The Wallflowers Talk "Reboot the Mission"
Mon, 17 Sep 2012 08:29:44
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"I like cinematic songs that take you places," smiles Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers. "I like music that will transport you somewhere else. For the most part, our songs have always done that."
The Wallflowers uphold that tradition with "Reboot the Mission" the first single from their forthcoming new album, Glad All Over, out October 9, 2012. It's emblematic of the band's uncanny ability to tell a story, but it also illuminates an impressive evolution. It's as timeless as their best material, but there's a fresh spin for 2012.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers talks "Reboot the Mission", Glad All Over, and so much more.
What's the story behind "Reboot the Mission"?
Well, it's something we came up with before going down to Nashville. We had a lot of talks about music that we were all inspired by. We also discussed areas we hadn't gotten to yet, which we wanted to take a swing at. We talked about a lot of the stuff The Clash had done like Sandinista!. They were able to get that dub element in there while still being a great, true rock 'n' roll group. That was the nucleus. That's how we started.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
It's been pointed out to me that it sounds like some sort of charge call for the group. That's not necessarily the case. I think everybody could use a bit of goosing and a wakeup call.
There's a universal element to it. It's not group-centric.
Yeah, I'm glad you noticed that. I don't normally do that. I wouldn't write anthems for the group to stand behind in that way.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
It's not necessarily a story that has an arc. Songs are three-and-a-half minutes or however long you want them to be. They just have to be compelling. A lot of it involves stitching words together. I've had points in my career where I've overthought it. There's room for all of it, which is important. Some songs are meant to entertain. Some need to have a story. I wait to see what they ask for. I don't think one is greater than the other.
Is this a fitting intro to Glad All Over?
I wouldn't think any one song is indicative of the entire record. It certainly isn't 12 tracks of "Reboot the Mission". It's a starting point. It's something we do, which we were energized by. It was fresh area for us. There's nothing precious about it. It sounded like something we were excited to start playing live as our shows developed.
What's your take on the album as a whole?
If anything, it was interesting. We had taken this time off. Before getting in a room and playing together, we weren't able to do that right away. We had to make contact. Everyone was so spread out. We made time to make the record. Really based on conversations and hunches, we all agreed and decided that the only reason to make a record was because it was going to be a good time doing it. There was no burden to be brought along. There was nothing to protect or sustain. It was about getting back to square one where it was very uncomplicated. Let the music lead and don't think beyond that. I went down to Nashville with a whole ton of lyrics. Normally, I have the burden of writing all the songs and finishing them up completed before we start. We all talked about writing more together, getting in the room and playing, and letting the music lead. None of that is to suggest it's hasty because it's not. It was much more collaborative than in the past, and that was something we were really intent on doing.
Does that come from knowing each other as long as you have?
Well, it's trust. Songwriting has always been my job in the group. That's something I've always taken responsibility for. We really hadn't intended to do much until there were songs in place. It's a long time later, and there are a lot of different ways to be in groups. The guys wanted to be more involved, and I certainly was ready for some assistance there so I wouldn't have to wait until all of the songs were completed in order to start recording which is how we've done it in the past. It was a relief for everybody.
What was that first jam session back like? Was it like riding a bike? You never forget…
It was in a lot of ways. There was not a lot of anticipation or concern for what it would be. We've all played together in different arrangements throughout the years. We took the break, but we spent a lot of time together. We have a new drummer—Jack Irons—who really energized the group and gave us a new kick. It opened up even more possibilities than I was imagining. Jack is one of the best. He has enough accolades to suggest that's true. After working with him, I'd say he's well-deserving of all the attention he gets.
Do you feel another evolution on Glad All Over?
I hope so. We had a long time to sit with the last record Rebel, Sweetheart in 2005. There was a lot of internal stuff going on with the group, and we were running on fumes. We'd been on the treadmill for quite a while there. We all wanted to do this thing, hear one another, and establish how to go forward and get our legs back and be purposeful.
Do other artistic influences filter in?
You're receptive to everything of course. When I do write, I tend to be very isolated and do that. Those influences can be great. A lot of times, you'll think the last thing you read or saw is really relevant, but that's not always the case. If I'm going to write songs, that's all I'll really do. On this record, I learned the best way to do that is to be moving. That was really helpful. I wrote most of it on foot. Every songwriter has tricks that open up the ability to write, and that's something I found very powerful. You walk. If you sit in a room and you're sedentary, you have the same visuals in front of you the whole time. Whether it's a wall or a window, it doesn't change much. Your imagination is different. When you walk, the landscape is constantly changing and shifting, and you're reception is a lot different.
Where would you walk?
You can go anywhere and walk. In Nashville, where we made the record, I purposefully I put us in a spot where it wouldn't be too far of a walk because it was a few miles to the studio each day. I got a tremendous amount down every morning doing that.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bringing Down the Horse?
Well, it certainly has endured. I don't think it's trapped in a time capsule of any kind. I know if I hear it or the band plays it at a show, there's something that connected with people. Regardless of successful records or albums present all the time, it had something I'm grateful for. I see the way people respond to those songs, and it meant a lot to them. It probably has a lot to do with the time and connection people had to music. They had an investment. I don't if people have the same investment with the records they're buying today with the nature of them being downloads. It's a different experience. I'm glad the band came up in the time like that. It's given us the opportunity to be making records almost 20 years later. I don't think I or the band could be any more proud of that record. It's still being played for good purposes.
What's on your playlist?
I still get inspired by similar stuff. I respond to George Jones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, it's the stuff you responded to early on that you thought was good still is. You tend to listen to music for different purposes later.
Watch the video for "Reboot the Mission":