With home recording catching up with studio recording, most bands have an EP out before their first show, and an album out five months later.
Not Joyous Wolf. The band spent years honing their grunge and blues soaked version of rock and roll around Orange County, eventually taking the act on the road opening for and touring with everyone from Deep Purple to Slash.
After spending 2019 and 2020 releasing EPs and singles to a rapidly growing fanbase, 2021 sees the band neck deep in writing sessions for their debut album, to be recorded in the summer and released on no less than Roadrunner Records.
We caught up with guitarist Blake Allard to talk about organ tubes, Stone Temple Pilots, and using Lemmy’s discarded fuzz pedal.
I understand you guys are currently working on your debut record with an eye to recording in the summer – how is that coming along? What can people expect from the record based on what you have so far?
The writing process has been going extremely well this time around for us. Normally our song ideas become more solid through testing them out live, but since we don’t have the opportunity to do that, it’s been really nice to be able to flesh out all the different possibilities we have for a song behind the scenes and not feel rushed to get it done. I would say people can expect to hear a fresh, interactive, and hopefully more mature sounding Joyous Wolf which we think is a step in the right direction for us moving forward!
You guys have achieved an incredible amount for a band with an EP and a few singles – does that put any pressure on you as far as writing and recording your debut album?
Not at all, the only pressure we feel is from ourselves to become better musicians over time and write better feeling/sounding music.
A lot of bands these days record their first release before they start playing shows, and often have their first record out in their first year. How do you feel having a lot of time and tours under your belt before going into the full length has served you?
I think it’s our biggest advantage and one of our biggest blessings a group of musicians like us could have before making a collective release of music. That’s how we’ve always thought it should be, you start as an amateur artist and over time attempt to develop yourself to a point where you can feel confident enough to release music you have put through the ringer and tested. Even when we released ‘Place in Time’, (which is available on all streaming music platforms) those ideas were very worked out to death at the time. Which now is funny, because we look back on those as very primitive ideas, but that’s how it should seem over a period of time; growth and change are necessary for art and music.
As far as the batch of songs that went into the EP, were there any you held onto like “we gotta save this for the album”?
Yeah there were actually, which is pretty rare for us because normally we either feel confident enough to release something or we jump ship on an idea that we aren’t 100% stoked on, so we’re very excited for people to hear some older “new” material haha.
Last year’s unplugged release – Odyssey and Quiet Heart – is pretty killer, what was the idea behind putting that out?
Thank you! We honestly just wanted to put some music out that was new in some manner while we weren’t able to release new material. It was a nice buffer release for something real to come soon.
You released a killer cover of Stone Temple Pilot’s Interstate Love Song to facebook a few weeks ago – how did you choose that song in particular? Any other covers you guys were knocking around?
We’re huge STP fans and always jam that song at rehearsal and kind of going back to not being able to release new music quite just yet, we wanted to do something that was just a fun idea for us to cover one of our favorite songs. Definitely no plans for future covers, they’re just spontaneous ideas we feel like doing once every blue moon, even Mississippi Queen was like that.
So guitars! Has the band’s guitar gear evolved over the years or has it been a fairly consistent rig?
Our rigs usually slowly evolve over time and I think we’re in a perfect place for how we want to be portrayed now. I religiously play my 2008 335 Custom but have recently upgraded from a Plexi to a 1984 JCM800 and I haven’t looked back. I smile ear to ear every time I get to turn that thing up, it fits me and the band perfectly.
Same with Greg (Braccio, bassist) too, he’s always been a Fender/Ampeg guy, and recently just upgraded to a G&L that he’s totally in love with.
As far as the EP specifically, what gear did you use? Was there anything that got used in the studio that’s not in your live rig?
For the EP I specifically used my amp and cabinet at the time which was a Suhr SL68 and a 1968 Marshall 4×12. We also added some layering with a couple great small combo amps that I’ve learned are the secret to great recorded guitar tones. Depending on the tuning of the song I was switching between my 335 and my Gretsch‘s that I use, both player series Jet and Broadkaster. Quick shoutout to Howard Benson also for letting me use Lemmy from Motorhead’s fuzz pedal he said he threw in the trash on his way out of the studio one day, awesome story.
As far as the sound you want to achieve on the record, do you have any specific records in mind that you want to use as reference tones?
Going back to STP for a second, we think Purple is an artistic, but also sonic masterpiece. Definitely love the tones from that album. Others that come to mind are in a similar vain of ‘Vs’ from Pearl Jam, ‘Songs for the Dead’ by Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Whatever People Say I Am’ from Arctic Monkies has a great capture throughout it also.
Is there any specific piece of gear that you picked up recently that you weren’t expecting much from but were blown away by?
For sure, they might not seem as obvious but they’re the sort of things where I couldn’t imagine my tone without them now after hearing them added. I fell in love with an EQ pedal from Earthquaker Devices called the Tone Job and I used that for my lead/solo/leave-on-all-the-time boosts. It does such a better job than most overdrive pedals that muddy or color the sound too much to my liking, so for me this was an Ah-Ha moment for sure.
I also recently stumbled upon vintage tubes and put some 50s organ preamp tubes in my JCM800 and the saturation and presence they give my sound just sound unreal. I never understood vintage tube sound until I used it in my setup and it will be hard to ever go back now.
And the other side of that, any gear you were looking forward to recently that turned out to be a disappointment?
Thankfully no haha, I’m extremely picky and lucky with gear finds so nothing that I’ve gotten recently has been a bummer.
Joyous Wolf are a fairly traditional sounding band in many ways – what are your feelings on the current digital amp offerings – could you see yourself using any modelling or profiling gear in general? Even just for fly in gigs and such?
I’m personally not a fan of the amp modeling digital effects stuff for recording and live purposes just in general, BUT I do think that the technology is amazing for rehearsal, writing and demoing purposes. I can definitely say that if I didn’t have the ability to practice or record ideas at home with my Apollo plugins into Logic that would be detrimental to my practice routine and writing process.
Final question – if someone who’s not familiar with the band wanted to learn one of your songs, what would you suggest they start with? Any songs or even just licks that are particularly fun to play or rewarding to pull off?
I would say Mother Rebel would be a great song for people to learn. It takes you out of your comfort zone a bit with the alternate tuning and capo/slide addition, but for me personally when I was learning slide and was able to play the song cleanly for the first time it was an extremely gratifying feeling learning something new and feeling competent with it.