Wallows Discuss Debut LP ‘Nothing Happens,’ Working With Clairo, “Game Of Thrones" & More
Since 2017's single "Pleaser," Wallows have been popping up on playlists everywhere. But with the March release of their debut full-length, Nothing Happens, the band's voyage took launch in earnest, although Braeden Lemasters, Dylan Minnette and Cole Preston have been making music together for a decade. And while many fans have discovered the band through recognizing Minnette or Lemasters from their acting work, Nothing Happens declares the pop/rock trio deserve to be heard. Fusing their classic rock-inspired core with dashes of inspiration coming from all over, Frank Ocean to Arctic Monkeys, theirs is the electric sound of clever, honest, modern youth.
We chopped it up with Wallows in Santa Monica, Calif. at Recording Academy headquarters to learn about the long road that led to their debut album, collaborating with Clairo on its standout track “Are You Bored Yet?” and what TV shows they like watch on tour to unwind (spoiler alert: "GOT" is involved).
Congratulations on releasing Nothing Happens. As a coming-of-age album that you guys been working on for 10 years in some ways, is it an extension of 2018's Spring EP, and how does it feel to have it out in the world?
Braedon: Since we released our first single, "Pleaser" in 2017, I feel like in a weird way, from that song to finishing in the album has felt like a chapter. I feel like now we're ready for the next chapter. It almost feels like everything was a snapshot of how we were feeling in those two years. So, it felt like a natural progression from "Pleaser" to the album, and I feel like Spring was like a little bookmark in the middle, but now we're closing that book on Nothing Happens, and now we're just going to go off and do whatever we've gotta do for the next one.
Cole: We've heard and people say, "you have your whole life to write your first album." We pulled so many tidbits of ideas from stuff we wrote in high school, and since we were kids, but now that the first record is done, pressed, released, all that stuff, we don't have that old material to pull from anymore. So, it feels like a total fresh start in the best way.
How do you guys like to write together?
Cole: I would say that it's very different every time. There's instances for example were Braedan will come up with the entire arrangement, and play all the instruments, and then we come in and all finish it together. Or, I'll write a baseline and Dylan will contribute a melody and the songs happen that way ...
But I will say that each song wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for all three of us, which is cool. There's no one main songwriter in the band, like we all contribute in different ways and it's all a collection of the three of us together, which is great.
And all of us play each others instruments, so in the studio that's helpful because we can like, if Braedan wants to hear a part, I can play it and vice versa.
Sure, very democratic.
For "Are You Bored Yet?" how'd you guys connect with Clairo?
Dylan: We had a demo originally that we just made on Cole's laptop, and we had a part in the second verse where my voice was pitched up and it just naturally sounded more like a female. And then, it sort of had a bedroom pop vibe, the demo, and it reminded us of "Pretty Girl" or something like Clairo.
So, we always had this little thing that was like, "oh if we actually got Clairo on this song that'd be rad," without ever expecting it. But then we happened to, on tour, make friends with a couple of her friends, and I got connected with her through just Instagram, or something, and then we would talk here and there, but then we had recorded the majority of the song after that, and we had that second verse open because we knew we wanted to have another voice on the album. To have a girl on it was the ideal scenario for us, and we just decided to hit her up and say, "Would you want to be a part of this?" Sent her the tracks of the song, and she wrote back a couple days later and was like, “Yeah, I'm down. I'm in LA right now.” Came to the studio, recorded her part and wrote it in like, 15 minutes, and the rest is history.
The album cover of Nothing Happens is very simple yet striking. Where did the idea for that aesthetic come from?
Braedon: Yeah, so basically we had the album done, and we didn't have any idea about what we wanted the album cover to be, so basically we had like four months or whatever it was, to come up with whatever we want it to be. [We] reach[ed] out to artists, have a vision, whatever it is. I've come to realize that coming up with an album cover is the hardest thing about being in a band because it's just like, "What is the feeling? What do we want this to be?" It's just so confusing. It's almost like naming the band; it was very similar to that process.
We ended up settling on one, that a really talented person sent to us and we were like, okay that's going to be it because we were panicking, and we went over the deadline of when it needed to be done and we didn't have an album cover yet. So, we were over that deadline, and we were like, "okay, okay we'll do that, we'll do that." And then the next day I was like, “Guys, no that can't be it, that can't be it, that can't be it,” and we had already submitted it.
I was panicking. I was like, “No. That can't be the cover, like, I don't like it for the vibe,” and we were walking in New Orleans, at Voodoo Fest, and Dylan was wearing a shirt, classic. That's what you do when you go out, and I took a picture of his shirt, and I looked at it. I put it in a little square form. I was like, “Guys, wait I have something I want to say… What if this was the album cover?”
— Wallows (@wallowsmusic) March 22, 2019
And I was expecting them to be like, "No, you're stupid. No, we already submitted it. This is dumb. This is my shirt. No." And we just realized, "Oh this is actually kind of cool that looks like something that Beach House would come up with, or artists that we would [listen to] and we wouldn't question it… We showed our friends. They were all down, so, we were like, "you know what? Let's just submit it. Let's tell our manager we scrapped the other one, now let's do this."
And then we actually found other meaning in the album cover, since it's been out. Like a striped shirt reminds us of youth, and growing up, and that's very youthful, so we kind of tied that into the album now.
"Scrawny" is very neo-Weezer - I'm sure you get asked a lot about your fashion and style sense. Is the song a statement about how people may perceive you?
Dylan: I think "Scrawny" is a statement, in a way, of how people will perceive you, but it started off more so as just a funny hook that I came up with over these chords that they were playing, and at that time in the album recording process. We were writing a couple new songs to throw into the hat, and we wanted something light. Because a lot of the songs we were taking on were more emotional - not darker, but just a little more of a serious path, and we were like, "I want something that's light, borderline funny."
I started singing that. I hadn't heard that before, and it just turned into this sort of skinny, sad boy anthem, you know? It's a statement in a way, but… it doesn't pertain to me. If people want it to be a statement for themselves, that's cool.
Obviously, television acting is a big part of the band's story. I'm curious what you guys watch when you have down time, on the road?
Dylan: So, I started "Game of Thrones," at the beginning, because I always had this goal of being ready for the finale by the time it aired. Really, I was six episodes deep in season one the night the finale came on… There were so many people on the bus, in our group, that were big fans, and were going to watch, and they saw all the episodes. And my girlfriend was there, on the bus that night, and she was going to watch with everybody, and I was just, like, "I always wanted to be a part of this, and I care more about seeing her reaction to all these things, and all these guys' reactions," like, just being a part of this and having a good time [rather] than sitting in the back watching episode seven of season one so I can get caught up and watch it by myself eventually. I'd rather just sit there and be able to enjoy, and see their reactions and everything.
So, I just totally cheated, and watched the finale of "Game of Thrones," so I've seen seven episodes total. Being the first six episodes of season one, and the very last episode, and it was great.
And this last leg of the tour, I watched all of Dead to Me on Netflix.
Cole: I like the show "Barry." Great show.
Braedon: I started watching on the bus "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and I love it. It's freaking hilarious, I love it so much.