In the summer of 2013 I came across an album named Evolve by a Chicago band named Of Wolves, and it spun my head clean around. I had more “what the fuck?” moments than I had experienced with any other album during the year up to that point. There was something unexpected lying in wait around every corner, and the album had more corners than a roller-coaster ride. As I wrote in my review:
These three working men in Chicago are fed up, frustrated, and pissed off. They vent their fury at everything from churches to governments to pervasive greed to the treatment of Native Americans to the mass of their fellow citizens (aka “sheep”) who allow themselves to be brainwashed, duped, and distracted from protecting their own self-interests — and they don’t mince words about it. As they say, “Life has been rough, the music is therapy.”
Apparently, the therapy consisted of taking a whole kitchen sink’s worth of musical influences and interests — from punk to crust to metal to garage rock to backwoods mandolin melodies — and letting them spill out in a flood of exuberant creativity.
After I wrote the review, I talked with the band’s vocalist/guitarist Steve Sherwood about doing an interview. Almost eighteen months later, it happened, via e-mail. There’s a reason why the slow loris is the mascot of this site. All live photos accompanying this interview were taken by John Mourlas.
Well, this is the most overdue interview in the history of forever, or at least in my own history — since we first started talking about doing this in September 2013! Thanks for your patience.
Steve: No problem thanks for remembering us! I think it’s pretty cool timing actually.
I took another spin through Evolve this morning, and was reminded of how diverse all the songs are. Would you say the album represented a kind of road-map to your own evolution as a musician up to that point in time?
Steve: I never thought about it but yeah in a way it has. Many of those songs were quite old, some of them over 20 years old! A couple were among our newest songs at the time (we are constantly writing!). Of course the hidden track (not hidden now! hahaha) is the most evolved and kind of foreshadowing where things could go…
If I’m remembering correctly, Evolve was first released in early 2013, though I didn’t find out about it until 5 or 6 months later. I’m guessing that since then you and your bandmates have come up with a few new songs, right?
Steve: Fuck yeah! In fact we are working on our follow-up as we speak and are completely stoked for everyone to hear where we are now in our evolution. We think we have found a great balance between all the styles and sounds we love. We still have at least two albums worth of songs yet to release and there are always more… but in the meantime we now have EVOLVE up on all the main sites all over the winternet, Itunes, Amazon, Bandcamp and streaming too, Spotify, etc, you name it it’s there….
Since Evolve was released, Ivan Cruz from Yakuza has joined the Wolves on bass and backing vocals. Do you think his involvement has had an effect on the band’s continued musical evolution?
Steve: For sure, Ivan is a very unique player. He really lets the bass roll and growl. You really hear the notes and the power. He is the most unique and powerful player we have had after all these years and many great players. One of the things that really excites me about Ivan is he is really open to lots of music. It’s really refreshing. I love music and that means not one style. I think I can find a song or band in almost any style I will love (some may be harder than others), but as long as it is real and honest. That is what Im looking for. Ivan is very-open minded and hungry like I am. He also fills out the parts and songs. Many bass players tend to follow along, but the way Ivan jumps in and takes his own direction and approach really fills us out as a 3 piece.
Has the band started recording songs for another release?
Steve: hahaha I keep getting to your questions ahead! But yes, we have been working on it for awhile now. I had been listening to many recordings from a lot of the studios around and searched for the sound I was looking for. This time I wanted to back away from using my studio and just concentrate on creating the songs and not the recording aspect as much. We wanted this album to stand apart from Evolve. Everything from the sound, to the way it is recorded, artwork, etc.
Are we talking about an album-length release or something shorter?
Steve: Full-length, definitely longer than Evolve. We want to give our fans as much as possible. Both quality and content. We have lots of musical territory to cover and such a huge backlog of material, and there is always more…. I always look at this as a fan of music, and how I would react and what I would want and expect.
So, where have you been recording the new stuff?
Steve: We recorded all the main tracks (instruments) at Bricktop Recording. A great studio here in Chicago’s Pilson neighborhood. We are really excited — we wanted a bigger raw sound and live feel on this album and we got it! We recorded all of it in 2 days, and almost everything was the first take! Great guys and lots of great gear. Pete our engineer (he also works with Andy Nelson from Weekend Nachos & Like Rats) was quick to adapt and really helped us move fast while making us sound monstrous. I am currently working on the vocals.
All you guys work, at least some of you (maybe all?) have families. When do you find time to record the new music?
Steve: We live music and consider it therapy. I have always said that without it I would be a very different person. No, what I really say is I’d be in jail or dead… anyway, back to your question. Yes, I have a family and Jon just had his first kid (it’s a boy!). Ivan also is very close to his family but is still enjoying the bachelor’s life. But we all work, and way too much I might add… as far as I am concerned we are all agreeable slaves. Just most don’t know it yet and it’s getting worse by the day. The middle class is dead. Think about how it was when we were kids and how our parents lived and how it is now… costs are all going up and wages are down. Jobs are down. The good thing for us is that it keeps us in touch and our music honestly pissed off and badly needed.
At this point do you have an idea of when the new material will be ready for release?
Steve: The guys and our fans won’t like to hear this, but I am a realist and I know what it’s going to take to make this album what I want it to be. Sometime near the end of Spring 2015 is very realistic and a good honest goal.
The concept for the art just popped into my head last week and I was looking for something that really was us and grabbed me. Like I said before, something that as a fan would grab my eye and my attention and at the same time that speaks for itself. Something that is as powerful as the music. I also really wanted it to to be different than the last. I really expect everything to evolve and stand on its own. We also figured out the album title too, so all of that helps me now to take everything as parts and put it all together in a solid direction as one cohesive piece.
Have you given thought to some kind of a teaser between now and then, like putting up a single on Bandcamp or something similar?
Steve: AH! yes, I have been thinking a lot about that. I want to do a lot to drum up attention and let people know what we have been up to and what is coming, etc… For one, I am working on another video for another song from Evolve. I hope we might even get two more done before the album hits…. we want to still get as many to hear it as possible in the meantime.
As for promoting the new one. I am sure we will also do a promo video teaser like we did for Evolve and I am sure we will leak something whether in video form or live or maybe even on the Torrent sites… I have been knocking around a lot of different ideas, special pre-sales opportunities for our fans maybe. I want to give back to those who have supported us. So maybe something rare or unreleased with a pre-order. Maybe a limited pre-release give-away of some sort. My brain has been running wild.
I’ve been slowly working up to the question that’s been uppermost in my head since re-listening to Evolve: What’s the new music going to sound like? Is it going to be as unpredictably diverse as what was on Evolve, or have you moved in a more focused direction?
Steve: FOCUS! (STEVE! Focus!!) hahahah LOVE these questions! Hmm, how do I answer this?? I have lots of thoughts popping up. Well, I don’t think anyone should ever expect us to be a particular type of band, or any one sound, style, or genre. But at the same time, we have found our sound and we know better who we are as a band. Not to mention going to a great studio and doing all the music in two days is also going to give this album its own sound and continuity. But the songs will go in just as many directions, if not more, and I hope some or many we might not have traveled to before (at least in recorded form). There are so many directions, so much music we love, that it makes the options for us endless. It’s one of the coolest things about this band. Because we are not stuck in a box or genre or whatever you want to call it, we can do whatever the hell we want. It’s really liberating not being locked into having a sound or a style. No one can say we changed or sold out ever because we never will. Maybe it is my ADHD? I dunno, but I am driven to create and I can’t see painting the same picture twice.
Will there be more mandolin? 🙂 Or any other instruments not usually found in punk, rock, and metal?
Steve: hahaha each question puts a smile on my face! And I love you knew it was a mandolin — many of the interviews were saying all different things. So how do I answer that without spilling too much? Hmmm, well I’ll put it this way. I have been playing music (or trying to! haha) since I was 9. so we are talking almost 33 years. In that time, I have collected as many different instruments and ways to create sound/s and textures as possible. So, going back to the last question, I will always be looking to paint a new soundscape. A new design. I hope as we continue to move forward the sounds and instrumentation will continue to grow and multiply. Like everything else for us the options really are endless (other than what gear I can get my hands on or can afford, etc)
There are a couple things I really want for this album that I don’t have and at this point can’t afford. ANYONE HAVE A HURDY GURDY?!?!?!? I have even thought about renting or asking around to see if anyone has one/them. But then I can’t recreate them live… A tight budget really hurts and does limit me a bit. But at the same time I have so many things I have not touched on with Of Wolves as of yet that are already in the arsenal. I just have to put some of these ideas away until everything matches up I guess. It all seems to come when the time is right. Getting back to your question specifically, “not found in Metal, Punk and Rock”…that really sums it up, as I consider it all Rock. Even old school Outlaw Country and Bluegrass, it’s all still Rock to me.
As time has passed since you recorded the songs on Evolve, have you become any less pissed off about the state of affairs in our country? That anger fueled the songs on Evolve — I’m curious where your head is at these days and how your current worldview may have worked its way into the new songs.
Steve: BIGGEST LAUGH YET! We have been joking as there is a bit of a common thread on this album. Although it may not be so easily read and this album might not seem as though, but it’s much more angry. In fact, the joke is it went from saving the world and fixing everything to most of the songs being about killing! hahaha Yup! Killing, or just up and losing your shit. It’s not so cut and dry as that, but it’s there… mixing in with all those reasons why, all the angers and frustrations. All the issues that cause all of this therapeutic release. Everything that is wrong with the world, our country, human beings, the frustration of who it could be, who we could be. How the world could be, if, IF we could all realize we are all one.
We are only as strong as our weakest link. We help others and we help ourselves and vice versa. So where do you go? When you realize that we are broken? When you scream for evolution and hope and wait for it, knowing it’s nowhere in sight? What happens then? Look at the state of everything. When Columbine happened all those years back I wasn’t surprised, I was waiting for it… not because I wanted it. Of course not. Because the human mind can only take so much. It can only take so much till it snaps and wants retribution. Shit’s gotta change and it will, that is guaranteed. There are not to many things that are, for sure. But in this life you can count on three things: Everything will change, as change is constant and continuous. There is always balance, whether we know it or not. And all you have to do is die.
Thanks for your time, and apologies again for how long it took me to follow up with you. Any closing words or Of Wolves news for our readers?
Steve: baahahahah More!?!?!? I’m guessing everyone already got more than they expected (nah, not if they know me! haha) Well, first, thank you so much for all your time and continued support. We greatly appreciate it. Without folks like you and blogs, mags, radio etc., we would not have half the fans we have. So to you and to everyone else, Happy New Year!
I am glad 2014 has passed and look forward to 2015. We hope that 2015 is good to everyone and that they are doing what they can to open their minds and think for themselves. Don’t fall for the propaganda. Stop arguing amongst yourselves, don’t believe in the left/right paradigm! The only sides are us and them and unless your make more money than you can ever spend, then you’re on our team. Turn off all these blasted devices and go live a little, breathe some fresh air, get some exercise. Enjoy what little bit of life you have to yourself. Don’t be a slave. We look forward to getting out and playing these songs for everyone and branching further out than we have before.