Wolf & Cub are excited to finally announce an Australian tour to celebrate the release of their acclaimed fourth album NIL. The band has not undertaken a national tour since 2014, these upcoming dates marking the first official shows in support of NIL since its release in November 2020. In addition to gigs in Melbourne and Sydney, the band will be performing a very special immersive art show at the newly launched art space The Lab in their home-town of Adelaide. The Lab is a 300-capacity live music venue located within the new West End arts hub Light, and boasts a performance space lined with 50sqm of LED video screens. The audio-visual setup will allow the band to incorporate immersive visuals into their set which they’ll be designing together will local visual artist, Ryan Sahb whom the band has collaborated with on previous live shows. Joel Byrne answers some questions for Hi Fi Way about the album and tour.
Have the complexities of 2020 had much bearing on what Wolf & Cub are setting out to achieve with NIL?
Only as far as touring the record goes. In terms of writing and production we scaled it back considerably with the intention being to make easier to translate into a live context, so not being able to tour it as easily has definitely had an impact on our overall release plan. I mean it was made to play live so not being able to do that on release is a bit of a pain!
Did it force Wolf & Cub to work differently to get the album done?
Thankfully the bulk of the work was completed at the end of last year with some additional work being done at the start of this year before the shit hit the fan. So no, no really. I’d say if we were still trying to complete the record in March it wouldn’t have gotten finished…without a doubt!
How important was it for you having that seven year break from music?
Well it wasn’t entirely the plan to be away for that long so its difficult to look at it so objectively…it would have been nice to have been active for this whole time but I guess had we just rolled into the next record after the last one we’d not have made the kind of record that NIL is. So, in that respect, that time away has been incredibly important. This record has a definite sense of freedom and independence for me and I don’t think we could have discovered that without the perspective and self-discovery that being away for so long has afforded us!
What would you put the change in the Wolf & Cub sound down to?
Well our original drummer, and founding member Joel (Carey) left the band shortly after our last record came out, so first and foremost the change in personnel would be one major factor in effecting the changes. Although it wasn’t really officially announced we effectively broke up after Joel had left the band, which was in late 2014. A year or so later the remaining members began a new project called ‘Witch Trials’ with Jono (Boulet) on drums, that was consciously writing material that was heavier than anything we’d done with Wolf & Cub. The idea for the new band was abandoned (for whatever reason) and that material was used to make up the bulk of what became NIL, which eventually informed the overall direction of its sound. I think the other major influence was our collective expectation for the record. It also has to be said that given that the record is coming out on my own label (Part Time Records) there really was significantly more freedom in what kind of record we could and ultimately did make.
How hard was it to challenge your own musical instincts?
Well generally it’s always a bit of a struggle whenever we set about making a new record; we never want to repeat ourselves, so the challenge is always to make something that strikes a balance between feeling fresh but also familiar enough so it’s not too alienating for fans of the band. This time however, coming back after being away for so long and having this fresh sense of perspective where we weren’t trying to appeal to radio or answer to anyone like a manager or a label, creatively we felt incredibly liberated so it wasn’t as challenging. The most challenging aspect was for me to probably go against my own instincts and attempt to meet the rest of the band in the middle creatively. I wasn’t well versed on a lot of the bands that were influencing the other members like, Bad Brains, Minor Threat or Black Flag so for me there was a slight period of adjustment creatively to reach for the kind of emotion that’s associated with that style of music. Artistically I enjoyed the challenge and surprised myself a little bit.
Was the plan with what you wanted to do with NIL clear?
Pretty clear. Right from the start we wanted to redefine our own perceptions of what kind of band we were and challenge ourselves to make a heavier sounding record that didn’t come off too contrived or insincere; I’m confident we did that. We also wanted it to be the spiritual counterpart to the last record, lyrically, sonically, thematically etc Where the last one (Heavy Weight) was about the burden of expectation this one is about having no burden at all and the feeling of freedom that comes with it.
Did the music evolve quite a bit in the studio?
Kind of, production wise its quite minimal compared to previous albums, which was intentional but given that it was made over a prolonged period it meant we had to make it in a piecemeal kind of way. It’s a live sounding record but financial and time constraints meant we had to get a little creative with the way it was finished off which did mean that some songs really did come together in the studio. Both Wade and Jono are great producers and engineers themselves so that was definitely handy.
Being older how do you measure success now?
Well, now it’s more about pleasing ourselves rather than trying to please others I guess. In 2013 I was more concerned with trying to hit certain goals to validate our success and this made for some fairly unrealistic expectations and in turn some dramatic disappointments. In retrospect that was probably attributed to the people we were working with at the time, so with not having that this time round and answering only to ourselves it’s easier to manage expectations and have a healthier notion of what the goals (or that notion of success) should be. At this point it’s just knowing that that the four of us made a record that we’re happy with…which we are. Corney I know but after doing this as long as we have its nice to have this sense of clarity.
When the opportunity arises will Wolf & Cub be out on the road?
What’s the next priority for Wolf & Cub?
Well we should have been gearing up to tour NIL but COVID has fucked that hasn’t it! We had intended to get started on the next one fairly quickly but travel restrictions have made it difficult (impossible) to do properly so I guess we’re just waiting round a little. For now, it’s just trying to promote NIL as best we can from our respective home cities! I guess we’ll have to get creative!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Tickets on sale now via wolfandcub.com/shows