The story of Wolfmother so far…
This document was written by André Pusey, copyright The Original Wolfmother Fan Site 2016, all rights reserved. Use without permission is prohibited.
United by creativity
Wolfmother emerged in 2004 from Erskineville, a suburb of Australian city Sydney, after a few years of jamming in private. Made up of creative souls Andrew Stockdale, a photographer, Chris Ross, a digital designer, and Myles Heskett, a graphics designer, the group began playing shows in Sydney and the surrounding area in spring that year, picking up some decent local buzz in the process. In September the boys travelled across the world to the States for their first shows outside of their home country in New York and Los Angeles, entering the studio to record their debut EP. With producer Jim Diamond behind the desk, the trio came out with four brilliant tracks, and released the collection in September through indie label Modular Recordings. With even more good press, the EP made it to #35 in the ARIA Singles Chart, and Australia’s next big thing saw the year out touring more Australian cities, with a few shows in the UK thrown in for good measure.
Five months of tireless touring later, Wolfmother were being slated as an important force in the world of rock. In June 2005 the group entered an abandoned Hollywood studio to record their anticipated debut album with acclaimed producer Dave Sardy, emerging just a few weeks later with an album that would change their lives forever. Returning to the touring circuit in September, with shows over the next two months in the US, the UK, New Zealand and Australia, word began to spread that this young group of three Australian lads had made an album that was sonically brilliant. The first taste of the record came in the form of a double A-side single, “Mind’s Eye/Woman“, released in Australia in October. With a psychedelic music video backing it up, the single just squeezed into the top 30, but with glowing critical reviews it was enough to make the music industry sit up and take notice.
The album was unleashed at the end of the month in the trio’s home country — Wolfmother was an overnight sensation, debuting at an incredible #3 on the Australian ARIA Albums Chart. It remained in the charts for almost 18 months, returning as high as #4 off the back of some hugely popular singles and a relentless touring schedule. With the band at the top of the world of rock in Australia, they received a slew of awards from the Australian press at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006 — from the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), Stockdale, Ross and Heskett received the Breakthrough Songwriter Award; from Triple J, the group’s self-titled debut album was named Best Australian Album; and further nominations came at the ARIA Awards and the MTV Australia Awards. In the 2005 countdown of Triple J’s Hottest 100, Wolfmother had six of their songs featured in the list… half of their debut album! The first job was done; it was time to branch out.
Taking the world by storm
Press outside of Wolfmother’s home island began to pick up on their record before it was even shipped out there, with Rolling Stone in March 2006 featuring them at the top of their polls for Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Singles, Best Band, Best Album Cover, Best Hard Rock/Metal Band, Best Rock Artist, Best New Artist, and Year’s Biggest Hype! After spending the first quarter of the year touring as much as possible overseas, and with “White Unicorn” giving the group their first taste of US chart success, Wolfmother were ready to make the leap into international recognition. After the UK-exclusive single “Dimension” charted there for the first time, Wolfmother was released in the UK and the US on April 24th and May 2nd, respectively. The album wasn’t as popular as it was back home, but it did reach respectable peaks of #25 on the UK Albums Chart and #22 on the US Billboard 200, as well as some more top 40 positions around the world.
Clearly, Wolfmother had made it. Their album went on to be certified gold in the US, Canada, and the UK, as well as quadruple platinum in Australia; their music began popping up all over the place, in commercials (iPod, Mitsubishi), in video games (Guitar Hero II, Rugby 06), and in movies (Jackass Number Two, School for Scoundrels); and their appearances at some of the most high-profile festivals became commonplace, including Lollapalooza, Reading and Leeds, Download, and Coachella. With more promotional touring around the world, the hugely popular track “Woman” was released in its own right as a single in June, breaking into the top ten of the US rock charts. During a break in touring due to the birth of Chris Ross’s baby, “Joker & the Thief” was also released, and went on to be the band’s most successful single when it reached #8 in Australia.
The year closed in much the same way as it had opened — with huge success. In November the group had the honor of being chosen to perform at the UK Music Hall of Fame by legendary inductees Led Zeppelin, performing the song “Communication Breakdown”. With more busy touring schedules, the trio went into 2007 with high spirits, and with three ARIA Awards in tow (for Best Breakthrough Album, Best Rock Album, and Best Group). The beginning of the year was largely filled with more live presence, with shows around Europe and in Japan, as well as some of the most high-profile recognition the band had received to date. Within the space of just a few days, Wolfmother won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Woman”, and also received a nomination at the BRIT Awards for Best International Breakthrough Artist, eventually losing to Orson. The band also found time to contribute a brand new song, “Pleased to Meet You“, to the soundtrack for the film Spider-Man 3, released in May. It was all going so well…
What might have been
Later in 2007, Andrew, Chris and Myles took a well-earned break from the rock lifestyle, although were quickly back beginning work on their sophomore album, the follow-up to one of the most successful rock albums of the decade. Very little was heard about the record, other than a few song titles here and there (a lot of focus was placed on a song called “Back Home”, and “Love Attacker” had already been released as “Pleased to Meet You”). To fill the sudden gap, Universal put together a live video release, documenting the band’s homecoming performance at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion back in July 2006. Please Experience Wolfmother Live hit stores in August 2007, and was packed full of extra content including music videos, a documentary, and more live performances. It was certified platinum by ARIA, despite failing to chart.
With reports coming in from reputable sources that Wolfmother had almost completed a full album, the band returned to the spotlight in April 2008 after nine months away to perform on the Australian TV show Andy Warhol Up Late. In their ten-song set, the trio debuted four brand new songs to the delight of the crowd — “Back Round“, “The Violence of the Sun“, “Monolith” and “Inside the Mountain“, all presumably to appear on the imminent second record. With only four festival appearances to show for the rest of the year however, Chris Ross and Myles Heskett officially announced their departure from Wolfmother on August 7th via a statement issued by Universal Records. The duo cited “longstanding irreconcilable personal and musical differences” as the reason for leaving, with the extended break the previous year being attributed to reflections and planning regarding the future of the band.
So, was the dream over? Had Wolfmother had the ride of their life limited to only a couple of years? Well, despite most news sources claiming the band had broken up, Stockdale vowed to resurrect the Wolfmother name with new musicians. Moving back to Byron Bay, he hid himself in his new home studio to continue writing material for the new album…
A rebirth close to home
Back in New South Wales, Stockdale had been working with local drummer Dave Atkins in private on the previously performed “Back Round”, which would see release a few months into 2009. In February that year, a new-look Wolfmother performed a couple of gigs under the name White Feather at some small local venues, debuting a host of new tunes in the process with unidentified players in place of Chris and Myles. “Wolfmother Phase II” was born, and Andrew’s teammates in this new foray were soon revealed as Ian Peres, a bassist and keyboardist with an unrivalled passion and talent for music, Aidan Nemeth, a local guitarist who could work wonders at the mixing desk, along with Atkins, one of the country’s most energetic drummers.
The fresh incarnation of Wolfmother began work as quickly as possible on their first record, although the follow-up to Wolfmother took a lot longer than its predecessor had to perfect. With stints in Brisbane’s Valley Studios, the band also began to re-establish themselves on the live circuit, with high-profile gigs at Sound Relief, the Clipsal 500, and the MTV Australia Awards, where new single “Back Round” was performed fantastically on the big stage. The long-awaited track was released as a free download in March, and in August another single, “New Moon Rising“, received its worldwide debut on the loyal Triple J. Anticipation was growing for the clearly more calculated and complex album…
Cosmic Egg was released in October 2009 in various forms showcasing numerous bonus tracks. The album equalled its predecessor’s Aussie chart peak, and surpassed its performance in many territories around the world. Back amongst the elite of modern rock, Wolfmother toured the world throughout the rest of 2009 and most of 2010, landing a huge gig supporting giants AC/DC on their World Ice Tour. A large number of shows throughout the year had to be cancelled, mainly in Europe, and while “illness” was cited as the reason for these cancellations, already the press had begun to assume the worst.
Mere weeks after the band contributed “Fell Down a Hole” to the Almost Alice soundtrack and released iTunes Live from Sydney, a documentation of their performance at Sydney’s Apple Store in February 2010, it was announced that Atkins had left the band “to spend much-needed time at home with his family”. The departing Atkins was replaced by the first American member of the band, Will Rockwell-Scott, probably best known for his work with garage rock band The Mooney Suzuki. Will very aptly saw out the rest of the 2010 tour dates, which included performances at Splendour in the Grass, Lollapalooza, and the band’s first show ever in Indonesia. Late January and early February the following year saw Wolfmother feature as part of the legendary travelling festival Big Day Out, playing ten shows in nine cities in Australia and New Zealand.
A process of rebranding
With some time off between March and May, Wolfmother began work began on their third album, the follow-up to Cosmic Egg, and the first with Rockwell-Scott on drums. When they returned to the live circuit for a European tour starting in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 30th, the band dropped the first of their new tracks, “Year of the Dragon” to whet the appetites of fans. An unplanned acoustic set the following night gave them the opportunity to reveal even more material in the form of “On the Beach” and “Everyday Drone“, while Stockdale informed the media that most of the album had already been recorded and they were aiming for a November release. In October it was said that the album had been finished, with only mixing to come, and that it would see the light of day in early 2012. This was Wolfmother though, and nothing is ever that simple…
After their last performance of 2011 on August 30th, all went silent in the Wolfmother camp, before in February 2012 news began to slowly trickle out that things had changed yet again. It was controversial when the band added Aidan Nemeth in 2010 after starting life as a trio, but fans were even more baffled when the number rose to five this time around, as Elliott Hammond – a multi-instrumentalist who provided harmonica, keyboards, percussion, and backing vocals to the band’s presence – joined the group. Both Nemeth, who had been engineering the forthcoming album, and Rockwell-Scott, the newest recruit, also departed, with Vin Steele and former The Vines drummer Hamish Rosser taking their respective places. The new-look Wolfmother played a few warm-up shows at home in March, before heading out on a tour of Europe in June and July, debuting even more new songs (including “Keep Moving” and “Of the Earth“) along the way. The band also performed with The Smashing Pumpkins later in the year.
With barely any updates having been released throughout the year, in late 2012 Stockdale broke his media silence to reveal that the album was currently titled Gatherings, and would likely see release in March the following year with 12 songs in total. The best part of the opening quarter of 2013 saw Stockdale and co. in the studio, recording and mixing the final songs to be featured on the upcoming third album; at the beginning of March, however, it was announced that this album would in fact be dubbed an Andrew Stockdale solo record, and not one credited to Wolfmother. With the record being described as “a different trip”, the ‘final’ Wolfmother shows took place on April 24th and 28th – high-profile gigs supporting Aerosmith in Dunedin, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia.
On June 7th, the result of two years’ work was released in the form of Keep Moving, with a total of 17 new tracks on the full editions. Despite minimal promotion, and the use of Stockdale’s relatively unknown name, the album reached number 32 on the Australian albums chart. Keep Moving‘s release was marked by a launch party show at the Metro Theatre in Sydney, the second date of the planned Keep Moving Tour; however, it was quickly announced that every single show on the tour was cancelled, with “international commitments” being blamed. This would prove to be the last show with Hammond in the band, who had been drumming for the last few months following the swift departure of Rosser, and also the only official show under the name Andrew Stockdale, as it quickly became clear that the Wolfmother moniker was set to return the following month. The reason for Hammond’s withdrawal was cited as scheduling conflicts with his own band, The Delta Riggs.
Back down to four men, the returning Wolfmother brought in Tony McCall on drums for an upcoming stint in the US. The group played five shows in California between June 15th and 29th, with setlists focusing almost entirely on material from Wolfmother and Cosmic Egg.
Back to basics…
With McCall moving on after the US dates, rhythm guitarist Vin Steele moved over to drum duties, and the band quickly returned to the studio to record the official third album under the Wolfmother name. With only very occasional social media activity to go by, it was ascertained that at one point the trio were working with Grammy Award-winning engineer Ed Cherney at the Village Recorders in LA, and that experienced session drummer Gregg Bisonette tried out a track or two for the record. Months went by, as Stockdale, Peres, and Steele avoided the drama to focus on their craft…
…and finally, in November, they returned to the public eye. Performing for the first time as the new-look trio, Wolfmother returned with new-found energy and a basic approach to rock and roll. New songs “Heavy Weight“, “Tall Ships“, and “Enemy Is in Your Mind” were unleashed, and fans were taken aback by the speed at which they were moving forward with their second album in the space of less than a year. In December a teaser trailer for ‘Wolfmother 3‘ was released, and an early version of almost the whole album was made available for streaming a week later.
In February, the band completed a short tour of Queensland they dubbed “Touring the Tropics”, before in March they travelled to India for the band’s first ever shows there. More new songs made their way onto setlists, and at the end of the month the news the fans had been waiting for was sprung upon them – Wolfmother had a new album, and it was ready to be heard. On March 24th, New Crown was uploaded to Bandcamp song by song, and later as a full album collection. A video for “Heavy Weight” was also released days later, and more and more shows began to be added to the calendar. With no promotion or even label backing, New Crown charted on the US Billboard 200 and made its way up iTunes charts across the world.
Wolfmother returned to the conscious of the mainstream in 2015 when they reissued the self-titled album to commemorate its tenth anniversary, complete with B-sides and previously unreleased demo and live recordings. By the end of the year, the follow-up to New Crown had been announced in the form of Victorious. Released in February 2016, the album was produced by Brendan O’Brien and features Stockdale and Peres alongside drummers Josh Freese and Joey Waronker, who shared sticksman duties. Lead single “Victorious” reached the top 40 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and the album will be promoted on a worldwide tour throughout the rest of the year.
With such a dusty past behind them, the future looks extremely bright for Wolfmother.
Bio last updated: February 9th 2016, 14:10 GMT.