A Conversation With Wallows: On Quarantine Bops and the New ‘Remote’ EP
The indie-rock trio has found a way to keep the momentum going amid lockdown
For plenty of artists, 2020 is a litmus test for the creative muscle. The obvious question is: how does one now bridge the gap between the known (not to mention more intimate) format of live shows and meet-and-greets, and this new, purely virtual space for creating and sharing music? There’s no one simple answer, but American indie-rock band Wallows is on to something pretty brilliant. And fans, old and new, are taking notice.
To begin with, band members Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters, and Cole Preston didn’t see a significant break in the cards for them this year. Following the success of their debut album Nothing Happens in 2019, they were busy getting their US Tour underway before ultimately postponing all headline tour dates. The shift in plans due to the coronavirus pandemic also meant four months of international festival performances (June through September beginning with Bonnaroo and ending with Lollapalooza Berlin) were completely wiped off their calendars.
A necessary sacrifice in the aftermath of equally necessary lockdown measures, Wallows kept busy in other ways instead: creating apart but together, producing songs remotely, and even collaborating with fans. In September, they announced a virtual world tour, “Wallows Live at the Roxy,” their first try at this live show format where they shot four live sets at LA’s the Roxy Theatre, each one unique and made to air with different time zones in mind.
The following month was no less eventful as things came full circle for the band. On October 23, they released their newest EP entitled Remote. The six-track quarantine project is a welcome departure from their “Scrawny” and “Sidelines” days yet still gives fans the warm embrace of familiarity. The visuals for each track are altogether a distinct point of interest, too. (Experimental? Sometimes. Unpredictable? Always.) And fans can expect more from Minnette, Lemasters, and Preston soon. How’s that for making great strides during quarantine? Now to learn more about living remote and creating Remote from the boys themselves:
Wonder: You guys are currently in three different locations, right? What have you been up to during the quarantine?
Cole Preston: I started reading books again, which I hadn’t done in a long time. Which is insane.
Dylan Minnette: I have been making music with these guys––making music separately but together. We were working on songs for multiple months now. But they’ve finally come to a close [with Remote], which is really weird and exciting.
Braeden Lemasters: I’ve just been applying sunscreen, which is new for me.
Dylan: That is really funny that you said that because I was about to say that I went on a two-hour walk yesterday and I got the worst sunburn of my life. Right as you said the sunscreen because look at this. [Pulls collar down] Do you see this? It’s brutal.
Braeden: It matches your hair now.
Dylan: It stings. I need Aloe Vera.
W: In the process of being in self-isolation, have you guys established any routines? When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do?
Dylan: Lately, we’ve been working on songs. So I get up and I listen to what we’re working on while I drink coffee. That’s pretty much what I do every morning. Every day.
Cole: My sister and I have been very strictly following this fitness influencer’s workout program, which is funny. This person on Instagram put it up. You download her schedule; it’s for charity. So we bought it. And we’re in week five of doing it. So every morning, I wake up, put back a glass of water, and exercise with my sister, which is honestly great.
Then, as Dylan said, we’re working on music. So I feel like that’s what I’m most focused on during the day. Wake up, workout, drink coffee, and listen to Wallows. That’s what I do.
Braeden: I wake up at, like, 9AM. I fall back asleep, then wake up at 10.30. Sadly. Every morning. [Laughs] And then I’d drink coffee. There’s a secluded basketball hoop down in my neighborhood and if no one’s there, I’d shoot hoops to get some exercise. And that’s about it, really.
W: You guys have been remotely recording these performances and covers even while you’re apart. What’s been the hardest part of doing all this while you’re far away from each other?
Dylan: Cole has the only recording setup out of all three of us. But the hardest thing at first was conveying ideas. We’ve actually gotten in this great rhythm making music apart. It hasn’t been as challenging. We’ve made some songs we’re really proud of.
Cole: And we’re lucky we’re working on these songs with our friends Sachi and John. They are really talented producers. So when we have ideas, we just sort of send stuff their way. It’s a really big back and forth between all of us. And luckily, with technology, it’s easy to send stuff around. Like, you can send somebody a song in a text, which is insane. It’s surprisingly smooth.
W: When it comes to writing music, though, how does it work with you being a three-piece band? Do you have any specific roles, like there someone in charge of writing the lyrics, or do you all just work individually then share a draft with the band?
Cole: I think the typical Wallows song starts with one of us having some small, short-form idea of something, then we’ll send it around. Other people will have other ideas; then over time, it kind of takes shape. But usually, it starts with one of us bringing something to the table and then the others contributing.
For lyrics, I feel like since Dylan and Braeden sing, they write a lot of it. Honestly, I don’t write too many of the lyrics. But I’m trying to. I’m reading books. I’m getting better. [Laughs] But if it’s a big quilt, we’re all putting a little square on it, slowly, over time.
Dylan: You write lyrics! You wrote the lyrics to “Are You Bored Yet?” with me.
Dylan: Cole’s a great writer. He’s being modest. He’s the most modest in the group. [Laughs] He does the heavy lifting. “With A Little Help From My Friends” is a Cole Preston recording. The cover we released? Cole did everything.
Cole: You guys sang the harmonies and that’s my favorite part. The one thing I didn’t do.
W: Going into Remote now, what can you tell us about the songs you included in the EP?
Braeden: I feel like they’re slightly different from each other, these songs. So it’s a body of work in some way or another.
Dylan: I feel like also it’s all over the place––and not in a bad way. But in a way that makes sense for us, really. Right now, we have a song that feels like the most pop song that we have. Then we have another that feels like the most rock song we have. They both are of the same mindset, thing, and time. It’s strange. Like, it is like a bunch of different styles but they all work pretty well together.
W: One of the things your fans love about you guys is how willingly you extend help to different causes. Why did you decide to start doing this, and is this something you plan to keep up in the future?
Dylan: In terms of the setup of how we do it, I don’t know if it’s going to be exactly the same. But we always want to use our platform and our means for good.
What inspired it was this guy, Dylan, who was doing our merch. He has had a history of working with charities and he brought the idea to us. He was also the person who ran it and set up the charity in each city we were going to. And they were all local, non-profits that we would have people bring donations for. Various causes––it was different from city to city.
This would happen right next to the merch table. And you get free merch if you donated. Dylan ran the whole thing and we have him to thank a lot for it. It was really exciting and it just felt good knowing that whatever community we were coming to, we could help a local cause. When we can tour again, we definitely want to help again. I wonder if we’ll try to go bigger––I have no idea. But we definitely want to help.
Cole: That whole process, too, was just so easy for us. We have a few hundred kids who are showing up to the show anyway. And like, bringing colored pencils or something is so easy for everyone involved, which is why it was such a smart idea for our merch guy to have this kind of high impact.
Braeden: Everyone could bring something small, but at the end of the night, there would be this ginormous mound of things. The best part of it was being able to see the reactions of the people working for these organizations––how happy they were. Being able to talk to them at the end of the night was really cool, too. We’re going to keep it going through the year.
The sky’s the limit for Wallows, the band to watch in our book if we’re talking top-tier quarantine content. Watch the official animated music video for “Wish Me Luck” by Wallows here or scroll through and listen to their new EP Remote.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver