Wolfmother are an Australian hard rock band from Sydney, New South Wales. Formed in 2000 by vocalist and guitarist Andrew Stockdale, bassist and keyboardist Chris Ross, and drummer Myles Heskett, the group currently includes Stockdale, bassist and keyboardist Ian Peres, and touring drummer Alex Carapetis. Wolfmother released their self-titled debut album Wolfmother in Australia in 2005, and internationally in 2006, which has since sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide and won the band a number of industry awards.
Ross and Heskett left the band in 2008. Stockdale returned with a new lineup featuring Peres, rhythm guitarist Aidan Nemeth and drummer Dave Atkins in 2009, releasing Cosmic Egg later in the year. After more personnel changes, the group's planned third album was released in 2013 as Keep Moving, a Stockdale solo album. Later that year, Wolfmother returned as a trio featuring Peres and drummer Vin Steele for 2014's New Crown. The band's fourth album, Victorious, featured two guest drummers and was released in 2016.
Wolfmother have been categorised by various commentators within the genres of hard rock, heavy metal, stoner rock and psychedelic rock. They are often compared to influential classic rock and metal bands from the 1960s and 1970s, including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and AC/DC. Frontman Stockdale has typically led songwriting for the group, although the material on the band's debut album was co-credited to Ross and Heskett. Stockdale also produced New Crown and performed bass on Victorious.
2000–08: Formation, early years and self-titled album
The genesis of Wolfmother began in 2000 when founding members Andrew Stockdale, Chris Ross and Myles Heskett started jamming together before officially forming the band in 2004. Prior to this, Stockdale was a photographer, Ross worked in digital media and Heskett worked as a graphic designer. Ross came up with the name of the band. Their first live performance took place on 14 April 2004 at Vic in the Park, a pub in Sydney. The group were signed by Australian independent label Modular Recordings in August 2004, with whom they released their self-titled debut extended play (EP) Wolfmother the following month. The EP reached number 35 on the ARIA Australian Singles Chart. The band toured in promotion of the release for approximately six months, during which time they signed an international recording deal with the Universal Music Group.
After producing a demo for Universal US imprint Interscope Records in Sydney, in May 2005 Wolfmother began recording their full-length debut studio album in California with producer Dave Sardy. The band rehearsed for six weeks at Cherokee Studios, before recording the album at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, Pass Studios in Burbank and Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood. Sardy took a minimalist approach to the process, aiming to capture the "raw, emotive" nature of the band's live performances and prioritising "the perfect feeling" over a "faultless performance". Additional contributions to the record included Lenny Castro (percussion), Dan Higgins (flute) and Sardy himself (percussion). "Mind's Eye" was released as the first single from the upcoming album on 16 October 2005, reaching number 29 on the Australian Singles Chart.
Wolfmother was originally released in Australia by Modular on 31 October 2005. The album reached number three on the ARIA Australian Albums Chart and remained on the chart for a total of 78 weeks. By the end of 2007, the album had been certified five times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association, indicating Australian sales in excess of 350,000 units. Wolfmother was also recognised by a number of local critics and bodies – radio station Triple J awarded it the inaugural J Award for Australian Album of the Year, it was nominated for the ARIA Award for Album of the Year in 2006 (and won the awards for Breakthrough Artist – Album and Best Rock Album), and eight songs from the album were included on the Triple J Hottest 100 list in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In promotion of the album, the band toured throughout Australia in October and November 2005. They also performed at the Big Day Out festival in January and February 2006.
After its success in Australia, Wolfmother was later released internationally in early 2006 – in the UK on 24 April, where it reached number 25 on the UK Albums Chart, and in the US on 2 May, where it reached number 22 on the Billboard 200. A number of singles were released from the album, including "Woman" which reached number 34 in Australia, number 31 on the UK Singles Chart and number seven on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. The song later won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, the nomination for which Heskett had previously described as "an honour". The final single from the album, "Joker & the Thief", later reached the top ten in Australia. The worldwide promotional tour included appearances at festivals such as Fuji Rock in Tokyo, Japan, the inaugural Virgin Festival, and Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK. On 14 November 2006, the band performed a cover version of "Communication Breakdown" by English hard rock band Led Zeppelin as a tribute to the band for their induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
Stockdale, Ross and Heskett commenced work on the follow-up to Wolfmother in 2007, although Stockdale had previously revealed that he had been working on ideas for the band's next album as early as 2006. One of the new tracks revealed as in the works was "Love Attacker", which the frontman explained was about "people who use love as a weapon to manipulate and get their way through desire". This song was later released as "Pleased to Meet You" on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack in March 2007. Stockdale described the new material as "cinematic" and "epic", predicting that the resulting album would be released in early 2008. In September 2007 the band released Please Experience Wolfmother Live, their first live video album. The release reached number seven in Australia and was certified platinum by ARIA.
2008–11: Lineup changes and return with Cosmic Egg
After their performance at Splendour in the Grass on 3 August 2008, it was reported that Wolfmother "looked tense and uncommunicative with each other", leading to rumours that the band were to imminently break up. In response to the rumours, the band's manager John Watson revealed that he would be "releasing a statement about their status soon". Days later, it was confirmed that the group had split up – in a statement released by Universal Music Australia, it was announced that Ross had left the band straight after the Splendour in the Grass performance due to "irreconcilable personal and musical differences", after which Heskett decided that he would rather leave than remain in the band without Ross. Ross and Heskett continued to work together on a number of musical projects, including The Slew and Good Heavens.
Just a week after the departure of Ross and Heskett, Stockdale returned to recording the planned second Wolfmother album in Los Angeles, initially working briefly with The Raconteurs drummer Patrick Keeler. After returning to Australia, Stockdale enlisted new members Ian Peres (bass, keyboards), Aidan Nemeth (rhythm guitar) and Dave Atkins (drums) for "Wolfmother Phase II". The new band members officially joined on 5 January 2009, before the group performed their first live shows under the name White Feather in February. Recording for the new lineup's first album commenced in March with producer Alan Moulder, with Stockdale describing the material as "a little bit heavier".
The first song released by Wolfmother Phase II was "Back Round", which was made available as a free digital download on the band's official website on 30 March 2009, after its debut live performance the previous week at the MTV Australia Awards 2009. After the rest of the album was recorded, "New Moon Rising" debuted on Triple J in August and was later released as the lead single from the new album, announced as Cosmic Egg. The album was released in October and reached number three in Australia. Cosmic Egg was supported on the New Moon Rising World Tour, which started in September 2009 in Australia and later visited North America and Europe. The group also supported AC/DC on the Black Ice World Tour in Australia. The following year, the album was nominated in the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards for Album of the Year, although it lost out to guitarist Slash's self-titled album Slash (on which Stockdale is featured on the song "By the Sword").
In March 2010, Wolfmother contributed the song "Fell Down a Hole" to the Almost Alice soundtrack. At the end of the month, it was announced that drummer Dave Atkins had left the band. A press release was later issued explaining that the drummer had "decided to leave the band to spend much-needed time at home with his family". It was announced at the same time that Atkins' replacement would be Will Rockwell-Scott, known for his work with Har Mar Superstar and The Mooney Suzuki. The group continued to tour with Rockwell-Scott, although they had to cancel a string of European dates, including a number of festival appearances, in June and July due to an unspecified illness of Stockdale. The following January and February, the band performed at Big Day Out in Australia and New Zealand.
2011–13: Planned third album and Keep Moving
Wolfmother began working on their third studio album in March 2011. In May and June they played a number of European shows, performing new material from the upcoming album for the first time. Interviewed in June, Stockdale revealed that approximately "12 or 13 songs" had been completed and that he was self-producing the album, with engineering to be handled by Aidan Nemeth. The proposed release date of the album was estimated as early 2012, with the band announcing a number of shows in Australia to promote the album; new song titles leaked from set lists included "The Year of the Dragon", "Meridian" and "Everyday Drone/On the Beach". In October 2011, a cover version of the ZZ Top song "Cheap Sunglasses" was featured on the various artists tribute album ZZ Top: A Tribute from Friends. The album reached number 121 on the Billboard 200, selling 4,000 copies in its first week.
After relatively few updates regarding the upcoming album, in March 2012 it was reported that former The Vines drummer Hamish Rosser had joined the band, marking the departure of Will Rockwell-Scott. Around the same time, new rhythm guitarist Vin Steele replaced Nemeth and keyboardist Elliott Hammond was also added to the group. Both Rockwell-Scott and Nemeth's departures were compared in rationale to those of original members Ross and Heskett, although Stockdale has likened the lineup changes to personnel changes in any other profession, denying accusations from some critics that he was to blame for former members leaving the group. The new five-piece lineup continued recording material for the new album, which was delayed further for a 2013 release. At the end of 2012, Stockdale announced that the "nearly complete" album would be titled Gatherings.
However, in March 2013 Stockdale announced that he would not be releasing the new album under the Wolfmother moniker, and that instead it would be released as a solo album bearing his own name. Describing the project as "a different trip now", he revealed to Billboard magazine in April that the album's name had been changed to Keep Moving, and that it would be released in June. "Long Way to Go" was released as the lead single from the album. Stockdale later elaborated on the decision to cease using the Wolfmother name – speaking to FasterLouder, he noted that his desire to self-produce an album played a part in the change; the band had a "big producer" in line to work on their third album, but Stockdale wanted to release the material he had already recorded, so decided to do so under his own name. Keep Moving reached number 32 on the Australian Albums Chart.
2013–present: Return, New Crown and Victorious
Approximately two months after Stockdale dropped the Wolfmother name and adopted a solo moniker, it was announced that Wolfmother were due to return for a number of shows and potentially a new album. The news was broken when Stockdale's solo shows were cancelled, shortly before a number of Wolfmother shows in the United States were announced in their place. In an interview with Triple M in 2014, Stockdale claimed that he did not intend to drop the Wolfmother name permanently, but instead that it had been temporarily "shelved" for Keep Moving. Shortly after the band's return, Rosser left and Hammond moved over to drums; however, just a month later Hammond himself left as well, citing scheduling conflicts with his other band The Delta Riggs. Hammond was replaced briefly by Tony McCall, who left just a few weeks later due to "personal reasons". Session drummer Gregg Bissonette was also enlisted briefly to record with the band, although his drum parts were ultimately not used.
In November 2013, Wolfmother returned after a brief hiatus as a trio for the first time since 2008, with rhythm guitarist Vin Steele moving over to drums. The new lineup's first performance took place at The Northern in Byron Bay, and it was hinted at the same time that the group would be working on new material for an album to be released in March or April 2014. At later shows, new songs "Tall Ships" and "Heavyweight" were debuted. The album, New Crown, was released without a prior announcement on 24 March 2014 as a digital download on Bandcamp. Self-produced by Stockdale, New Crown was also self-released by the band without a record label; speaking about the decision to do this, Stockdale complained that "it’s a very long process getting anything done" with a label, noting that to avoid potential delays they took the decision to self-release the album. Despite the lack of label support and promotion, New Crown charted on the US Billboard 200 at number 160.
Wolfmother's self-titled debut album was re-released in September 2015 to coincide with its tenth anniversary. In addition to the original 13 tracks, the album contains five B-sides and 15 rare tracks, including demos and live recordings (11 of which were previously unreleased). In November, the group's fourth album was announced as Victorious, which was released in February 2016. The album, produced by Brendan O'Brien, features contributions from drummers Josh Freese and Joey Waronker. The band promoted Victorious on the Gypsy Caravan Tour, which featured Alex Carapetis on drums. In July 2016, the group supported Guns N' Roses at shows in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as part of the Not in This Lifetime... Tour.
Style and critical reception
Upon the release of their debut album in 2005 and 2006, Wolfmother gained numerous comparisons to influential hard rock and heavy metal bands of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer. AskMen went as far as to rank the band as the second top Led Zeppelin "rip-off" band. Other more contemporary comparisons have included The White Stripes, The Darkness and Queens of the Stone Age. Similarly, the vocals of frontman Andrew Stockdale have been compared stylistically to those of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne, The Who vocalist Roger Daltrey and Jack White of The White Stripes. Many of these comparisons to other bands continued in reviews for Cosmic Egg, New Crown and Victorious.
Despite these comparisons to other artists, Wolfmother was praised by the majority of commentators – aggregating website Metacritic reports a normalised rating of 76, indicating "generally favourable reviews", with 18 of the 22 included critical reviews categorised as positive. Many elements of the band's music on their debut album were praised by critics, including the psychedelic subject matter of the lyrics, the interplay between each member of the band, and the combination of classic and modern musical elements. However, some commentators criticised the album for its derivative nature, claiming that it offered no originality to the genre. Critical reception to Cosmic Egg was less positive, with Metacritic reporting a normalised rating of 65 and many critics noting a lack of invention or progression on the album.
- Current members
- Andrew Stockdale – vocals, guitars (2004–present)
- Ian Peres – bass, keyboards, backing vocals (2009–present)
- Touring members