Wolfmother Evolves On 'Cosmic Egg'
Like all animals, Wolfmother faced two choices: evolve or die.
Citing "longstanding frictions," keyboard/bassist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett left in 2008. But frontman Andrew Stockdale wasn't about to give up after achieving so much -- the band sold 537,000 U.S. copies of its self-titled 2006 debut, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and won a 2007 Grammy Award for best hard rock performance.
"The Beatles lasted seven years, we lasted four," Stockdale says from the band's temporary Los Angeles base. "We toured our arses off around the world. We did 300 shows. It takes a certain type of person to want to continue to live that kind of life."
Above: The Billboard.com video Q&A with Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale.
Stockdale replaced his departed bandmates with drummer Dave Atkins -- a veteran of Brisbane, Australia, bands Resin Dogs and Pangaea -- guitarist Aidan Nemeth and Ian Peres on bass and keys.
Together they crafted the epic blues rock of "Cosmic Egg," due Oct. 23 in Australia on Modular Recordings/Universal, Oct. 26 in the United Kingdom on Island and Oct. 27 in the United States on Interscope.
Also new to the project is manager Cory Brennan, founder of New York-based 5B Artist Management, and British producer Alan Moulder. But despite all the changes, Wolfmother's trademark rock sound remains intact, with standout tracks like "In the Morning" and "California Queen" likely to more than satisfy fans of the first album.
"I can listen to the whole record without cringing, which is a good sign," Stockdale says. "I wanted to take it back to an old-school hi-fi sound."
"It's a difficult situation to come back from," Modular A&R manager Glen Goetze says of the split. "But [Stockdale has] worked his way through it. It's like starting from scratch on a debut record all over again, but we already have a sizable fan base out there."
The band has been re-engaging those fans for several months now, with a carefully plotted live return involving a mix of high-impact shows, festival dates and intimate secret gigs. The group was one of only two acts to play both of the Sound Relief bushfire benefit concerts held March 14 at Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney Cricket Ground. It also closed out the March 27 MTV Australia Awards, performing the appropriately titled "Back Round," a non-album track that was a free download on Wolfmother's Web site and the site for "Guitar Hero 5," which features the band.
In the United States, the group opened for the Killers on six dates in August and September and -- after Australian and European shows -- will start its own monthlong U.S. headline theater tour Oct. 29 at Dallas' House of Blues.
"They'll be touring a lot," Modular managing director Steve Pavlovic says. "A third of 'Wolfmother' album sales were in America, two-thirds in the rest of the world. You'd have to think there's a pretty decent market outside America. They'll spend two-thirds of their time addressing it."
Interscope reports considerable support from U.S. media, with appearances on "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" already taped and more TV spots in the pipeline, according to marketing director Dyana Kass. At radio, Kass says the lead track, "New Moon Rising," has had good early reactions since it went to modern rock, college and active rock formats Aug. 14.
The band also continues to make friends in the right places and will play to 600,000-plus Australians when it opens AC/DC's March 2010 homecoming stadium tour. The band will appear in drinks brand Absolut's upcoming global Rock Edition ad campaign, and Stockdale has collaborated on a track for Slash's next album.
"We might do a few shows or some surprise guest appearances. I'd love to have him play at some Wolfmother shows," Stockdale says.
All the signs are that Wolfmother can build on its debut success, despite the changes in personnel. But Stockdale says he's taking nothing for granted.
"At the start when people were saying, 'Wolfmother returns,' I was like, 'Don't say it's a comeback,' " he says. "But maybe a comeback is a good thing. A bit of a struggle, a challenge, is a healthy thing to have in life. Every time I do a gig now, I think, 'Wow, this is incredible.' "