To say that 2014 was a big year for the Wolfe Brothers would be understating the case: they toured themselves, they toured with Lee Kernaghan, they wrote, recorded and released an album … and it’s slightly exhausting even contemplating all of that. They’ve decided they don’t need a rest, though, and they’re kicking off 2015 by touring with Angry Anderson. The whole thing came about by chance, as Tom Wolfe explained when I interviewed him late last year about that and other things.
I’m going to start off by asking you to describe 2014 for the Wolfe Brothers in one word.
In one word … that’s a great question, can I just say that. That’s a really good question, 2014 for the Wolfe Brothers in one word. In one word, that’s hard.
[Laughs] I know, that’s why I’ve asked you.
Can I come back to that one?
You can. You can let that marinate in your brain while I ask you other questions.
’Cause I was going to say something like fantastic – which it has been – but I think I can come up with something better than that. So just give me a minute and I’ll come back to that one if that’s okay.
All right. That’s absolutely fine. So maybe what will help you answer that is if I ask you how the album’s been received?
The album’s been received, look, better than we’d hoped. The last couple of years on the road have made us better musos, it’s made us better songwriters and all of that sort of stuff. So I think all of that kind of combined is, really – it’s the best stuff we’ve done yet. The other singles are going great, we’re getting lots of radio play and it was even crossed over in commercial markets, which is really exciting for us and for the genre in general really. So that’s really cool and it’s just been really good and I’m really looking forward to touring next year.
And of course sometimes when you’re crossing over into commercial markets if you come from the country music genre, some people within country don’t like that. If I think of Keith Urban, there’s the whole, ‘Oh well he’s no longer country music’ but I think in Australia that’s kind of okay. People understand you can be played on Triple M and still be country music.
Look, it’s a line, it’s a blurred line. It’s not something we set out to do, it’s not something you sit around at home and go, ‘We got to do this’. The music we make is the music we make – it’s us, it’s not contrived, it’s just who we are and if people dig it and they want to play it and it works in that format, fantastic.
Certainly, having spoken to you and Brodie [Rainbird, guitarist] in the past, it’s clear that your development into the country genre was a completely organic thing to do. It wasn’t like you set out to say, ‘Oh, we want to have a career in country.’ Country rock was the music you were drawn to and that’s naturally where you landed. So it hasn’t been a cynical process, if you know what I mean.
No. It’s just sort of come about as it is and what we do is us and I’m really proud of that. We don’t sit at home and say, ‘This country rock thing, it’s going to be the next big thing, we need to write songs like this. ‘ This is the music we make and I think that’s why it’s been going really well for us and we’ve taken a lot of leaps in the last few years and really got up a lot of runs, honestly, because we’ve been true to ourselves and I think people see that and they relate to it, and if you’re an artist, as soon as you stop being true to yourself I think you lose them, if you know what I’m saying – like it’s not real, it’s contrived, people see through that.
In that sense, I guess as an observer of you as a band I kind of wonder: you get this momentum going and it’s this really strong momentum, this sense of your music evolving but also maintaining where you come from and also your live presence. I kind of think the trajectory’s heading up and up and up but also you guys have to work really hard to sustain that. So how are you feeling at the end of 2014? Are you tired?
Yeah, we are. In all honesty we are tired but a good tired – we’re happy tired, but it’s a lot of work and basically what you said, you’re really working hard and with working hard, you just go out and work it hard again. It’s not the type of job you really get days off, you’re always doing songwriting or you’re working on the computer – there’s always stuff to do, but as you said, I think it’s all going in the right direction. It’s going up and up, trajectory’s right. So that’s fantastic and at the end of the day we’re loving doing it and people are enjoying it. So that’s the main thing.
A lot of people in country music would take January off until they’re playing in Tamworth. But no, no, the Wolfe Brothers start their tour on the 9th of January.
Yeah. We’ve got a Tassie show on the 3rdtoo. So there’s no point, you’ve just got to work it. You got to get out there and play live, and I think for us that’s such a big part of what we do and where we win a lot of people over when we play live because people who might be on the fence with us and go ‘I don’t know about these guys, they’re country rock’. As soon as they see it live, ‘Okay, we get it, okay, that’s right, we fully get it.’ So that’s cool and the music industry’s a funny industry. It’s changed, it’s always changing, but if you can go out and you can deliver a solid live show night after night then you will win fans. You’ll definitely win fans and they’ll come back, they’ll definitely come back.
I was won over that way and that was by seeing you play three songs on Peel Street in 2014, because I really liked your music but I guess I wasn’t sure of the difference of the Wolfe Brothers until I saw you play and then I thought, These guys have got something and it’s that indefinable something. There was some kind of alchemy going on there between the four of you that just made so much sense.
Absolutely and I have always said – and I think it’s one of the things that makes us stand apart – because one, we’re a band. We’re not an artist with a heap of session musos behind us or we’re not a duo or a vocal group or something with a few guys behind us. We’re a band, we’re four people and we love bands, and you think of all the greatest bands of all times, they mightn’t be the best players, they mightn’t be the best looking or all that sort of stuff but when the four of them get together, something happens. We’ve done this since high school and I think it’s only in the last probably couple of years we’ve really found our sort of niche and that chemistry and it’s just natural. We know how to read each other, I know exactly what Casey’s going to play on the drums and Casey always says to me, he goes, ‘I know exactly when Tom’s going to do my drum fiddles on the base.’ So we kind of know how each other’s going to operate and it just makes it fun. It can go anywhere and the show can go anywhere during the night, it’s great.
That’s a good rhythm section, if you’ve got that communication, that’s the fundament of great band, the rhythm section.
Oh, it is. Absolutely and I mean like I’ve played drums with Casey since primary school and I think that’s part of it. I kind of know exactly where he’s going to put the stand and exactly that. I just know his whole style and his whole groove.
Well, speaking of style and groove, you’re introducing a new groove to the band by having Angry Anderson on board for the tour, but I’d like to ask you about that very first impromptu performance which apparently was at a charity event earlier in 2014. I was wondering if it happened sort of on the night that you were given the opportunity to play with Angry.
So what happened it was a charity event and we were playing with Lee [Kernaghan], who’s obviously done a lot, then Tania [Kernaghan] got involved and [we were going to play with her]. Then Angry got involved and it’s like, well, don’t bring another band, we’ll just play and at first he was a little bit like, ‘Oh okay, who are these country guys, are they going to be able to do “Bad Boy for Love” justice?’ kind of thing. He didn’t say that but there was a little sense of [him being] not standoffish but we walked backstage and he said, ‘So you know what you’re doing, you know the songs?’ We said, ‘We got this.’ He was, like, ‘Right, okay. We won’t rehearse then.’ And he walks out and he’s such a cool guy. I mean he’s the only guy in Australia who can do a corporate event when they’re having entrées at a black and white dinner, walk out with a bottle in his hand, screams ‘Bad Boys for Love’ at them and then get a standing ovation.
And he did and it was so loud. It was pure Aussie rock ’n’ roll and he’s just screaming at them and they loved it, and he’s got a big heart and he said on stage that night after the first song he’s like, ‘We’ve got to tour this.’ Our manager was in the audience, he’s going, ‘We’re touring this, Steve, we’re touring this.’ And yeah, we talked about it for a long time, we were so busy we haven’t had the chance, but now’s the chance. Now’s the opportunity and we’re going to. Yeah, we can’t wait. We really can’t wait.
I’ll come back to that tour because I just want to detour on the idea that you guys – and I’ve noted this before about you play with Lee and you also play your own set – I can’t think of another band that’s got its own career going and its own tour going but also playing with another performer in their field and also saying, ‘Oh yeah, Tania, that’s fine, we can do those songs’. That’s an incredible workload but also it’s an incredible adaptability of the band.
It is. We really do try to be the best players we can and sitting in with Angry for us came a lot more naturally then say sitting in with Tania. That’s something we really had to work at because we grew up listening to stuff from Angry and we were a cover band before any of this ever happened. So you’d be out playing all that sort of stuff like that. So sitting there with someone like Angry and rock guys is probably a lot easier than for us than say what it is to sit in with someone like Tania, but it was cool, it was fine. It was good fun.
I think there’s one more Kernaghan sibling you might have to collect before you’ve got the set.
Well, it’s funny: we’ve done songwriting with Fiona. So there you go, songwrite with Fiona, we’ve played with Tania and obviously play with Lee. So there you go. All we’ve got to do is do something with Ray, Lee’s dad, we’ve got him sussed, I think.
One day it’ll be Lee supporting you guys, but maybe he’d get upset if I said that!
Lee’s such a good man, he would love that, I think. He’s such a big supporter, that’s the thing, we’re so lucky to work with him because he is so in our corner and with anything like that, he just loves it, really loves us, it’s great.
Oh yeah, but also he’s no fool. He’d be realising he’s got a great band and you don’t muck with that if that’s what you got.
Look I will say it’s been fun – like I think he really enjoys the fact that we’re a band behind him, like he’s had a lot of session guys come in and out and I think when we come on, we talked about the chemistry that we have, the four of us have. So when we’re playing with him, we have that also taking a step back. I think he really, really loves it because it’s just a great energy. It’s a different energy, I think, than probably what he’s ever had on stage and he really loves it. The tours he’s done has been so big, it’s been one of the biggest tours he’s done.
It’s been huge. So long lasting.
Purely because of the fact we’ve all had so much fun. We’ve finished it and we thought, well, let’s do a bit more and that’s how it’s come about. It’s been great, that’s been a lot of fun.
So for your fans coming to your shows – and probably there’ll be a lot of them at Blazes – what can they expect from the Angry Anderson combination? Is there going to be a set with Angry, is he going to have the odd song, how’s it going to work?
Honestly, it’s still in planning stages. I will say it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be different, I think it’ll be probably more of a spot, he’ll come out and do a certain spot in the show and then come back and do an encore or something with us, I don’t know, but we’re working on songs, we’re working on what we’re going to do and I won’t say but Angry suggested some really cool songs that you wouldn’t expect Angry Anderson to suggest, if that makes sense. Some things he’s suggest, we’ve gone, okay, you want to do that, right, okay, yep, let’s do that. That’s cool, that’s great. Really excited.
This could be your last year at Blazes because you’ll probably have to graduate to the TRECC soon.
Well, we hope so. I love your mindset and the way you think. So let’s hope it keeps going that way.
You see it often in any kind of artistic endeavour, which is if you’ve got the talent and the application and you’re prepared to keep working at it – and consistency is key, so if you’re prepared to consistently work at what you’re doing, there tends to be an inevitable payoff and you guys you’ve got the talent, you can apply yourselves but for years now you’ve just been consistently working at it, and I can’t imagine the situation where it’s just not going to keep growing and growing.
And that’s it, I really hope so and it’s funny we’re talking just how long we’ve put into it and how many years we’ve been doing it and how much work, and it’s exactly what it’s all about. I think the time and the effort and it should eventually pay off all going well. It’s so many factors, it’s like you’ve got to have the songs, you’ve got to have the live show, you’ve got to have the people around you, you’ve got to have the right team and I think you’ve also got to have a little bit of luck in there. They all line up and it’s all good, you know. So we’re working on it.
You definitely are working on it. So have you noticed your audience changing at all, age and demographic sort of men, women, that sort of thing; has it changed or has it stayed consistent?
It’s very consistent. We do notice, though – and this is what I’m looking forward to with the Angry shows as well – we get a lot of people come and say, ‘I’ve never listened to country or anything like you guys before but that’s really good, that’s really fun, you guys are really good, like we get a lot of that’, and I’m thinking it comes back to that old mindset people think country music’s hay bales and bloody guys jumping around in overalls. It’s not, and I think if people give it a bit of a chance, they realise it’s actually something really cool because it is, it’s a great genre and you listen to some of the quality of Australian stuff I personally think over the last couple of years has gone in leaps and bounds.
Oh, it’s been extraordinary. The output has just been amazing.
Yeah, and the quality’s getting a lot better, the songs are getting better because we’re seeing things on CMC and the artists think, well, that’s what we’ve got to compete with now. So I think that’s really good and really exciting and my personal belief is I think something’s going to hit pretty hard in the next couple of years. Something will hit in the country scene that will crossover to all genres and something will happen. That’s my belief. I think it’s about time and I think it definitely will happen and it will help the whole genre.
If I was to be a betting woman, Tom, I’d say it’s you guys that are going to crossover.
I like your thinking. Let’s keep putting that out to the universe and see what comes back [laughs].
For you guys, looking to 2015, I can only imagine what you’ve got planned tour wise – but then I wouldn’t mind betting you’re also planning a new album.
I remember we were in the studio recording the second one and it was done, we finished it, we said, ‘Oh well, we’d better start writing for the third one’, and in this day and age with the amount of information that’s coming at people, there’s so much more stuff you’ve got to compete with, you can’t muck about. You can’t have a break really these days, you can’t say, ‘I’m going to have a few months off to do this.’ You’ve got to get the next album out, the next singles out, keep pushing it. So that’s our mindset and while we’re young and enjoying it, loving it, we’ll keep on going and keep on pushing on. If you look at any act that’s done really well, anyway that’s where their head space is at too.
I also quite like the idea that you guys go back to Tasmania when you can. So it’s that idea of having that, touching base with home but also having a place that’s quite different to being on the mainland touring. It’s a touchstone for you.
Seriously, I love touring, that’s my biggest kick out of the whole thing and playing live, but to come home – like, we’ve had a couple of weeks off now, we’ve only got two shows next month. Next year’s going to be so crazy and I’ve just been doing so many normal things – I’ve been going out walking the dog and building a dog kennel and I’ve been working on my house and building a veranda and cleaning gutters and doing such normal things and I just really, really enjoy it, like it’s just such a nice change from it all because I know we’re not going to be home in January and every weekend’s gone for the next few months after that. So yeah, it’s nice to sit at home and do that sort of stuff.
In conclusion I’ll circle back to my opening question. I don’t know if your brain’s come up with your one word to describe. You can use more than one if you need.
I think ‘amazing’ is one but I kind of want to use the word ‘extreme’ – but I don’t want people to take it the wrong way. Because it’s been extreme in an amazing way. We’ve just done some incredible things. The album’s just really kicking some goals for us. The singles are really doing great, as I said, getting some really, really great radio play. So it’s been – I probably should say it’s been very big, it’s been a big year.
Yeah. Good, I like that. Big’s good [laughs].
Let’s go with big. I kind of answered it as I was talking, there you go.
Friday 9th January 2015
Club Old Bar, OLD BAR NSW
(02) 6552 2094 |www.cluboldbar.com.au
Saturday 10th January 2015
Club Coffs, COFFS HARBOUR NSW
(02) 66521477 | www.offbeat.oztix.com.au
Sunday 11th January 2015
Bangalow Bowling Club, BANGALOW NSW
(02) 6687 2741 | www.bangalowbowlo.com.au
Friday 16th January 2015
The Entrance Leagues Club, THE ENTRANCE NSW
1300 762 545 | www.oztix.com.au
Saturday 17th January 2015
Mona Vale Hotel, MONA VALE NSW
1300 762 545 | www.oztix.com.au
Sunday 18th January 2015
Bulli Heritage Hotel, BULLI NSW
(02) 4284 5885 | www.heritagehotel.com.au
Wednesday 21st January 2015
Blazes, Wests Leagues Club, TAMWORTH NSW
(02) 6765 7588 | www.wtlc.com.au
Thursday 22nd January 2015
Inverell RSM Club, INVERELL NSW
(02) 6722 3066 | www.inverellrsm.com.au