DeWolff return with their new album, Wolffpack, released on 5th February 2021 via Mascot Records.
The kaleidoscopic warriors were not long into their 2019 Tascam Tapes European Tour when the Covid19 pandemic broke and they, like so many others, had to turn back and head home. But, not before they played one more show on 17th March in Maastricht, in front of their crew. They were never going to go home easily.
“We were very disappointed at first,” says Pablo van de Poel, singer and guitarist. “Because Tascam Tapes got so much attention and then – when we finally would be able to reap the rewards- the whole thing got cancelled. We felt like we just had something good going, you know. So, when it all collapses before your eyes, that’s a bummer.”
DeWolff is not a band to sit still. They’ve released three albums in the last three years – Tascam Tapes (2020), Live & Outta Sight II (2019) and Thrust (2018) – and toured relentlessly across Europe enriching the continent with their Psychedelic Southern Rock, selling out shows and picking up awards along the way. They are also not ones to paint by numbers – Tascam Tapes was recorded on the road with a four-track cassette recorder from the 1980s, and recorded in hotels, motels, a backstage or two and by the side of the road. Watch the documentary on it here. They then gave fans exclusive access to listen ahead of release via a hotline number. They also teamed up with friends Dawn Brothers to release the collaborative “Next of Kin” EP.
So, when it came to studio album number nine, they had no intention of just waiting for things to blow over. “I figured: never in our lives are we going to have this much time again to soak up inspiration, to write and create,” Pablo reflects. “Music is our favourite thing in the world.”
With lockdown restrictions imposed across the world, the recording was as far from Tascam Tapes as you can get. A “DeWolff Demo Panel” WhatsApp group was set-up between Pablo, Luka van de Poel (drums) and Robin Piso (Hammond Organ) for them to exchange ideas. What started as an idea, grew. In June, they announced a special subscription Wolffpack service. Those that signed up would get three new songs, every two weeks for ten weeks, and the fans would get to choose the tracklisting for an album, exclusive to them.
“We could have spent this year making a rock opera comprising six-album sides as a reaction to Tascam Tapes,” Pablo adds. “But instead we used the Tascam Tapes experience to turn our unfiltered musicality into songs. And just like with Tascam Tapes there was a time limit: in the beginning we had a lot of songs to choose from, but at the end we had to work a sweat to get those three new songs done in time!”
Several friends appear on the album such as soulful roots rockers the Dawn Brothers, blues rockers The Grand East, singer-songwriter Judy Blank, the riotous Broken Brass, French singer-songwriter Theo Lawrence and ex-Wolfmother bassist Ian Peres.
The album kicks off with the first song they finished, the soulful psychedelic funk of “Yes You Do,” featuring Ian Peres and longtime friend of the band, Judy Blank. “We wrote it in a Zoom meeting!” he says. They first met Peres back in 2012, sat at a table with Lenny Kravitz and Andrew Stockdale. “I was of course, completely starstruck, Ian was super kind and interested, and he had even heard about DeWolff. We clicked right away, and when we were touring Australia in 2013, we met up with him in Mullumbimby where we had an epic full-day jam session at his buddy’s studio.”
Pablo started reading the Old Testament during the lockdown. “I consider myself an atheist,” he says. “But I’ve always been curious about this book that so many find so important. I only read the first 80 pages, but I did find some interesting stories and symbolics that proved quite inspirational as song material. I’m also a big fan of Charles Bukowski and some of his fellow American writers like John Fante and their raw use of the English language, and in a way I tried to combine these two worlds into a dark love story.”
“Treasure City Moonchild,” struts in with a funky swagger and Piso’s trademark swirling Hammond, with Dawn Brothers’ Levis Vis providing some Bass juice. “Do Me,” includes Theo Lawrence on vocals and is through the eyes of an anti-hero who realizes he isn’t worthy of the woman of his dreams, and dates back to 2019 and the Next of Kin live show. “I consider this the best song I ever wrote, so I couldn’t stand the idea that it was only used for those Next of Kin shows and then never again! That’s why I brought it to DeWolff, but it needed some rearranging,” he says. Another song from the Next of Kin sessions was “Sweet Loretta” and features Dawn Brothers’ Stefan Wolfs and Darilyn’s Diwa Meijman. “Loretta is the protagonist’s childhood sweetheart. She has a rich dad, but he’s really conservative, and so she can only inherit his money if she marries a man. But she’s lesbian. So, the protagonist, who’s also out for this old guy’s money, suggests they play pretend and marry so they can split the money.”
They sweep through disco on “Half Your Love,” swamp rock on “Bona Fide” and take on sci-fi and the Old Testament on “RU My Saviour.” Their tour buddies The Grand East show up on “Roll Up the Rise.” Written in the first days of quarantine, it’s about the end of the quarantine – told from a future perspective. “Lady J,” came after Pablo watched the documentary “13th.” “I was quite shaken up by it,” he admits. “The lyrics are based on the idea that Lady Justice seems to have a scale that doesn’t measure the “weight” of your crime but the tone of your skin. She is supposed to be blindfolded, but the people who act in “her” name aren’t blind at all: they discriminate between white and black.”
The album ends with the forlorn “Hope Train.” Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead about two slaves in the US during the 19th century, who make a bid for freedom from their Georgia plantation. “I found it really hard to envision the world in which it takes place,” he says. The band used a 1970s Fisher-Price Toy cassette recorder in the intro, “We wanted to see if we could somehow approach the sound of those very early country blues recordings, like the ones by Blind Willie Johnson or Charley Patton. We figured the best way to try that is to use the lowest fidelity tape recorder we could find.”
In their studio bunker in the Medieval town of Utrecht, The Netherlands, during the global lockdown, brothers Pablo and Luka van de Poel and Robin Piso have created another majestic record. Experimenting with hazy soundscapes, fizzing riffs, marauding organs, infectiously free-roaming melodies, and all tied in with an undeniably DeWolff sound. Liberators of the funky groove, they’re riding the highways swerving in an out of 70s soul-funk, fuzzed-up psychedelia, swamp-rock and haunting melancholia, with their shades on, convertible top-down and radio on, their sights are set on the horizon.