Getting someone… anyone… to notice you is the prime concern of most bands at the start of their musical careers.
Sadly for most, the reality is that no-one ever will. For some, hard work and persistence and a bit of luck will pay off.
But in the case of US band Wallows, massive interest is a given when your lead singer is in one of the most popular shows on Netflix.
Oh, and your guitarist played comedian Ray Romano’s son in a comedy-drama for two series.
Luckily, the Californian three-piece, fronted by actor Dylan Minnette, the star of 13 Reasons Why, have enough perky indie pop songs under their belt to warrant the extra level of attention they may find themselves dealing with.
Their debut album Nothing Happens was released in March, and the band have already booked a massive support slot with their musical heroes Vampire Weekend when they play at Alexandra Palace in London later this year.
“They’re one of our favourite bands of all time,” says drummer Cole Preston. “We did two shows just outside of Los Angeles last year, and those were underplays for them in like thousand capacity venues. But then to do these London shows, like proper, actual headline Vampire Weekend shows… it’s going to be insane.”
The band have been together since the age of 11, young for most bands. They began life as a duo until a rather fortuitous meeting at an event in California, literally called Join the Band.
“They both met before I entered the picture,” explains Preston. “They were both from the Midwest and moving out to LA to do acting and their moms met on an online ‘mom-moving-to-LA’ chat forum.
“They bonded over music in South Park and random things that nine-year-olds shouldn’t necessarily bond over. And a couple years later, they did this music programme in LA called Join the Band. And then I was assigned as the drummer to the group.
“It was a weird luck of the draw.”
Braeden Lemasters appeared with Romano in TV show Men of a Certain Age, and along with Minnette is something of a rising star in Hollywood. He says their similar backgrounds and musical diets, formed by early introductions to The Beatles, helped them become friends – even though he admits taking advantage of Minnette’s apparently trusting nature.
“I didn’t start playing like music until I was 11,” he says. “When I was nine, my dad played me The Beatles for the first time. And that changed my perception on reality.
“When I met Dylan, his dad had a very similar story of playing in bands and then we started writing songs together. And I always used to trick him that I wrote Led Zeppelin songs.”
Minnette – whose throat bug has rendered him largely speechless, makes a rare interjection: “The big one was Tangerine. He’s like, ‘Dude, let’s both write a song called Tangerine and see which one’s better.’ And I’m over there writing my own song called Tangerine. And then he’s playing Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine, which was like, perfectly written.”
Lemasters adds: “I used to ask my friends, ‘What song’s better? I’ve written a couple’. And I would sing them two Beatles songs. I stopped doing that when I was 18.”
It’s been two years since Wallows release their Strokes-inspired lo-fi debut single Pleaser, and they recently played their first set of UK headline shows. Already tracks like the hugely infectious Scrawny and Are You Bored Yet? have become fan favourites.
“That’s the phone song,” says Minnette. “People sing that really well. Which is cool.”
Which brings up an interesting point. The issue of phones at gigs is a thorny one, with some artists like Jack White banning them from his shows while other artists regularly urge fans to light them up at specific times in their sets.
“I see both sides of it. I’ve been guilty of pulling out my phone at shows,” admits Minnette. “It doesn’t bother me yet. I could see how it could get annoying. But right now I’m just sort of excited about everything. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a sign that people really like this song’. I’m sure in 10 years. I’ll be like, ‘Really?’”
With acting careers to consider, for Minnette and Lemasters the challenge is balancing the music with their day job.
“At the moment, Dylan has a crazy schedule,” says the guitarist. “But we have such professional management on both ends that it’s very easy to map out things.
“I feel like music is just something that we’re always just doing anyway. We always have guitars around, we’re always writing, even when Dylan’s gone. Or if I’m gone, we always make it happen. I feel like music is a huge priority, like the main priority in a lot of regards, that it’s very easy to balance them.”
Minnette says of his bosses at Netflix: “They’re being very supportive of it. As supportive as they possibly be. It’s a lot of respect and love all around, I think, which is good. It’s all very healthy right now. I definitely want to focus on this as much as possible.”
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