Bad Wolves released their sophomore album N.A.T.I.O.N. late October, and it was highly anticipated. The singles released were standouts, and then the entire album? Well, you should read our review here to really get an idea of what you’ll be getting into.
Anyway, we managed to grab a hold of vocalist Tommy Vext for a great chat about the release and the incredibly personal song ‘Foe or Friend’. Sit down, this is a good one.
Hey mate, how’s your day been?
It’s going pretty good!
You formed and rose pretty quickly through the music scene, what do you credit to your popularity so soon after getting together in 2017?
I think there were the obviously strange circumstances with ‘Zombie’ breaking on to the scene and the morality behind it because of what we had attempted to achieve, and openly did achieve by memorialising Deloris and raising funds to donate to her children in her absence. So, as a new band, that definitely broke us in a way that we had no idea what happened.
And outside of that the band has 5 members who are veterans of the music industry. John is from Devil Driver, Doc is from God Forbid, I sang in Snot and Divine Heresy, Kyle has played in In This Moment, Scar The Martyr and Vimic, and Chris has played in Bury Your Dead and For The Fallen Dreams. So all these guys, to some degree, came with a little bit of a fan base each. And then it all accumulated from there. So we were a new band on the scene but we weren’t new artists.
The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ was a brilliant cover, although it did give everyone who hadn’t heard of Bad Wolves before the idea that you were a ballad-esque rock act. And then you released ‘I’ll Be There’ and everyone was like “OH”. How did you feel being branded as a mainstream, or maybe even a commercial rock band from that cover?
I think that we do have songs that would be considered more commercial, because as artists we aim to cover the entire spectrum of human emotion. So for us, it’s not just about anger. A lot of the heavy and really intense songs, they have an attitude about them and they carry and fly the banner of the traditional metal bands that we grew up loving – whether it be Slayer, Metallica, Pantera or Meshuggah – but we’re also heavily influenced by bands like Alice In Chains or Nirvana. So there are all these different influences that go into the band and as a result our records are very well balanced between a few different worlds, whether it’s the very extreme metal songs, or the mid tempo rock metal anthem and straight up ballads. So I don’t know, I think coming to see us at a concert is to understand what we are. And I think a lot of times fans come and they expect to hear the ‘Zombie’ cover and they realise what we are.
We did like over 200 shows in 2018 alone, and there were so many times where families and kids and girlfriends come with their dudes. And they like the rock songs and the ballad songs, and they always have the ‘Slayer’ husband with the patches who’s like ‘I don’t really wanna see this band’, and then we play three songs and you can see them texting their friends like ‘these guys are really heavy, man!’
Before we even touch on N.A.T.I.O.N. itself, tell us about that raunchy album art!
Raunchy! Is that raunchy? It’s pretty tame to me. So, the album artwork is from an artist who is now a friend of mine. I was a big fan of his. His name is Haris Nukem and he actually sold some prints to a friend of mine in LA and I started following him and was obsessed with his work. And on our last European tour we did a headline show in London, I’d been in touch with him and I invited him and his girlfriend to come. We got to hang out and really kicked it off, and a couple weeks later I was like, ‘hey, do you think that you would be willing to do the cover art and album sleeve for our new record?’ and he was like, ‘absolutely!’
He sent me all these images, and he had done this photoshoot with a model called Angela Mazzanti who had a big wolf on her stomach. And to us, what Bad Wolves Nation is, it’s the international conglomerate of Bad Wolves fans. It’s literally the wolf pack. Some of our fans call themselves The Wolf Pack, and we have all this crazy international success and so Bad Wolves Nation is a banner that pulls everybody together, and that’s what rock music is supposed to do. I feel like the rest of the world could learn a lot from the rock industry cause it doesn’t matter what country you come from, what gender you are, what religion you are, what your sexual preference is, how old you are – you could be 7 months to 70 years old or beyond – there’s something that happens at rock concerts where people really connect. And so those images of her, to me they exemplify the die hard fans. Cause we get thousands of people come see us play and then they go get wolf tattoos. Some will get our logo, some get our autographs and some just go get their own wolf tattoos and be part of The Wolf Pack. And so it seemed like it was the perfect fit.
And two weeks before release day you released a fourth single called ‘Crying Game’, I feel like the norm is to release 3 singles, why choose this one to release as a fourth so close to release day?
It’s about having constant content. And things are different and I think the industry is evolving. Traditionally, you would do two or three music videos and then put out the album and that’s it. But now with social media and the internet you have YouTube channels, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tiktok and all these platforms. So for us, I think it’s smart to keep music coming out. It’s also good cause we’re going on massive tours so we want the fans to have access to, and enjoy, the music we’re gonna be playing live so that when we go on these tours they already know the new songs. And when the album comes out they’re gonna get acquainted with the rest of it. So I feel like for us and for a lot of bands, it’s a smarter move to continue to service the fans and give them what they want.
N.A.T.I.O.N. will be your sophomore album, compared to your debut what do you hope listeners will take away from this one?
We’re a very positive band with an anti-suicide message, and we talk a lot about recovery, self care and community. Like, what it takes to combat the darkness that a lot of people live with on a daily basis and I would like for people to not feel alone. That’s the purpose. I used to go to concerts and had these feelings as a teenager and adolescent, and I would always see Korn or Pantera. And there were all these people that were singing these songs where the lyrics were talking to me, they were talking about me, and I would go to a concert and all these other people felt the same way I did. And for me, what it means to be a metal-head, is if you have the same t-shirt as another person in the crowd, you’ll never be alone again. And that’s what I want Bad Wolves to be for people; I want people to know that they’re not alone in the way they feel, and that’s what we try to do with our music.
Which song do you hope will really hit home hard when played live?
I think ‘No Messiah’ is gonna be one of the real bangers, also ‘Foe or Friend’. You know, the more extreme tracks go over really well live, I think ‘Silver’ will as well. Doc and I are working on a stripped down acoustic version that we’ll insert somewhere into the end of the set. We want to have a nice flow to the live show and break things up.
There’s always one song that takes a bit more out of you to write or record, which song on N.A.T.I.O.N. took more energy than you expected?
That’s an interesting question, I think probably ‘Foe or Friend’. Lyrically, it’s almost a part two to ‘Remember When’ and it talks about my time in the witness protection program after my twin brother had hired someone to murder me, after he failed to murder me and I testified against him. And eventually after about 12 months of him running from the law he somehow got a hold of my phone number and started calling me to tell me he was gonna kill me. The phone conversations were recorded and used as evidence, and the FBI ended up using that evidence to trace his cell phone, find him, apprehended him and then he went to prison.
So, that was a bit of an arduous can of worms to open up in the studio but I think to me, it’s a very important component of what ‘Remember When’ started. Because ‘Remember When’ is a song that is looking backwards into the nostalgia of a relationship that’s lost and ‘Foe or Friend’ is an illustration of how someone you love and how a family member can be so riddled and destroyed by drugs, alcohol and mental health that they don’t resemble the person you know or grew up with. And so it was a much more painful and extreme form of catharsis, but it was necessary to end that story. It’s like a final chapter for me and I’m just gonna move on from that.
You toured Australia in support of Nickelback in February this year, but when can we see you guys headlining down here?
Right now we’re talking about getting down to Australia, there are whispers of Download Festival. I’m gonna be there in December playing in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney on a singer songwriter tour with Danny Worsnop from Asking Alexandria. So we’re gonna be doing some shows down there to hold everyone over. And in the new year we’re pushing as hard as we can to get a fully fledged Bad Wolves tour of the entire country. Fingers crossed we get all the way to Perth this time.
Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with the release!
Interview by Ebony Story
N.A.T.I.O.N. is out now, grab your copy here.
Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N tracklisting
1. I’ll Be There
2. No Messiah
3. Learn To Walk Again
4. Killing Me Slowly
5. Better Off This Way
6. Foe Or Friend
8. Back In The Days
9. The Consumerist
10. Heaven So Heartless
11. Crying Game
12. LA Song