It has been almost three years since TL first presented to us the unknown quantity that was Wolves & Machines with his review of their stellar debut album, "Ailments", which even went on to feature in his Best Music of 2010 article. The band's popularity has exploded in these parts since then, and with good reason; we like to think that we like great music, and Wolves & Machines have delivered nothing less thus far. So, the prospect of one of our favourite bands gearing up to release a new record is not something we're gonna sleep on. I was lucky enough to send them some questions about that new record, writing from a more personal perspective this time around, and what they think of "Ailments" now they have some distance from it.
RF.net: Hello, and thank you for taking the time to do this! Could you start by introducing yourself and your role in Wolves & Machines?
Aaron: My name is Aaron, I sing and play guitar.
RF.net: How did the band start, and how did you choose your name?
Aaron: We were just friends that played music that started jamming in 2008. The name doesn’t mean anything, our old guitarist and I were shooting around ideas and those two words were both words that we didn’t hate. We tried to come up with some explanation but in the end it’s just a name that we thought was cool when we were 18.
RF.net: We're now three years on from "Ailments" and a year on from "Remedies". Looking back, how do you feel about that concept as a whole, those releases individually and the reaction you received to them?
I’m still pretty proud of Ailments. There are definitely growing pains in it, but it was a lot of fun to write and record. I was 20 when that album came out. Now I’m 23, and I think that’s a really cool thing to have to look back on. Remedies was fun, but it was a whole different thing. That one was more or less just trying something new. Writing in an unfamiliar style was a blast though, I’d love to write more acoustic jams in the future.
As for the concept, it was really loosely put together at first and then turned into a whole thing. I think it turned out pretty cool, and I’m all about writing music with cohesive themes, but I am excited to release some new music without any story pulling the music in different directions.
RF.net: You're currently recording your second album. How is that going at the moment?
Aaron: We’re just about done. The process has taken a while, but it’s been a lot of fun. We started in mid June, we’re just about in August now, and we’ll hopefully be sending it out for mixing soon after we tie up a few loose ends. It’s been a lot of work but it’s been cool.
RF.net: In terms of resources, can we expect a bigger production on this album compared to the first?
Aaron: We recorded all the instruments with Josh Schroeder, who did our last two releases, and then did vocals with Nick Diener from the Swellers at his home studio. Both of them have done an awesome job on the record. We’ve been recording with Josh since 2009 and every time he does better, and this is no different. Nick is our buddy, and he’s been really pushing me to sing better. Working with him has been a blast. I think the album definitely sounds a lot better than anything we’ve ever released.
RF.net: As we mentioned, it's been three years since "Ailments". Have you had material waiting since then or have you written material specifically for the new record?
Aaron: The oldest song on this record is a song we’ve been playing live for a couple years called Stay Separate. Scott and I wrote it in 2011 and we still love playing it. All Alarms, which we released as a single last year, was redone for this album. Other than that, some of the stuff has been laying around for a while, but most of it was written this year. We booked studio time before the album was even halfway written, so the pressure helped motivate us.
RF.net: Is there an album title in mind yet?
Aaron: Yeah, there are a few ideas. Not totally settling until we sit down and really discuss it though.
RF.net: On Facebook recently you were recently asking for old pictures of couples and buildings. Is that a hint in terms of what themes this record may have?
Aaron: That was just a spur of the moment thing, just an idea I had that I wanted to test out. I’ve talked to a couple people since then who are more creative than I am in that department, so we’ll see what comes of that. I guess thematically the album deals a lot with nostalgia, so that’s where the idea came from.
RF.net: Do you feel like your sound has noticeably progressed for the new record?
Aaron: I think it has. I think we know what we want a lot more now. We’re playing stuff that we want to listen to ourselves, and in three years that sound has changed a lot.
RF.net: What's your writing process like as a band, and has it changed with your different releases or over time?
Aaron: The process is different for every song. Usually I’ll come up with something and make a demo, then send it out to the rest of the guys, then we work on it from there. For most of these songs, Ben and I would jam through them, record ourselves playing it, then edit from there. Scott also came up with a bunch of awesome stuff on this one. He writes really weird stuff on guitar, stuff that I don’t have the imagination for. Then I’ll write lyrics and melodies way too long after the instrumental parts of the songs are done, though for this album I tried to have melodies in mind as much as possible as we were writing. There hasn’t been a real formula in the best beyond demoing what someone thinks is cool and then bringing it to the band, so I guess the biggest difference is that we have members in the band who weren’t on our first record influencing the sound of the new one.
RF.net: "Ailments" was based on a concept - a story. What was the reasoning behind creating such a narrative-driven record as opposed to a more personal record?
Aaron: I think it’s because I wanted to write personal tunes that I didn’t have to be responsible for. It was easy to say whatever I wanted to say as long as I could say that it was part of a story. This is my first band, so it took a lot for me to be comfortable writing about anything important to me. It was a good way to do it though, because a lot of people just took the personal parts of it and liked that, which has made it easier for me to be more forward when writing lyrics.
RF.net: You've decided to re-record "All Alarms" - a song arguably more personal than anything else you've done. What was the thought-process behind behind re-recording that song, and should we therefore expect the album as a whole to be more personal, especially when compared with your debut?
Aaron: We wrote that song with the intention of putting it on the next record, and we were offered a sweet deal at a studio that our buddies had recorded at to do a song in a day. That was a song we’d been working on, so we did that. We re-recorded it because we still love the song, and since it was written to be on the album, we felt like it needed to be there. We’ve updated it, and I think it is a lot better now. As for the personal thing, the new album feels a lot more personal to me, but I guess I’ll have to see how other people take it.
RF.net: Do you find it more natural or more challenging when writing songs not through a concept but from an autobiographical perspective?
Aaron: The concept thing was nice because it’s something to fall back on. If you hit a roadblock, you can just think about the story and it pieces itself together a lot more quickly. With the autobiographical stuff, it is a little more difficult to pull together the right words all the time, because there isn’t a story to hide behind, but I think overall it is more rewarding. The new album has a lot of lyrics where I stepped outside of my own point of view and tried to approach an outside situation from a personal place, which is something I plan on doing a lot more of in the future.
RF.net: When do you realistically think the album will be released, and do you have a label in mind for it yet?
Aaron: The album will probably be out in the fall, maybe October or November. I don’t like making any real plans before everything is ready to go, but I think we’re planning on hopefully having it ready by then. Capeside Records will be releasing this one. D-Jay is our buddy and is always helping us out, so we’re happy to go through Capeside for the third time.
RF.net: At the moment, you're not really much of a touring band. Why is this, and do you think it might change with the release of the new album?
Aaron: I’d love to do more. We have hectic full time job schedules and lives outside of the band, and for the last year we’ve just been taking time off from shows to focus on getting all of that stuff in order. Right now the goal is to put the record out, and beyond that we’ll have to see what happens.
RF.net: What music is currently dominating your playlist, and are there any upcoming releases you're excited for?
Aaron: The new Pity Sex record is really cool, new Citizen record is awesome. The Swellers are putting out a new one at some point that is really good. I’ve been listening to the Appleseed Cast’s album Two Conversations a lot lately, that’s one of my favorites. Moving Mountains and Balance and Composure have new stuff coming out that I’m pumped to hear. Crime In Stereo a while ago said they were doing something? I don’t know. That would be cool.
RF.net: Those are all the questions we have, so thank you for taking the time to do this! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Aaron: Thanks for all the love that you guys at Rockfreaks have shown us, it means a ton to us to have your support. Keep your eyes peeled for updates, hopefully we’ll have some new music for you very soon!