If you’ve been looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany your warm-weather road trips, Wallows may be your answer. The Southern California trio, comprising Braeden Lemasters, Cole Preston, and Dylan Minnette, has been building momentum with tracks like “These Days” and “Are You Bored Yet?”, and their introspective lyrics and indie retro sound make the perfect background for a sunset spent contemplating life. This Friday, the band will release debut album Nothing Happens ahead of a festival-filled world tour that starts no place other than Coachella, and the world should prepare to expect the unexpected as they fully leap into the music scene.
Though their debut album launches this week, Wallows actually has been making music together for about a decade. The trio first came together as teens to participate in a program called “Join the Band,” which gave them around three weeks to rehearse before playing an iconic venue. From the start, they felt a creative connection that would lead to their ongoing growth and collaboration.
“Dylan and I met Cole at [“Join the Band”],” Lemasters says of how the trio found each other. “He was sitting behind the kit when we walked in, and I was like, ‘There he is!’ He had the gold light shining down on him.”
Over the years since, some members have made names for themselves in acting, with Lemasters working on A Christmas Story 2 and Totem and Minnette scoring the lead on 13 Reasons Why as well as several recurring network TV roles, but music has always remained a core part of their lives. The band has truly grown together, going through several evolutions in name and style before landing on Wallows in 2017. This progression felt natural after years of experimenting with their style, but it certainly doesn’t mark the end of the group trying new things. They worked on Nothing Happens with John Congleton, who used his experience producing for the likes of St. Vincent and Lana del Rey to reimagine the band’s sound, and they brought a buzzy new voice to the mix by working with Clairo on “Are You Bored Yet?”. And while much of the new album stays true to their California roots, the band is excited to show a versatility far beyond sunset indie rock.
“I think we're always trying to keep people on their toes,” Preston says of the band’s goals with their sound. “We don't want to be just a rock California pop breezy summer band. We have way more that we’re inspired to do than just that.”
Riding a wave of momentum from recent singles into a season of touring, Wallows truly appears to be entering a watershed moment in their careers. Building upon the excitement, the band spoke to L’Officiel USA about their democratic approach to song-making, their dream collaborations, and who they’re most excited to see at festivals this year.
How do you work together and what do each of you bring to the table?
We can each bring anything to the table. We all can play everything, and we write whatever part we choose. Within each song we've released, no matter who came up with the idea, there's always something that each of us contributed to it. A lot of parts on the album wouldn't exist without each other. The band is greater than the sum of its parts, and we all work together as a three-piece, because [otherwise], the songs wouldn't exist how they are. It's not like one guy is writing everything and another is coming up with the tambourine part, so it's definitely nice. We bring together the best of each other.
How would you describe your musical style?
It's all over the place because we're inspired by so many different things. In the beginning, when we were kids, we were very inspired by classic rock. Led Zeppelin and bands like that. And then we transitioned and started really liking The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, but now we're inspired by so much more. We're all really into Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, and St. Vincent. And so our musical style is all over the place. I think we're always trying to keep people on their toes. We don't want to be a rock California pop breezy summer band. We have way more that we're inspired to do than just that.
You recently released a single with Clairo. What was it like working with her?
We're huge fans of Claire. That song started off with a laptop demo thanks to Cole, and it had a bedroom pop vibe from the get-go, which is how Claire started off, though she's definitely grown from there. So her influence was always within us a little bit, but we met her at South by Southwest last year. We would talk a little bit, but we always had an idea of having another voice on "Are You Bored Yet?", hopefully a female voice, just to switch things up. And we always love the idea of doing features anyway. Once we had recorded the majority of "Are You Bored Yet?" besides the vocals and second verse, we decided to ask her. She happened to be in LA, so she came into the studio the day she responded and wrote and sang her part really quickly. We're super happy with what her voice brings to the record. It's a nice change of pace and it's new for us, so that was really fun.
In your new album, what concepts and styles were you exploring?
It's our first album, and a lot of these songs have been written over so many years. They have been floating around, just parts of them, for a while. It's how they say that you have your entire life to make your first album. That is the case here, really, and a lot of the themes naturally come from loss of innocence and moving into adulthood and the experiences and fears and excitement, all that comes with that. We all go through it, and it's something that we've gone through and are still going through, so that's definitely the overarching theme on the record. Musically, we’re excited for people to hear that we can go deeper and that there's different things that we can accomplish. We tried a lot harder on this and wanted to surprise people and show them that we are real, feeling human beings and have a lot of life experience. We wanted that to be felt in the music on the album.
What do you hope is the experience people have upon hearing your debut album?
We're a very album-minded band. It's always been important to us that our albums can be cohesive projects front to back, and we worked hard to make sure this had a great flow and all makes sense together. We want it to feel like it goes by really fast. We'd love if it's over and it surprises people how fast it was and it seems like it was only something like five or ten minutes and they want to play it again. That also plays into the fact that the record starts and ends with the same guitar riff, just at a different speed. People can find little things that we've put in to make it all as cohesive as possible, and they can find more with each listen. There's a lot to discover. Hopefully, that's the case, that people want to listen more and feel like they have an experience while listening. That it feels like a front-to-back journey.
What is one thing you want the world to know about Wallows?
We would want the world to not expect anything from us in terms of what they think we can put out or not. We truly want to always sound different in some way on every project. If the world is down for that, we’re down for the world.
What's the biggest thing you've learned from working together so far?
Working together, it almost feels like when you get taller as you grow older and never notice anything. It just happens. The main knowledge would be from working with John Congleton. It's such a quick change of pace from how we usually work. In terms of learning, being with John was the most drastic, obvious change, where he would really push us to do something different or we saw how he works and what he does to make a song different, or whether it’s the drum sound or the guitar part or how he would change an arrangement. So working with him was the most obvious mix-up, and we learned and grew a lot from the EP to the album.
Do you have any dream future collaborations?
There's so many. There's a lot of artists our age that are in a similar vein to us. We love Rex Orange County. That would be a great collaboration. Slow Hollows. Frank Ocean's maybe at the top, the Mount Rushmore on our list. But it would be cool to work with someone like Steve Lacy or someone from Brockhampton. Snail Mail. The Regrettes. There's a lot happening with kids who are young, ambitious artists within our circle that we really want to work with and hopefully, we will. This year, maybe.
You'll be playing several festivals this year. What are you looking forward to most about that?
We love the experience of a good festival, seeing the new atmospheres and all the bands and artists playing. It's fun to be a part of that, and we’re excited just to be there. It's a cool vibe when you’re walking around before and after playing. It doesn't just end. With a festival, there's always music happening, so it's just like a big fair. Also, as artists, we get to meet a lot of people that we like. We met so many people at South by Southwest last year, just because [everyone was] concentrated in one area. You get to rapid-fire see a lot of bands that you might not [otherwise] get to see. We'll check so many off the list in one place.
Anyone you're particularly excited about seeing when you go to these festivals?
There's so many. Tame Impala, especially their new music. Vampire Weekend. Ariana Grande. We cannot wait to see her at Coachella. Garden. We get to see Snail Mail, Detroit. We're looking forward to The 1975. We get to see the band Shame, and Ice Age. There's a lot of bands. Travis Scott will be pretty lit. We’re super stoked.
Other than the album and the tour, do you have anything else upcoming?
We’ve got more episodes lined up for our video series, Bored Games with Wallows. Yeah, there's a lot coming. Some of it we can't really talk about, but we're excited about it all.