Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother: “There’s something about a band playing that changes the atmosphere of the room”

(Image credit: Press/Supplied)

Rock out. No, really, do it. And do it with Wolfmother, for that is the very simple message that the band’s Andrew Stockdale has slapped on the tin of the Aussie rock stalwarts’ sixth studio album. Rock Out, in fact, is more than a message – it’s a mantra. It’s a conclusion drawn after journeying through existential inner turmoil and conducting outward observations of this erratic mid-pandemic world. The album sees Stockdale embrace the healing qualities of music and cultivate them as a guide for his new creation. It’s a transportive effort that saw the frontman – and hopefully, his listeners – through tumultuous times and into a euphoric haven. 

Wolfmother looked all around for the guidance to make this album – back to simpler times and classic British rock for tracks like ‘Feelin’ Love’, with the influences likes Cream and Deep Purple evident in the riff-laden chorus, turning inward and facing personal crisis only to share outwardly the angst in the neurotic (but brilliant) ‘Humble’. Stockdale and co. entertain themes of delusion, procrastination and ultimately, silent victory, rocking out all through the pandemic that shut the world down.

Wolfmother’s sound is ubiquitous, certainly, but with Rock Out, Stockdale has whipped up a sound that speaks for all.

Can you speak to the medicinal properties of rock ’n’ roll, so to speak? 
It breaks down all the pretence, y’know, when you’re at a live show. There’s something about a band playing that changes the atmosphere of the room and the people in it. It brings people together, and they’re able to have a shared experience – there’s a bonding element to it. And I guess that’s been out of our lives for a couple years, y’know? We’ve had it in short doses, but
it’s been rare.

Live music has always been such a huge part of people’s mental health – either through traveling or work or socialising – and I guess my contribution, at least, is to give people something to listen to when they’ve got nothing else to.

So did you have the stage in mind when you were writing these songs? 
Yeah, without a doubt! I think if you play rock music, it’s going to fall into the category of drums, bass, guitar and vocals – it’s a tried and tested formula that can result in millions of different types of music. So I always try to adhere to the rules of that, which then translate really well to the live show. 

Is it true that you recorded the whole thing with a local Uni student? 
Very much so, yeah! This 19-year-old kid from the SAE Institute, Cameron Lockwood, who I met in a café around the corner. I was just having breakfast, and he came up and went, “Hey man, if you ever need an engineer, I’ll work for free.” I think he did work for free initially, but I was like, “Dude, this is work, I’m going to pay you engineer rates to do this.” 

But yeah, man, the ears don’t hear whether it’s a 50-year-old man or a 19-year-old man – if a guy’s doing a good job, he’s doing a good job. And plus, we’ve been in COVID, so it’s not like I can go to Sydney or Brisbane or LA or anywhere to work at some fancy, $2,000-a-day studio. 

I was also reading about how some of these tracks came together in a matter of hours, like ‘Humble’ and ‘Only Way’. What is it about that real loose, heat-of-the-moment style that you reckon makes for such a great tune? 
Well, I’m glad it sounds like it has. We tracked it quickly, without a doubt, but I probably wrote [‘Humble’], like, three months in advance. I just tracked it on the laptop, on GarageBand, and then I literally played what I’d done through the PA and said to the guys, “Okay, this is kind of what I’m doing.” I think if you’re a songwriter in a band, preparation definitely helps for a quick session. 

What kind of guitars were you tracking on for this record? 
I’ve shifted to the Explorer recently. I’ve got a brown Explorer, which I bought in Tel Aviv after our last show in Europe – I think that was in 2019. So I’ve been using that. And I bought an olive, drab green Epiphone Explorer up in Brisbane, at Manny’s Music, maybe six months ago. 

The Explorer just has a different sort of vibe. It sits differently, with the strap and everything over your shoulder – it puts your hands at a different angle, and I find that it’s more of a guitar player’s electric. It feels like it’s designed for you to be able to play up the fretboard, and your hand isn’t running into the body of the guitar… And, of, course, it just looks cool [laughs]. 

What about in the way of effects? Are you much of a pedal nerd these days? 
I haven’t bought a new pedal in years. I’ve probably got, like, 50 pedals – it was just one of those things where I had to stop buying more. But essentially I use a POG, a Micro Synth and a wah pedal, and that’s pretty much it. I just put out another track called ‘Midnight Train’, and I double tracked the Micro Synth on the middle-eight track, and, it’s got this glitchy, binary kind of breakdown sound to it. It’s pretty cool. 

Later this month, Wolfmother is, of course, headlining the first-ever Uncaged Festival. When you got that pitch for the tour, what made you leap at it?
Well, I say ‘yes’ to pretty much any show at this point, after not having any gigs to play for two years. I wish I could say there was some special reason, but yeah, we just have to say ‘yes’ to everything now because you’ve really got to strike while the iron’s hot, and get out there while you can. But I mean of course, headlining a festival, what’s not to love about that? That’s an honor and and privilege, so we’d have to go for it regardless of COVID! 

Who are you personally most keen to see at the festival? 
The Hard-Ons with Tim Rogers, that’s going to be pretty special. The first band that I ever played in, when I was 12 or 13, we would play the Hard-Ons’ ‘Let There Be Rock’ cover for days on end. That was the only song we knew how to play, so we just played that repeatedly [laughs]. So yeah, those guys... I owe ‘em one! 

What songs from Rock Out are you excited to bust out onstage? 
‘Feeling Love’ and ‘Rock Out’ – we’ve had those two in the setlist for the last few shows, and the response has been awesome, so those two will definitely be be in the set. Hopefully they’ll become mainstay parts of the Wolfmother catalogue – the staples of the set, so to speak.

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