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Get on the Love Train

Grammy-winning band Wolfmother on their debut tour of India, being compared to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and making psychedelic cool again.

Published:March 9, 2014 3:55 am
Andrew Stockdale, Ian Peres and Vin Steele. Andrew Stockdale, Ian Peres and Vin Steele.

It’s hard to be told again and again what you can or can’t do, and to reach this point is pretty amazing,” says Andrew Stockdale, squinting in reminiscence. As he sits with his bandmates Ian Peres and Vin Steele at a conference room of Saket’s Svelte Hotel, the 37-year-old member of  the Australian band Wolfmother shares his story, which sounds like a cliched rockstar’s — young men form a band, get famous, win a Grammy Award, some members quit and rumours about the group disbanding swirl. The last happened in 2013.

During their debut India tour, titled “Micromax Vh1 Rock Rules feat Wolfmother”, the trio trailblazed three cities — Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad — making the packed Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) venues headbang and jump in feverish acknowledgement. “We thought people in India are more into electronic dance music,” says Peres. At the gig in Delhi on Friday, the band played only originals from their albums and a solo — from Joker and the Thief and Woman to Vagabond and New Moon Rising. All the performances were packed affairs —  the Delhi gig had queues stretching beyond the entrance. The dim, smoky HRC transformed into a garage-like rustic setting of rock concerts of yore, with the band keeping audience interaction and breaks to a minimum and belting out one song after the other.

Wolfmother, one of the most popular bands from Australia, has been in the contemporary rock scene since 2000. They have a strong presence in popular culture, with their songs featuring in films such as Hangover III and 500 Days of Summer. They’ve been compared to rock greats Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath ever since they started and, in 2006, they won the Grammy for the Best Hard Rock Performance for their song Woman.

In 2008, the co-founding members quit the band, leaving Stockdale alone. Last year, when the latter launched his solo album, there were rumours of the end of Wolfmother. “I just wanted to put some music out in my name. That’s all. All of this does not really matter. When people leave, it is not a showstopper,” says Stockdale.

Far from a break-up, the band is touring worldwide, including Mexico and Moscow. “From India, we had non-stop requests by people, so here we are,” says Stockdale. The band is strongly influenced by English rock bands Black Sabbath and Lep Zeppelin among others and we wonder if they fear these influences have inhibited their original work. “If the influences were terrible, then I would be sick of the constant comparisons. Luckily, they are the best bands of all time. It is a good place to start and continue with,” says Stockdale. “In one Hangover movie, they play Black Sabbath and then our track Love Train. It was good hearing both neck in neck. Though the energy is similar, Wolfmother’s is contemporary. Black Sabbath is doom gloom, and Led Zep is best at
all the instruments. Wolfmother is fresher and not too serious,” he says.

Curiously, the two albums — Wolfmother (2005) and Cosmic Egg (2009) — have a consistent soundscape despite a change in line-up and “head chef” Stockdale, a fixture with the band since the beginning, doesn’t shy away from some credit. It is difficult to pin down Wolfmother’s music — primarily of rock genre, it has strong punk and psychedelia influences. The resulting sound is neither too hard rock nor too soft. “This is going to sound ego-centric but good music surpasses all genres. When we started, psychedelic music wasn’t cool. That was for 50-year-old hippies playing in the park. Rock ’n roll was really hardcore, with these guys with shaved heads and their girlfriends packing their gears. We, on the other hand, were singing about unicorns,” says Stockdale, “We had the guts to soften the landscape a bit. To go dreamy and psychedelic was risky.”

A new album is in the pipeline this year but the band is not giving details. “All we can say is that it returns to the first album, gets more psychedelic and raw,” says Peres.

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