for lot of years and then sort of, we just sort of hit it off, had a great initial conversation.
The music really stood out to me. I sort of learned more about the guys and Dylan’s background in acting and Braeden as well and Cole and them all being childhood friends, meeting in L.A. and then starting a band. But it was really just hearing “Pleaser,” the music really stood out to me when I first heard it. Eventually ended up flying out to L.A. They didn’t have a manager at the time, no team or anything. They just kind of were getting hit up by a couple label people and definitely starting to get interest once “Pleaser” kind of picked up a little bit after they released it.
The signing process took a little while so I probably met them in April of last year and they officially signed in January of this year. For that process, saw them play a couple live shows. That was another real confirmation that this was a band we needed to sign after seeing the live show. Genuine energy and excitement and enthusiasm, that just came through in the music they were playing. You could tell they were up there loving every moment of it and really quality players with natural chemistry between all of them. A lot of times we’ll see bands that put out their first couple of tracks and the live show takes a second to get there but these guys have been playing together for almost ten years now even thought they’re “a new band.” There was just sort of this natural chemistry that really came through and I think the fans responded to that. I was blown away seeing the first live show.
Jesse Cannon: Next I talked to Caiti Green about what she saw in them. She’s a marketing director at Atlantic Records.
Caiti Green: The thing that strikes me the most about Wallows is their live show. Just in general their kindness as human beings. They’re really wonderful, wonderful people. Their live shows are really amazing. They have lot of young fans which is exciting to me because I find that the Indie rock is not so popular with young people these days. It’s really cool to walk into one of their shows and see teenagers and college students really enjoying the band and rocking out to some awesome new music by a young rock band. They play a couple covers, including Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” and seeing teenage girls moshing to “Blister in the Sun” makes me so warm and fuzzy inside. It’s really refreshing to me that they’re able to draw that fan base in, in such a big way. They’ve been selling out venues all over the country so that’s, and in London, actually, so that’s really exciting to me.
Jesse Cannon: So after they joined forces with Atlantic, I wanted to know: why make an EP instead of a LP?
Dylan Minnette: Shortly after the team was in place we started planning out the EP vibe.
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah, I remember we had these conversations because I know in the beginning there was talks of we do an album. No EP. And it was just a decision we had to make because there’s other things that we do that take us away from the band for a little bit. So we released these four songs and I think the original plan was go straight for an album and have that out in April. Then we decided that we kept writing more songs, you know how that goes, and we thought that it would be strategically better to possibly hold off the whole album cycle, you know touring and whatnot, until a little later. So we thought, well, we’re not, just not going to put out music for that year or whatever so we decide to put some of our favorite songs that had a cohesive vibe together on an EP and release that. I think that was a smart move and we only really learned from it, to be honest. I feel like it was a good step.
We worked with John Congleton, great guy, amazing guy. It was the first time we were in a setting with someone like that, a huge producer that we love and admire. Now I think I learned just like sounds I like, sounds I don’t like, things I’d want to hear more of or less of, just all that fun stuff. I feel like now, you hear where you wanna go. I feel like that’s a good thing.
Dylan Minnette: I was just about to say that’s exactly what our goal was because we, yes, that was a reason we did an EP before the album was definitely because of the timeline and if we had recorded an album and we were putting that out, we wouldn’t have time to do a proper cycle for it, most likely because of our individual schedules. So there’s that reason but then there’s also, we need to learn, just you were saying, we learned a lot. That was what we were thinking beforehand. We need to learn. We need to go in to the studio, with a producer, see how it goes, figure out what we like and don’t like, figure out the process before we go and haphazardly jump into an album. We don’t have many regrets of the EP. You’re always going to have regrets in something you do in any art you make but we don’t have that many but you never know. We could regret every choice we made in the EP.
Not that an EP is less important that an album but it’s less songs. You can go in and experiment and dip your toes in and figure things out a little bit, whereas we held over some songs for the album because we were like, that’s going to be great in an album setting with more songs. These songs will be immediate, like a perfect little taste tester for what we feel like we can do. I think like Braeden said, we did learn a lot. So that was our goal. I think we accomplished it for ourselves because now we’re like, okay, we get the process. We’re gonna go in and we know what we like and don’t like. We’re gonna make it better.
Braeden Lemaste: I think all of the experience that we gathered the back half of last year and the beginning of this year, but we’ve done so many new things that even though we’ve been a band since we were like 12 and 13, we had never done, like we recorded with the pro producer. We toured for the first time. We gathered all this experience in order to maximize because we care about the record at the end of the day. The record will be at its maximum potential now that we’ve done all these things.
Jesse Cannon: The first decision they made about when they were going to do this EP is that they wanted to work with producer John Congleton. John has a truly insane discography that’s unprecedented in both quality and variety. You may know his work with St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky, Blondie, Lana Del Rey, Amanda Palmer, Best Coast, Chelsea Wolfe, Manchester Orchestra and so many more. We then discussed what reasons the band had to choose him and why he was the right man for the job.
Cole Preston: Plenty of reasons, all of his work has inspired, like before we even knew that John Congleton was the producer, we would show each other his production work and be like, listen to these drum sounds! Like listen to this like ripping guitar, whatever.
Braeden Lemaste: Even before like Cole said we knew John was going to do it. I was obsessed with Alvvays Antisocialites which he produced and I was just like, I want our music to have, not this vibe, but, you know, these sounds are so great, like St. Vincent’s sounds are so great. All the stuff he’s worked on is so great that I was immediately super down when Dylan, I think you brought him into the conversation.
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, I remember thinking, listening to, because I’ve listened to St. Vincent for a few years now, just being like, “Oh my God! One day to work with this guy would be crazy. Listen to this music. One day we’ll be…” You know, that kind of stuff.
St. Vincent is so advanced and it sounds so amazing and that’s not how I would have ever pictured our EP or album sounding. But I didn’t, so we were discussing producers to potentially that we’d want to work with on the EP. Going online and brainstorming, coming up with a lot of ideas, and then I listened to “Dreams Tonite” by Alvvays when they came out last year, off of Antisocialites. And I was like, “Who produced this?” Saw John Congleton, I was like, “No way.” The same guy who does St. Vincent? And then I ended up looking at John’s entire catalog and I was like, this is, I didn’t realize that he does all of these things and he, you can tell that he is kind of a chameleon in the artists that he works with.
He doesn’t have his particular sounds that when you hear an artist, you know it’s from that producer. Which is great in its own right, but I’m more, we were more interested in having an artist that can find a way to just make what we are sound better. And take it to the next level, not necessarily make it what they, only they want it to be. Or to sound like how they make all other music sound. By hearing the differences in all the stuff that he works on, I think that’s what, we were like, “this is our number one pick.” This guy, all of his stuff sounds amazing and so different from each other and all he does is elevate an artist from what they already sound like. We were just like, “this is our number one pick.”
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah, he’s super versatile and our inspiration is coming from a lot of different places so he shape shifts.
Dylan Minnette: He’s like our father.
Braeden Lemaste: Our weird uncle.
Jesse Cannon: It’s funny that they joke about John being their weird uncle because one of the things he liked about them is their youth.
John Congleton: Young people, because they sort of remind you of why, you know, when you were excited about everything. Everything was really fresh and you can kind of experience the whole process in a fresh new way. I like working with people who’ve been doing it for a long time, too, but it’s a different experience. They’re more cynical and whatnot whereas young people they can’t help it because every experience is new for them that it’s impossible for them to be cynical. I was attracted to their music but also just attracted to the fact that they were just young dudes.
Jesse Cannon: I wanted to talk to the band about some songs specifically, so first we broke down how the song “Ground” came to being.
Braeden Lemaste: “Ground” originally started out as a guitar riff that I wrote, inspired by (Sandy) Alex G, a band that we love. I remember listening to “Rocket.” Blown away. Immediately went into my room, put it on a little stand, trying to write something looking at it because usually how I write music. I look at an album and try to write what I think could have been on that album. That make sense? So I started writing that riff, like the “Ground” lead riff, and I remember sending it to Dylan and Cole and nothing really happened from it. They were just like, “Oh cool.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” No, I’m just kidding. But then it was like, “Oh cool, whatever.” And then like-
Dylan Minnette: I thought it was great, for the record.
Cole Preston: Yeah, for sure.
Braeden Lemaste: But then I kind of forgot about it and then literally five, six months later, I’m in New Mexico, they’re in L.A., and they send me this thing that they made off my old demo, my guitar part and it was not this swamp folk riff anymore that I originally wrote. It was this R&B Frank Ocean style song. I was like, “Whoa. What?” Cole added this staccato guitar rhythm riff, section over my riff and then it kind of just formed in that way and then the chorus was actually a song that I started playing on Dylan’s pool table and Dylan came up with the melody while I was playing the chords. He bridge came from the night before we started demoing the songs. I was listening to Steve Lacy and then that bridge kind of came together. Then Dylan just slayed the melody and the lyrics on that. I don’t know how those came to be.
Dylan Minnette: I mean, the lyrics, I just, I didn’t want them to really make sense when you heard them. I wanted them to just kind of like take snapshots in your mind, like just make a little portrait of life, growing up, and nostalgia and fooling around with your friends, making stupid decisions, whatever it is. That’s what I wanted, you to make images. I wanted it to evoke whatever your personal memories are.
I think a theme that we love, at least through our first album to have, because it’s just a thing that we’re going through right now, at the age we’re at is the fear of leaving your youth and entering adulthood and not wanting to lose the stupid things that we do growing up or just the mundane things that we love about out childhood. I would give anything to go back to hanging out with these dudes when we were 13, playing classic rock covers at 13 years old because it was so much fucking fun. It’s just those kind of things you’re like, “Ah, I don’t want to not be able to do those things anymore,” and you’re, the idea of entering adulthood is really scary but also really exciting at the same time.
I just kind of want that to be theme of the album but it was particularly inspired by Frank Ocean’s magazine Boys Don’t Cry which I actually reference in the song, that he made very limited copies of, and I have one. Braeden has one as well. I remember I wrote the lyrics while only looking at that magazine. I was just flipping, if I couldn’t come up with a line, I’d flip to the next page and look at all the images in this, it’s the most impressive thing. He made “Blonde” and “Endless” and the day that Blonde came out in three magazine shops or four across the country in the U.S. and in London, filled up magazine stores with free copies of Boys Don’t Cry magazine and it was just like these snapshots of his life in between when he made “Channel Orange” and “Blonde,” during the process making the album. It’s this 380 page, huge book of the most beautiful images that he took or his friends took with lyrics and everything.
I want “Ground” to feel like this magazine when you listen to it and so every day in the studio I’d bring, towards the end, I’d bring my Boys Don’t Cry magazine and just put it on the couch and just look at it and be like, “Okay. We’re writing, we’re recording, let’s look at this magazine.” That’s why I’m like ride with the wolves at night, straight out of the Boys Don’t Cry. It’s like, do stupid things, just like out of the images you see in this magazine right here. That’s kind of what I wanted it to be.
Braeden Lemaste: In the studio we actually kind of recorded the whole demo we made. Just how we made it. We recorded the drums that way. We recorded the guitars that way. A funny story, actually, we were doing the drums and we recorded the drums. Cole did his drum track and we go to do the guitar for “Ground” and I did the rhythm, I do the rhythm guitar, and then I go to do the lead riff and I’m like, “Holy shit!” Because we’ve already spent a day on this. A long time because we only had eight days and I was freaking out for, I was like, “Oh my God!” I was sweating, “Oh my God.”
Then I’m like, “John.” He’s like, “What?” I’m like, “We 100 percent recorded this too fast.” And he’s like, “Wait. Why?” And I was like, “The rip is swinging.” He’s like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “The rip is like (singing) but it sounded like (singing).” Like it sounded like that and I was like, when I was practicing I was like, “This is not right.” I was like, “This is not right.” And I was freaking out and I was like, “John, we have to go record the whole drums again, like everything. This is not right.” And then Cole saves the day last minute. He goes, “Dude, you’re actually like playing the rhythm wrong.” And I was like, “What?” And he was like, “Yeah. You were like missing a beat so if you play it on the beat it won’t swing.” I was like swinging the rhythm and I was like, “Oh my God, Cole, I love you.”
Cole Preston: Yeah.
Braeden Lemaste: And then he did the rhythm. He went in and did it and I was like, “Yes.” It was a sweet sigh of relief. It was last second. John was getting ready to scrap everything. Cole’s like, “Actually…”
Cole Preston: Yeah. I know what it is.
Braeden Lemaste: But, anyway, after we did that, it all came together and then the things that John suggested were more about cutting out certain things. On the second verse, it goes to just bass drum and guitar riff. I mean, drums and guitar riff. And that usually was still full band. So John edited out some of that stuff to make it just that. John just kind of did little things like that to keep the song interesting.
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, I would say that every decision that John made in the studio, is a decision that we are, now look back on and go, “Thank God.”
Cole Preston: Oh, literally, yeah.
Braeden Lemaste: But seriously, we’re like, “Oh, thank God that happened. We didn’t do that this way.” So that’s why we’re going to be more excited to get back in the studio with him, just have him do even more of that.
Cole Preston: And going into the album I think, knowing that the EP suggestions he made were just on point, we’ll be able to trust him way more. Because when he first brought up certain little changes we were all like, “What?” Like, are you sure?
Braeden Lemaste: Really like trumpets at the beginning? Like okay, and then we’d go with it and then it did definitely-
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, it’s like now I can’t imagine them any other way or remember what they were.
Braeden Lemaste: Exactly.
Cole Preston: Yeah.
Braeden Lemaste: And if there’s anything we learned about John, in particular, it’s just like there is a reason he is who he is. In terms of his mind and just every idea he has. It’s like no wonder you’re so smart and successful.
Dylan Minnette: The one song I think that he didn’t have anything to do on or say was “Pictures of Girls.” That was one he was like,” The arrangement’s pretty cool.” We were like, “Oh!”
Cole Preston: We were like, “Oh. Really?”
Dylan Minnette: That’s one we thought there’d be a lot of notes on.
Cole Preston: Yeah we’d thought there’d be lot of notes but he was like, “No. This one’s interesting.” And I was like, ” Cool.”
Jesse Cannon: The funny thing about talking to John about all this, is he thought all the songs were in really good condition. He had this to say, though, about “Ground.”
John Congleton: The only thing I really remember about “Ground,” they put that song together pretty well. I remember I suggested a different drum beat in one part. And I remember really trying to push for the guitar riff in the song to be, have a really signature sound. I don’t know who really ended up with one that was really memorable or not but that’s, I guess, other people’s, it’s their judgment at this point. I remember when we really looked a lot for the right kind of sound for the guitars to have. I remember the opening lyric of that song, “Inverted Narcissist.” I remember, I think it was Dylan, came in and said, “What do you think about this lyric? Inverted narcissist?”
And I was like, “I love it!” I remember that being a discussion and I remember there being a lot of talk about the feel of that song, about how they didn’t want it to swing, which was sort of tricky because if you play the song without thinking you just naturally swing it. There was a lot of discussion about trying to keep it really stiff and unswung.
Jesse Cannon: Next, I talked to the band about how their song “1980s Horror Film” came to be.
Braeden Lemaste: This was a song I kind of just feel like I fumbled around in my room with. I was listening to the Stone Roses album and for some reason that was the first thing I played after listening to it, was just the riff and then it kind of slowly turned into a “Norwegian Wood” kind of style. I always thought that would be interesting to have a song with kind of like a story. I’ve always loved “Norwegian Wood.” It’s about going to someone’s house and burning down their house and this whole thing. And so I was, “Oh, that’d be cool if there was like a story.” And I just remember I had no idea what the song was going to be about, no idea what the ending was going to be, and then just kind of started singing it and then somehow, someway turned into about being about horror movies. And then somehow being that she’s not into guys at the end. I don’t know how that happened but I was like, “Oh, it rhymes!” I know that’s funny, I guess.
I thought that was cool and it was funny I saw this girl covered it on Twitter. She posted a video of her covering it at a coffee shop in front of 30 random people. Yeah, she covered it at a coffee shop and everyone laughs at the end.
Dylan Minnette: No way. That’s awesome.
Braeden Lemaste: And I’m like, “What?”
Cole Preston: Yes.
Braeden Lemaste: Holy guac. This was a song that kind of came together as just me and a guitar. That’s how we play it live. And then we’re in the studio and we knew that we did not want that to be the case because we thought after a while that it could just get boring if you already know the story in the song, like just acoustic. I mean it works for some songs but we were like, you know what, let’s sort of make it more interesting and we kind of always thought that’d be the case to like have horror movie sounds in it, whatever, whatever. The original idea, too, was that I wanted to do the take, all in one take. I wanted my guitar and vocals, at the same time. I wanted no putting perfect vocals-
Dylan Minnette: No metronome.
Braeden Lemaste: No metronome. I just wanted it to be like as raw as it could possibly be and if there’s like a weird note or weird flub, or whatever, whatever, I wanted it to be in there because like whatever.
Dylan Minnette: Whatever, whatever.
Braeden Lemaste: Anyway, after we recorded the song that’s when the fun stuff happened. John busted out these crazy things. I don’t know if you guys want to take it away because this is where it gets-
Cole Preston: We could go in chronological order of the song. First we layered electric guitar reverb under it. Under the main acoustic guitar playing.
Dylan Minnette: There’s just the reverb, right?
Cole Preston: Just the reverb, not the actual attack, which you can hear and there’s one time where Braeden plays a major seventh chord rather than the regular major chord so if you listen really carefully it’s a little bit weird, one time but kind of backs in it but really works. There’s synth, synth bass…
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, John started doing, what was he doing? (humming) In this bass, I think.
Braeden Lemaste: It was this Korg-
Dylan Minnette: Yeah.
Braeden Lemaste: Like MS-20 synth, I think. This-
Dylan Minnette: He started doing all these sounds. I remember I was laying on the couch and I heard him, and I couldn’t see him, I heard these sounds, I was like, “What is happening?” He just started doing it without even asking. He just started doing these crazy, bendy synth bass tones. I remember just sitting up and jaw dropping and he immediately took the song to another place that I never saw it going before and I remember it was the most excited I’ve ever been but anything we’d written or recorded I couldn’t imagine the song going to that place and so then we just started really going in. Then we’re like, “Wait. Okay, now that this song can go here …”
Because at that moment in time it was just going to maybe be acoustic guitar and singing. Then he started doing these synth sounds and then our friend Julian, who is an amazing musician and violinist, who lives in the same house as Cole, came into the studio and did one take of violin. To Julian we’re just like, play whatever. We wanted the, the 1980s ended up being this collage of sounds of the end that sound sort of beautiful but also kind of haunting and, yeah, could almost feel like they have horror film elements but while remaining beautiful in a way.
So just playing whatever and he just started playing all these like false harmonics stuff on the violin and I remember John was like, it was funny because John was like, “Man, it’s always kind of scary when a band is like we’re gonna bring in our friend to play violin.” And John’s like, “Oh God, okay.” But then Julian comes in, remember he did this take and then John was just like, “Really,” he was saying to Julian like, “Really amazing playing, man. Such great technique,” and all this stuff. I was like, “Yes! You go Julian!” Because he came in and did these, he made up all those false harmonic violin parts on the spot and I remember just being like, “Oh my God, this is so good!”
Braeden Lemaste: Another interesting, this is an interesting, weird fact, but, what was the singer of the Cranberries’ name, I fell so-
Jesse Cannon: Dolores O’Riordan.
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah, the day that she actually passed away was the day we did the strings for that song and in the song Julian coincidentally did a line that’s in “Linger.” He goes, (singing). He does that and he had no, he was just improvising and it’s in the song somewhere, deep inside. It’s a very similar, I just remember that blowing my mind because I was like, “Oh my Gosh,” because that’s one of my favorite songs ever made, “Linger,” and the fact that there was a very similar part on that day is really interesting to me. Rest in peace to her but, I don’t know, that’s a very interesting fact.
Dylan Minnette: Yeah.
Jesse Cannon: This time John had some insight on how he helped contribute to the song.
John Congleton: On “1980s Horror Film” I really encouraged it to sound like Braeden just singing a song in his bedroom and then we would have these interstitial sounds that were kind of coming in and out that would just create an atmosphere but ultimately I wanted the song to just kind of sound like a dude sitting on his bed, singing a song. I do remember pushing that agenda and I remember I made a few lyrics suggestions on that song that ended up in the song. One of them being, “She was only 17.”
John Congleton: I suggested the next lyric be, “Why are all girls in songs 17?” Because the original lyric was, “She was 17 and you know what I mean,” or something like, it was, I was like, “That’s a Beatles song!” That lyric’s already been taken but once I pointed it out, I was like we gotta do something different there, they’re like, “Oh, you’re right,” because it had just been kind of a placeholder for them. At some point I said, “How about she was only 17, why are girls in songs always 17?” I said it because I thought that that would actually be a great way to start this song, because, you know, like a self-reverential thing. Why are we always singing about girls when they’re 17?
Jesse Cannon: I asked if there was any struggles with recording the record but apparently all there really was, was struggling to get things in the hoop.
Dylan Minnette: What was really exciting for us also was recording at Sunset Sound. That being such a legendary studio we recorded in studio three, where Prince did his stuff like “Purple Rain.” Insane!
Braeden Lemaste: One of the best studios on Earth.
Dylan Minnette: It was incredible and he, Prince, installed, I’m pretty sure, the basketball hoop that’s at Sunset Sound.
Cole Preston: So much fun.
Dylan Minnette: In between, whenever John would go and comp something together after we do something, we’d go outside and just play Horse and I would get slayed by Braeden, like Braeden’s just way too good. We actually got a couple balls stuck on the roof of Sunset Sound. They’re probably still up there.
Cole Preston: The funniest thing I’d say, one of the funniest things, was the picture of me throwing the basketball and I look just like the Led Zeppelin swan symbol. It’s insane. We’ll show you after.
Jesse Cannon: Maybe we need a podcast.
Cole Preston: It’s really funny. Me and John, we all have so many inside jokes with him so that was fun, too.
Jesse Cannon: With all this talk about the LP they’re gonna do next, I wanted to get into a little discussion about what we can expect from it.
Dylan Minnette: I feel like there’s just always gonna be lots of influences that go into our music and I feel like there’ll be inherently, again, a lot of taste tester kind of things going on the album, too. Just because there’s so much music that we listen to and that inspires us that I think a lot of those sounds are going to come out in our music, unintentionally and intentionally but, I think we learned particularly that we want to focus on certain things more than others now in the studio. We will sit down and work on a guitar tone for an hour. Especially because we’ll have more time on our upcoming album session, know what I mean, because-
Braeden Lemaste: Drum sounds and-
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, yeah, yeah, have more time to sit down and figure it out and don’t be, and to not be wrapped up in your head about the way you think it should sound like. Just let it find itself and experiment and don’t be afraid to experiment for a long period of time or go with a gut decision. I’m very much contradicting myself. It goes hand-in-hand, though. There’s just certain little things and even in mixing how you want to approach something differently or, another thing that happened on the EP is we wrote a lot of these songs in Logic on Cole’s laptop, so all the parts we would write on the little mini keyboard, as a drum part or we’d plug in a guitar and DI and just do that and we ended up writing the songs by learning things on Logic so a lot of the parts, all the parts we knew we wanted to play and we ended up falling in love with a lot of sounds and so we went into the EP having, which is good, having a very clear vision of what we wanted all these songs to sound like.
But can also be a detriment because now this time we’re more interested in going on and our demos we’re making right now sound so plain and so bad, so we can go in and intentionally let the sounds find themselves and surprise us instead of having an exact idea of what we want them to sound like.
Braeden Lemaste: And that’s John-
Dylan Minnette: Exactly. Yes.
Braeden Lemaste: That’s John having more of a helping hand. And how John really built the songs up as well.
Dylan Minnette: Because John is doing our album as well. And John is a mastermind as anyone who knows him knows. The EP process was great but we want to this time let him put his hands on it more and do it, surprise us with his sound. We have no idea what we want this to sound like, just please surprise us and just find it together. Our whole mindset on the EP has its ups and downs. We love how it turned out but were just like “Oh, let’s approach this a little differently this time.” Just for fun. I think we’ll ultimately be more surprised and more, and happier by having a product we didn’t expect.
Jesse Cannon: One thing that won’t be changing on their LP is they are all comfortable playing any instrument they want to play on a song. They explain it a little bit more here.
Braeden Lemaste: Cole usually handles all the drums.
Cole Preston: Yeah. I drum and they sing.
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah. I wanna dabble in drums one day on something.
Cole Preston: You should, dude.
Braeden Lemaste: That’d be really fun because we all play drums as well, but, No, Cole played a lot of the keyboard parts, I played a lot of the keyboard parts, a little of the keyboard parts/guitar parts-
Cole Preston: You guys did all the bass.
Braeden Lemaste: Yeah, me and Dylan did the bass-
Dylan Minnette: You didn’t do any bass, Cole?
Cole Preston: No.
Dylan Minnette: Oh, because you did drums.
Braeden Lemaste: So we all kind of shape shift around, kind of float around.
Dylan Minnette: That’s what’s cool about, we didn’t, we don’t want Wallows to be your classic band, per se, but we have this drummer and this guitar player and singer, and this guitar player and singer, this bass player. We just want it to be this collective of people that make the music and write the music. Has nothing to do with what parts we play or what parts we sing or write or whatever. We just contribute whatever we want equally.
Braeden Lemaste: Which is exciting because I remember when we went to do “Pictures of Girls” there’s this really high, ring-y guitar part that’s on the record and I was in there with John and I was like, “Cole, can you just go play it and get the sounds, I just want to hear it back,” and he starts playing it. I’m like, “Oh. Yeah. Just record it.” I was in there listening so I could listen to it and be like, “Oh, no. Do this, do this,” and then it was done. I’m like, “cool, cool, you played the lead guitar part, awesome.” That’s how it is on the-
Cole Preston: And then he got to be in the room and hear the sounds through the monitor so, yeah, it’s definitely mutually beneficial all around for all of us to play all the instruments.
Dylan Minnette: Yeah, and a part that I play live, “Braeden, I just don’t feel like playing this right now, you just do it.”
Jesse Cannon: I think it’s always interesting with a band as unique as Wallows to find out what the people who are closest to them think makes them unique. So I asked John Congleton and Caiti Green about what they think makes the group special.
John Congleton: I’ll tell you what I think is unique about them, in regards to how things are now. I think in a lot of ways they remind me of bands from 20, 30 years ago where they feel more like an actual band where everybody has pretty equal say. Nowadays a lot of things are one person’s vision. They even kind of write everything and record everything themselves a lot of times. There’s a lot of that now and 20, 30 years ago that was much more of a novel thing and the more norm was to have a band with three or four people who all kind of had equal votes. Bands were just kind of more of a thing 20, 30 years ago. The way I see things going, they’re kind of more novel now because they actually are three people who really, really listen to each other and take everything into consideration. Sometimes with a band nowadays, the drummer or the bass player or whomever might have an opinion but it’s only given 20 percent reverence compared to somebody else’s opinion. Whereas with these guys, they’re really, legitimately good friends and they legitimately are doing this as a unit. That’s refreshing to me. I just don’t see that as much nowadays.
Caiti Green: That’s a young band who were raised on indie music and draw influences from everyone from The Strokes to The Smiths to The Cure to The Killers, Arctic Monkeys. I think it’s really cool that they’re making their way into the mainstream, hopefully. Knock on wood. Really, it’s gonna be interesting to see this generation, or their generation, and how they develop into music because it’s all about hip hop right now. Hip hop and pop are dominating, whereas, early 2000s Strokes and The Killers and all these other, The Hives, all these garage rock bands were just killing it in the mainstream and my greatest hope is for a rock n roll revival so I think it’s cool that they’re paving the way for that.
Jesse Cannon: Thank you for listening to this podcast. If you enjoyed it, please share it on social media. To hear other episodes and more of Atlantic’s podcasts, head to atlanticpodcasts.com. Wallow’s “Spring” EP is out now. Thanks and tune in next time.