While we were all locked down in isolation, baking banana bread and binge-watching Netflix, Alienist …
There are no words to describe the sheer might of N.A.T.I.O.N.S. the second full length album from Bad Wolves.
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Well, there are, and you can find them here. TLDR; this release is a rollercoaster of emotions–though not preachy, not emo, not condescending–and so well rounded out that capturing all these emotional narratives is sonically sensational. “We do our best to tell the story in a way everyone can make them their own,” says vocalist Tommy Vext.
As a listener, you may have been concerned that Bad Wolves would only ever be known for their wonderful rendition of The Cranberries classic Zombie (a single whose proceeds from sales or spins are still given to the family of deceased vocalist, Dolores O’Riordan), but this? This is Bad Wolves cementing their own dynamic. “With Zombie, it did come with some initial fear–‘Are we a one-hit wonder?’–at least with [single] Hear Me Now it went number one on Billboard and every radio platform. Same thing with Remember When. Now it’s looking like [current single] Killing Me Slowly is closing in on top ten. It’s done that with no tour support and no music video.
“For us, it was important on this record to continue to perfect our song writing ability, to kinda trim the fat and have a very mature vision of what we wanted to accomplish and get across. I hope that we did that.”
I grew up in a generation where I wasn’t given a safe space, I was not allowed to talk about my feelings, so I needed music to do that.
[ Tommy Vext ]
Vext’s musings on his craft are careful, calculated, but spoken with a great deal of passion. He talks about the uncertainties of the outcome as an artist so close to the material, and how it’s reaffirming to receive positive reflections despite the doubt. Bad Wolves are giving some of their most heartfelt performances in this album, that’s for sure. “Those are all emotional songs; they have very strong meanings. I think a lot of people can relate,” says Vext. “Getting feedback from our artist friends, everyone seems to have a different favourite song and that’s a good problem to have when it came to picking out what songs would be singles.
“It meant we were able to convey something that was original, something that was creative but had emotional length to it that you could attach yourself to and relate to, and I think that’s what music is supposed to do.”
There’s an image of Bad Wolves attached to this release–they look like hard arses. Indeed Vext in person is tattooed to the nines and looks like he could beat someone up just by looking at them if he wanted to (he’s a sweetheart in reality though, folks, and this remark sends the singer chuckling). And yet there’s a softer side, Bad Wolves are able to be produce music like this. There’s no compromise, however, to Bad Wolves’ personal integrity, nor any feeling of being exposed or vulnerable by writing such complexly emotional music. “I think it’s a big stereotype that men are alphas and should be detached from their feelings,” says Vext. “I grew up in a generation where I wasn’t given a safe space, I was not allowed to talk about my feelings, so I needed music to do that.”
“So even though I went through my fighting phases, my addiction and alcoholism phases, and anger phases and stuff like that, a lot of people don’t realise that anger is fear. A lot of fear comes from pain. The only way to transmit that pain, for me, has been creatively.”
“The band creates music that has all this array of human emotions–the dark, painful, angry violent side, and the understanding, compassionate, emotional side. The vulnerable side. To try and paint a picture of a human being, whether it’s man woman or child, without any of those components, would be an incomplete picture. It would be a puzzle missing pieces.”
Bad Wolves’ ambitions for N.A.T.I.O.N. are of course, many, but Vext can agree that the freedoms to think and feel a certain way granted by the discussions in these songs are perhaps far more prevalent than the band had intended. “I’m a very open book,” says Vext, “and that’s the by-product of necessity.
“I’ve been made very open in order to move forward in my recovery. Because the way I was living in light of some of those personal issues, it was killing me. I didn’t want to live like that.”
“If by being honest someone is subconsciously being given permission to be honest with themselves, then I’m always for that.”