Wolfmother

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Wolfmother is hard to come by at home these days. The beloved Aussie rockers are more likely to be found touring internationally, headlining across the globe with only the occasional look in at home. Back in January, Wolfmother headlined an at-capacity show at renowned Sydney venue Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, as part of the establishments fourth birthday celebrations. This, as frontman Andrew Stockdale confirms, was just one of some very few Australian appearances in the last year. “Well, I mean Frankie’s was the second show – we’ve done 120 shows and only two in Australia.

“The plane [journeys] are pretty long and jet lag and flying from Oz to Europe and back is tough and we just take a couple of weeks off between tours – I’m sort of using that as my reason for not flying. Once we reached 300,000 [air mile] points, I went business [class] because I was sick of being jammed up the back for hours and hours on end.”

That should make it pretty self-explanatory as to the name for upcoming Australian tour, ‘Gypsy Caravan’. In case it didn’t, enigmatic frontman Andrew Stockdale explains the band’s recent movements. “Ah well, we’ve not played at home [Australia] for three years, I think, not like a comprehensive tour where we’ve announced it two months in advance. Before it’s been all spontaneous shows here.

“I guess it’s like a nostalgic notion of the band being in a caravan travelling around being gipsies, that’s the sort of poetic way of looking at touring. The first show anyone ever offered us was in Brisbane and it was offered by a guy called the ‘scare’. He managed the zoo and said he’ll fly us up to play at the zoo. We were like, ‘Man, someone is offering to pay for our flights to play at a zoo!’ Pretty crazy, right? That was the first time we played anywhere outside of Sydney.”

From the zoo to Frankie’s, in just ten short years, it’s no wonder that Stockdale seems so, shall we say, chill? From such humble and strange beginnings to international fame and touring, he is, of course, allowed to ‘bake’ a little in the day’s sunshine to relax, and indeed, like talking to a wise guru, Stockdale’s relaxed state proves most opportune for hearing some choice stories – how he’s done it, got where he wanted to be, the relentless beginnings; it all makes for an intriguing and enjoyable chat and it’s best just to roll with it, let the excitable Stockdale take a trip down memory lane.

“When we started out in Sydney, I had a studio in the Spanish Quarter and I used to order taxis to cart our stuff around town, right? Going to the Bindi Hotel and I had two station wagon taxis for all the amps and shit!
“I remember saying to the drummer Myles, saying, ‘Man, I think this is going really well, we can get a gig a week,’ and he was like, ‘No way, man!’ Fast forward ten years and bam! Here we are, crazy man!”

“[Back then] someone wants a publishing agreement and I’m like, ‘What’s publishing?’ ‘You guys should have a tour manager’, ‘what’s that?’ We were, like, clueless.”

Clueless they may have been but those fumbled beginnings grew to solid innings. And many young bands in Sydney, and indeed the country, find themselves today in a similar position to where Wolfmother began, wanting to play music with their mates, to entertain an audience, to travel. But with so many Sydney venues shutting their doors, blaming the restrictions of the lockout laws for their closure, and the threat for the same happening in other cities very real, Stockdale has, of course, a stance on the matter: one of both wit, wisdom and showing a true gipsy soul.

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“I mean culture grows from these places – it’s not like everyone can play the Enmore [Theatre] and fork out $20,000 for security and venue hire. Bands need somewhere where there are no expenses and their payment is free beer,” Stockdale chuckles. “You really need that kind of stuff to get in front of people. It’s pretty intimidating, really, if you have a party at your warehouse [shut down] because you had council restriction, you have to be a real logistics master to play your first show.

“When I first started playing, it was a miracle to get four people into your rehearsal space. The fourth person would show up then gear would break, so you’d waste time there. Starting a band is a miracle and if the venues are disappearing, all the elements of starting a band are stacked against you.

“I remember leaving a rehearsal studio when I was 18 and I heard Radiohead on the radio and was like, ‘We need to quit, we suck’. I learnt my lesson then, like, it doesn’t matter how bad you are or what gigs you play, it’s just small steps. Even if you’re terrible, don’t worry about it: one little bit here, here, here, it builds up.

“I look at these bands on stage and it’s perfect, people are so good, programs are amazing, everyone is well-edited and this era is a highly competitive era even now. Yeah, I guess it’s a bit of luck but you make your own—I took the risks—I remember starting a band with a crowd before Wolfmother – you turn up to rehearsal, these people would get there at all hours, these hipsters of Surrey Hills, they were “too cool”, you know? I said to one guy I knew: ‘We gonna book a gig? Record a demo?’ And I felt like a stiff for saying this stuff to mega-hipsters and he was like, ‘You know what, it’s gonna happen.’ And you know what happened? Nothing! [raucous laughter]”

“My thing is book the show, hand out flyers on George Street [Sydney] – I bought a computer with a credit card and recorded the first Wolfmother EP before we had any air press. Yes, we are fortunate that we can do this, but half of it is making your own luck, being at the venue you don’t wanna be at in Melbourne at 2 am, loading your gear in and out, most people wouldn’t do it, whereas I do it because I have the disposition and the patience to do this crazy thing.

“I think I could be completely domesticated and cook and clean and stay and home, and that’s nice; or try a different profession, a job or anything, but I don’t need to work. I’m in a good position now so I don’t have that kind of pressure. I’m doing this because I want to do it. I think it’s good for me, playing shows is good for the soul – it’s good to have a purpose in life. You can get stuff in limbo. I’ve had some amazing experiences in some amazing places just following the process – well, that’s my take on it.”

Written by Anna Rose

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