’68 with Grenadiers, Pagan + Crusch Northcote Social Club, Melbourne 21 July, 2017 It just …
When it comes to music, some artists pull their inspiration from the most obvious of places. Film, television or literature; relationships, and their successes or failures; politics, society or the state of the world. Yet for Melbourne mosh-fiends Alpha Wolf, the genesis of their debut album Mono came from a place of emotional turmoil and universal human experience.
“You write what you feel, and that’s what the album is: it’s desperation,” declares vocalist and newest member Aidan Ellaz, speaking to us over the phone alongside guitarist, principal songwriter and founding member, Sabian Lynch. “You know how when you’re desperate, everything is a million miles a minute?” Ellaz asks, “Well the lyrical content of the album is purposely over-exaggerated to a point, because in desperation comes exaggeration.”
With recent singles such as Ward Of The State and the dejected Golden Fate; Gut Ache dealing with serious issues like foster care, alienation and suicide, Ellaz admits that “A lot of lyrics that are very full on,” before emphasising the personal connection between desperation and exaggeration, that pairs with Mono’s self-destructively heavy sound. “The whole album is just written from personal experiences. I’m not someone that likes to victimise myself, because a lot of people have gone through a lot of things. It’s pretty much just a metaphor for [those] feelings when you’re alone, and when you feel like the world around you is sort of just going to shit,” admits Ellaz. “It’s pretty dark when you’re in that situation, which a majority of the record is written in the moment of feeling that way, [where] your brain and the way that you think is obviously heavily exaggerated to a point that it’s under stress.” Where other up and coming acts might try to obscure and obfuscate their lyrical messages with cryptic passages or avant-garde aesthetics, Alpha Wolf were determined to keep Mono a strictly bullshit free zone, particularly when it came to the themes and imagery expressed on the album. “We try to keep it minimal: just simple and straight to the point. Not out there and extravagant; just real,” states Ellaz. “The whole objective of the record especially, is just to keep it real and keep it honest.”
We all put a hundred and ten percent into every single song—even the interludes or the shorter ones. It’s all well thought out and it’s all been done on purpose.
However, as the young quintet found out during the writing and recording process for Mono, honesty can cut both ways. “We tried to write as a group, and basically, we wasted time,” says Lynch, recalling the band’s attempts at collaborative writing sessions. “We didn’t have a plan or anything. We’d all be in the same room, and nothing would get done. We just all really wanted to be a hundred and ten percent happy with every single piece of music that went into the album, whether it be the tiniest drum-through or looped guitar, or harmonics somewhere or something.” To solve this ‘too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen’ conundrum, the band then resorted to isolation and individual reflection, to bring out the organic material that would eventually be shaped in to Mono. “We all wrote in our own time, then we’d throw the demos to the table and add to them if [some]one had an idea to repeat a section, or to add a section, or to change something up,” Lynch explains. “We ended up with approximately 16 to 20 demo tracks, [which] we ended up cutting down to the 12 songs that are on Mono, because we only wanted to record our best material.”
While it can be difficult for any band to navigate the track selection process, something which often includes the culling of personal favourites and inevitably letting hard work fall by the wayside, it’s clear that the pursuit of perfectionism was a driving force for Alpha Wolf. “We only wanted to release good songs. Songs that we feel we’re going to listen to for the rest of our careers,” says Lynch. “And we feel as though we’ve really outdone ourselves, and wrote 12 songs that we’re really proud of; 12 songs we all enjoy listening to back to back.” When asked if he has anything to add to Lynch’s sentiment, Ellaz is quick to stress the band’s emphasis on composition as an elemental component of their songwriting. “We didn’t just write a bunch of instrumentals and then chuck some vocals over them. We didn’t just come out with lyrics and go ‘Yeah, does it fit this or that?’ They’re all written in unison,” says Ellaz. “That was a big part of it as well, that it all worked together in one. We all put a hundred and ten percent into every single song—even the interludes or the shorter ones. It’s all well thought out and it’s all been done on purpose.”
For Lynch, Mono represents Alpha Wolf’s cohesive vision, one that successfully blends the band’s heavy-hitting beat-down rhythms with a powerful, melodic undercurrent. “We all like a good breakdown, we all like a good groove, and we love melody,” he confesses. “So, I guess we found [the] right balance in amongst [these] 12 tracks, you know. Some are heavier than others, and some aren’t necessarily heavy, but they are to different listeners.” And with some of that much-lauded honesty, Lynch then succinctly describes the ultimate desire behind Mono. “We really only wanted to write exactly what we wanted to listen to. We wrote everything for ourselves.” With the band about to unveil their fresh album material to new audiences, as part of a national tour package supporting Aussie deathcore juggernaut Thy Art Is Murder in the coming months, Ellaz reflects on how anxiety ultimately factors in to – and fuels – the band’s performance on stage.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It is scary talking about such honest topics, especially to people that we’ve written about, or the people that know what was written about as well. But it’s all catharsis,” admits the frontman. “That album [Mono] and every track; it’s quite cathartic to release and to perform. It’s more about gritting your teeth and just doing it. It’s what we want to do, so we’re doing it.”
If you or anyone you know is in need of help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636.
Mono is available now via Greyscale Records.
Alpha Wolf will hit the road throughout July and August, supporting Thy Art Is Murder alongside Cursed Earth and Deadlights.
THY ART IS MURDER – DEATH SENTENCE TOUR
feat. Cursed Earth, Deadlights, & Alpha Wolf
Thursday 27th July – Perth – Badlands Bar
Friday 28th July – Adelaide – Enigma Bar
Saturday 29th July – Melbourne – Max Watts
Wednesday 2nd August – Canberra – The Basement
Thursday 3rd August – Wollongong – Uni Bar
Friday 4th August – Sydney – Oxford Arts Factory
Saturday 5th August – Newcastle – The Cambridge Hotel
Thursday 10th August – Brisbane – Crowbar
Friday 11th August – Noosa – Villa Noosa
Saturday 12th August – Gold Coast – Miami Tavern