DeWollf have just released their new album 'Life, Death and In-Between'. It's their fifth album in four years. They hate to stand idol and throw themself into their music. Drawing on southern rock, blues, soul and everything else, they are one of the most exciting bands on the scene right now.
We catch up with Luka van de Poel (Drums) - with the occasional peep from Pablo.
PG: This is your fifth album in four years. How do you find the motivation and inspiration to never stall in your output?
Luka: Our process of writing, recording, touring, resting and then start writing again feels like a natural thing that really seems to work for us. We don’t like sitting still too much, so after a tour’s finished we always, automatically, start thinking about new plans. When we get together to write new stuff we always find inspiration in a newly discovered record, movie or book. For our last records we were very much inspired by Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary. Seeing and hearing these legends write songs inspired us to get together and work on a new album, especially after Covid times (during the writing and recording of our previous album ‘Wolffpack’) when we weren’t always able to get together.
PG: You've recorded this album live with no overdubs, the Tascam Tapes was also recorded in a very paired-down way - is that your preferred way to record?
Luka: We prefer to have as many limitations as possible haha. If you get too comfortable it can be dull sometimes.
We’ve always preferred the workflow of analog recording: you can’t mess with the recordings too much and you really have to have your things together before you press the record button: it’s much easier for us to make decisions about microphone placement, sound and song structure during the recording process than to leave it all to the mixing process where people sometimes edit a song to death.
We only need 3 microphones and a good-sounding kit to create a big and beautiful drum sound, and because you have limited tracks available on a tape machine you make do with what you have, and you do it good! And in this way it sounds way better to us than having unlimited options and digital tools.
For the new record we wanted to capture our live sound and energy and we felt that it would be counterproductive to do vocals, horns, percussion etc. as overdubs, so we invited some friends and did it all in one take.
As for Tascam Tapes it was a real fun experience to record on that flimsy 4-track cassette recorder (that broke down every other day) on the road, in the bus, in hotel rooms and backstages without our beloved hammond organ and even without a real drum kit! We couldn’t cram a drumkit into all these tight spaces, so Luka had all these groovy old soul and funk drum samples loaded into a drum machine. It was very much out of our comfort zone, and in hindsight I think it’s pretty cool that we actually released it as an album!
PG: Rosita is a 16 minute long opus. It's also got the feeling of a few songs all rolled into one, with almost the feel or a narrative. How did the idea for that track come about?
Luka: The first seeds of this song were planted after Pablo had seen the fantastic Licorice Pizza film. It’s basically a love story but will all these, seemingly random, side stories. The common thread in Rosita is that it’s about a boy that falls in love with Rosita, the lady he meets every night in his sleep. He figures he wants to be with her forever, and the only way to achieve that is to die, and ‘stay asleep forever’
Another inspiration for this track is the magnificent 1972 ‘Leon Live’ record of our hero Leon Russell. He plays all these great tunes one after another in a medley kind of way. Sometimes with the weirdest changes and abrupt transitions. We wanted to write a new song based on that idea.
PG: John Steinbeck's 'Tortilla Flat' was quite an inspiration for some of the themes on the album. What was it about that novel that just spoke to you?
Luka: Well, it wasn’t just Tortilla Flat that had an impact on Love, Death & In Between. Other John Steinbeck books that influenced us a great deal were Of Mice & Men and Cannery Row. All these books are full of very colorful characters -often scruffy lowlifes- that are just full of secret wisdom, humor and optimism. The way John Steinbeck portrays these people -who drink and gamble and steal and lie- is so beautiful, pure and innocent. These characters speak in very plain English, often slang, and then sometimes all of a sudden he -Steinbeck- bursts out into some literary ballet of words, very virtuosic and poetic but still functional. A subject that I feel runs through these Steinbeck novels and which had a big influence on LD&IB is the beauty, the poetry and mysticism of life
PG: Pablo attended one of Al Green's sermons and was really moved by it. What was it about that experience that inspired the album?
Pablo - Back in 2019 I was on vacation in the USA with my wife and we visited Memphis. Of course we went to see the Stax museum and the Sun Studios but then I read somewhere that Al Green -THE Al Green!- has a church in South Memphis. Every Sunday there’s a service there and every once in while the Reverend Al Green is there himself, but you can never be quite sure. So me and my wife went there and he was actually there and the music that we heard there in that church on Sunday morning was some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I sat down and after just 10 seconds tears were rolling down my face. The band was loud and most of the time they were just laying down one or two chords, with Al Green preaching. It was so beautiful and real and touching though, it really gave me a new perception on live music. There and then it became extra clear to me that music is not about complicated song structures or finding nifty contemporary sounds but about soul! About making your musical idiosyncrasies be part of something greater, something mystic, something where you express yourself as an individual musically the way only you can and connecting to other people through the energy you put into you performance. It was quite inspiring.
PG: Playing music live is a very spiritual/communal experience anyway. How did you attempt to capture that on this record?
Luka: Bringing all these extra musicians to the studio really added up to that communal experience. It feels very different playing a show or studio session backed up by the loveliest and greatest musicians around us, than doing it with just the three of us. In the past we had played a handful of shows with this so called ‘XL outfit’: horns, singers, percussion, bass guitar, extra keys; we finally wanted to bring these people to the studio and capture that sensation. Especially after the recording of Wolffpack, where we did a lot of layered recording, because of Covid.
Once we were ready and set for recording we just went about playing the songs we wrote and then the excitement, the imperfections, the atmosphere and the sound was that elusive, finishing touch that made us all just very very pleased about the outcome
PG: The album artwork is very striking. It's part mythology/ part occult. Tell us a bit about that.
Luka: Myths and occult play a big part in the lyrics this album. For instance the inspiration for the words of Will o’ The Wisp came from a book called “The Ruin of All Witches” which is about witch prosecution in late 17th century Massachusetts. ‘Rosita’ is about a high school love that turns out the be the Goddess of Love & Death, and ‘Queen of Space and Time’ really could have been the soundtrack of some gloomy voodoo movie. We asked Rosa de Weerd, who is a great Dutch artist, to design a cover that breathes the mood of the songs and she depicted the Goddess of Love & Death!
PG: The album really feels like a journey through styles and sounds. There's the psychedelia and the southern rock, but you've added gospel, R & B too. What made you add those styles?
Luka: Since a couple of years we’ve been finding more and more inspiration in old soul music (Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas, The Impressions) as well as rhythm & blues and rock ’n roll (Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Little Richard, early Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones etc.) and early funk music like The Meters, Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.
We kind of slowly stepped away from the idea that DeWolff should strictly be a rock band and that gave us much more artistic freedom, because suddenly we could let all this inspiration speak through our music. This has been a slow process and it started a couple of years ago, even before Tascam Tapes. This record is a new chapter in that evolution.
PG: What could be the next direction for DeWolff? A concept album, something experimental perhaps?
Luka: Who knows! We’re already making plans for a new record. Because now you know we don’t like to sit idle!
PG: What's next for 2023 and beyond?
Luka: First of all we’re going to tour through Europe and promote the album. We’re making plans for heading over to the USA and we really hope to come and play the UK soon!
Photo Satellite June