“I think that right now we are at the beginning of our prime.” — Interview with Bad Wolves.
Since the band’s conception last year; Bad Wolves have gone from strength to strength. The release of the band’s first album, Disobey, earlier this year got to no.3 in the US rock chart; largely in part due to their cover of The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’, which has since achieved multi-platinum status across the globe. The band then donated all the single’s proceeds to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan’s family, after Dolores herself was originally set to feature on the record the day before her passing. From then, the band has supported some of the biggest names in rock and metal on tour; from Five Finger Death Punch, currently with Three Days Grace, and in the near future with Nickelback.
Zach Barnes sits down with guitarist Chris Cain and bassist Kyle Konkiel to discuss lyrical meaning, the experience of touring the UK for the first time; where it’s taking them in the future and their past criticisms and controversies.
It’s your last show in the UK today, how’s it been so far?
Kyle — Well the shows have been really really great! I dont think we knew what to expect with the shows because we’ve never been here before, but all the reactions have been amazing; kids singing along, big roars at the end of all our songs, it’s been awesome to see because like I said we’ve never been here before. It’s nice to see that the UK is all about the ‘Wolves.
Chris — They’re definitely rowdy and the sing alongs have been loudest we’ve ever had at our shows I would say.
K — We just got done doing an amphitheatre tour with Nothing More, Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch and even then I don’t think our sing-alongs were as loud as they’ve been over here.
Talking about tours, you’ve just been announced as the support at for Nickelback in Australia, that must be a good feeling?
C — Hell yeah!
K — We’re doing three shows with Nickelback ‘down under’, I think we’re all pretty excited
C — I think i’m the most excited because for me, i’m from Iowa so a very redneck upbringing and Nickelback was always very popular rock band. Like always as a kid I was just like “man it’d be so cool to be on a Nickelback tour.” That would be the biggest rock tour in my mind that I could imagine other than being with AC/DC or Metallica or something. So when that came in I remember when we were told about it and I was like “you’ve got to be kidding” like this is another dream come true.
K — And from the work I do in LA, when we’re not touring, I know a lot of really high profile tech’ guys and one of my best friends is now Chad Kroeger’s tech’ and he was telling me how awesome it’s going to be. So yeah, I’m super stoked to be hitting Australia with the ‘Back.
Will that be your first time in Australia too?
K — Yeah, since April we’ve just been putting in the miles in the US and with a couple of shows in Canada too but we’ve just been kind of focusing on the US market because it’s one of the hardest markets to break into. So we’ve just been shoving our music down everybody’s throats for the past 5 months and now we’re taking a little break from the ‘States so I think it’ll be good for us to go to different places and see how well we do and how well we can do in other places.
Well you’ve all had pretty extensive careers in music before, what feels different between Bad Wolves and your previous endeavors?
C — For me it’s just on a completely different level on the professional side because I’ve played in hardcore bands before and it was fun but it just… was nothing. Like I’m at a loss for words in describing, but this isn’t something I’ve ever experienced before. It’s a whole new feeling and it’s amazing, it’s overwhelming, it’s stressful, it’s awesome, it’s everything all at once but wouldn’t trade it for anything. Ever since I was 11 years old learning to play the guitar I’ve wanted to be in this position and to have this accomplishment is another dream come true.
K — This was also the first band I’ve been in and toured with where I actually knew people in the band…
C — Same here.
K — …like I’ve known Tommy for 13 years, I’ve known Doc for probably 9 years, I’ve known John for the better part of 6 years, but I met Chris the day we shot the ‘Learn To Live’ music video and he was basically the only person I didn’t know in the band. In my other previous bands it was just like “oh hey, heard you guys were looking for a bass player, can I try out?” It’s definitely been nice to be in a situation where you’re with people you not only have respected professionally but are also people you consider your friends.
Bad Wolves often get labelled as a ‘supergroup’, how do you feel about that tag?
K — I think we get tagged as a supergroup because people are like “oh, it’s so-and-so from this band and so-and-so from that band” but in all reality we’re just working musicians that, at the time, weren’t really doing anything musically. So I wouldn’t really call us a supergroup because the Damn Yankees, that was a supergroup. My previous band [Scar The Martyr/Vimic] also kind of had that moniker as well but I don’t really feel the ‘super’ vibe because I think being labeled as a supergroup is that the stuff you did before was your peak. I think that right now we are at the beginning of our prime as a band and hopefully we’ll just continue to grow; so that’s why I think the term ‘supergroup’ is almost a “bad word” when referring to us, because it means that your biggest stuff is behind you.
Disobey has been out for 5 months now, what have you found to be the overall feedback and reception?
K — There’s definitely been a pretty good reception but I think there’s been them people that bought the record just for Zombie and they were like ‘oh…this is a lot heavier than I anticipated’ because what people don’t realise is that Bad Wolves, we bring the metal too. It doesn’t matter if we have radio songs there’ll always be an aggressive side to Bad Wolves and I think that’s been the biggest surprise to people. Especially for people coming to see us who haven’t seen us before or who haven’t heard the whole record and have just come to see Zombie. They end up being like “holy crap! This is a metal band!’
C — Our first headlining tour back in June it was funny because you’d just see a lot of confused faces and those confused faces have kind of mostly gone away now. Disobey has been out for a few months and everybody is more aware that we are a metal band but those first couple of weeks it was just like ‘huh? This is the Zombie band?’ [laughs]
K — Actually Tommy used to say this onstage when you used to see the metal guys with the vests that were covering in Slayer, Anthrax and Behemoth patches and they’d bring their girlfriends and be like “ugh she wants to go and see this ‘Zombie band’”and then the third song in he’d be like texting his buddies like ‘Holy crap boys, they’re a metal band!’ [laughs]
C — Then by the fifth song he’s moshing with everybody [laughs] but it’s just gone over a lot better than I thought because there’s always that little bit of anticipation when you put a record out like we did where it’s so diverse, it could just go one way or the other.
K — There’s definitely a lot of diversity on the record, I appreciate that there’s a lot of bands that put out a record and there’s bands that I like that put out songs that sounds exactly the same. I think that especially today you’ve got to keep people busy with your music, you can’t just keep the same sound over and over again. On our next record we can’t have another ‘Zombie’, we can’t have another ‘Hear Me Now’, because people have already heard that and I think with our record what we’ve done is we’ve done it in a way that’s diverse and that’s also Bad Wolves in the same thing. There’s proggy stuff on the record, there’s heavy stuff of the record and there’s soft stuff on the record so I think if we can continue building on that as a band our records will be pretty interesting for years to come.
You discussed the record being diverse, was that the reasoning behind wanting to cover ‘Zombie’ in the first place? I’m curious as to how that conversation was brought up.
K — Well Tommy [lead singer] kind of had that in his head for a while. I remember he had just done a session, and when he went to go eat, the song came on where he was at, and that’s just where he thought it would be a good cover. I don’t think there was too much thought behind adding it to make it more diverse, like we had a lot of songs to pick from for the album. We wanted to have a ‘no-filler’ where everyone agrees the song that should be on the album. It was just kind of picking the best song we had in our library and I think that we did the best with the material that we had. All the songs were great, we found it very hard picking songs to put on the record.
The Cranberries’ original Zombie resonated with a lot of people because of it’s anti-war message. Do you feel that now, taking into consideration the context of Dolores’ passing, that perhaps your cover has taken on a new meaning with people?
C — Absolutely. Well the way I look at it is we kind of made the world fall in love with the song again. Because it was out in 1994, I feel that it kind of just drifted away as time went on and i’m noticing a big change now with rock music and heavy metal music and I feel like it beginning to make a comeback. I’ve had people tell me that they haven’t been to a concert in years and they heard this song and they tell me about how much fun they had and that it brought that spark back.
K — I definitely feel like this song is relevant especially with all the stuff like in our context. Like there’s a lot of terrorism in the United States, but there’s also terrorism anyway going on all over the world; stuff that people in America don’t hear about. I think the song is relevant because even the minor changes that Tommy made to the song just makes it hit that much closer to home with everybody. I think that one of the reasons why I think it’s a good song is because I don’t really like it when bands cover a song and it just sounds like the original version, that’s what I really liked about our version… it’s different. I think that’s why it still resonated with people because things haven’t really changed.
There are also a lot of social statements on your album- the title itself is ‘Disobey’. What kind of social issues and problems do you yourselves, or as a band, feel most strongly about?
K — We got a lot of slack for the first song on our album which is called ‘Officer Down’ because people thought we were taking an anti-police stance which was not the case at all. Officer Down is basically the story of both sides. Tommy grew up as an African-American living in Brooklyn in New York and he’s kind of seen both sides. Especially police brutality in the early-to-mid 90’s because that was a big thing in the United States. It’s kind of like telling a story of like both sides from a guy going in and his partner gets killed, and there’s a side where there’s a young black guy that got beat up by a police officer unjustly. We’re definitely not anti-police or anti-military but it can be kind of confusing if you’re just taking it at face value and not having an open mind. But I don’t really have anything like a political statement on the record but I know that that was like a hot thing for us to deal with.
What would you suggest for people to do to engage with you more?
K — Just be more open minded. Going back to my last statement like when we got a lot of slack because people thought we were anti-police and anti-establishment, but we’re not. We know a lot of police officers and sheriffs that come to our shows we’ve seen so many different police badges from different cities all over America. We’re always grateful to have them but I know people are very sensitive with things today and people read too much into one thing and make up their minds a little too early. When you’re listening to our music realise that we’re not hating anybody…
C — …because we don’t. [laughs]
K — Just try and read a little into our lyrics because we’re not anti-anything, unless it’s bigotry.
C — Most of the lyrics and meaning behind it are stories, like for Tommy with ‘Remember When’ being about him and his brother. Every song has something along the lines of story like that so if you, like Kyle said, just look at it with a bit more open mindedness when reading the lyrics and listening to the songs.
Disobey was released May 11th, 2018 [Eleven Seven]. You can find the album, and more, on the band’s website: badwolvesnation.com