Wallows singer-guitarist Braeden Lemasters admits his guitar hero father had a big influence on his taste in music. Lemasters’ dad, Dave Lemasters, played in the Youngstown area in the ’80s with the rock band Left End.
He often took his son to shows with him.
“He’s one of the best musicians I know,” Lemasters says in a recent phone interview when asked about his father. Wallows performs with Remo Drive at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8, at House of Blues
as it brings its tour in support of its full-length debut, Nothing Happens
, to town. “I remember going to see him play shows and hearing him play songs like ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ Those are the songs I grew up listening to. My dad showed me the Beatles when I was 7 or 8. It blew my mind. Even now, I know every single thing about the Beatles. I grew up with them and listened to Jimi Hendrix and the Beach Boys and the Stones. I never outgrew the Beatles. I still listen to them all the time, and I can’t wait for the Abbey Road
deluxe edition to come out.”
Lemasters and the other members of Wallows — singer-guitarist Dylan Minnette and drummer Cole Preston — met when they were kids. Lemasters and Minnette both landed in Los Angeles in pursuit of acting careers.
“I’ve always had this hammy quality and wanted to be an actor,” says Lemasters, adding that one of the first people he befriended when he moved to L.A. was Minnette, who’s originally from Indiana. “We met through our moms, who met through this online chat group for people moving to L.A. They met up, and Dylan and I watched South Park
together while they got to know each other. We met [drummer] Cole [Preston] through his music program we joined when we were about 12 or 13. “
Initially, Lemasters pursued acting, and he got some pretty choice roles too, appearing in Six Feet Under
and Men of a Certain Age
. He eventually turned his attention to music.
“At some point, I told [Minnette] I was playing guitar, and I wanted to write songs like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles,” he says. The two would first form the Feaver, and that band would morph into the Narwhals and now Wallows.
“Naming a band is the hardest thing in the world to me,” says Lemasters when asked about how the trio arrived at “wallows” as the group’s moniker. “You want something you won’t get sick of and something that actually makes sense and represents you. It’s really difficult if you overthink it, which we were. I wanted the band name to mean something. There’s a video game called Tony Hawk’s Underground
, which is my favorite video game of all time. I play it all the time. In the game, there’s a skate spot in Hawaii called Wallows. I grew up skateboarding as well. I was a huge fan of skating and skate culture. I love that game, so that’s where we came up with the name. It also means ‘wallowing,’ but it can mean a lot of other things.”
Two years ago, the band released its first single, the Strokes-like rocker “Pleaser,” and the song went viral.
“We were recording our first four singles without a band name, and we knew we were going to release them as soon as we finished recording them,” says Lemasters. “We tried to do them on a tape recorder at our friend’s house. That didn’t work out, so we went to a studio. We had the songs ready to go. We were all at Dylan’s house and the next day we were on the global chart. It felt like a new chapter because we announced Wallows that same day, and there was a whole new branding. That was awesome, but it was inspiring more than anything. It has been this cool natural progression since ‘Pleaser.’ It did blow away our expectations. We weren’t expecting anyone to listen or care, and they did, which is really cool.”
The band decided it would go to a proper studio to record an EP. At that point, it recruited John Congleton.
“He was one of our favorite producers before we even started working with him,” says Lemasters. “He’s done St. Vincent and Future Islands and David Byrne and all this crazy stuff. He was the first guy we contacted. He wanted to do it, so we immediately went with him. We recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, and we did the whole thing in eight days. We had all the songs ready to go. We demoed them beforehand, and John put his flair on it.”
When it came time to record Nothing Happens
, the group took a different approach. It only had a handful of songs written but came armed with “ideas” for the other tunes.
“It was like, ‘Here was a minute of this, but there are no lyrics,’” says Lemasters. “It was a more off-the-cuff process and more instinctual. It took two months to make and there were eight days off. I went out to Ohio and hung out with my family. When we came back, we had two more weeks to write the album.”
At that time, the band penned “Scrawny,” a punchy, infectious track that features lackadaisical spoken vocals, making it sound a bit like a Franz Ferdinand tune.
“We wrote ‘Scrawny’ when we got back from that break,” says Lemasters. “We were already making track lists for the song, and the song didn’t even exist. It was the end of the day and me and Cole were jamming. I was messing around on an acoustic guitar. There was one moment when played ‘da na da na da na na.’ Dylan [Minnette] just sang over it. Out of nowhere, he sang ‘scrawny motherfucker.’ Cole [Preston] came up with the whole three-chord section on his own. It came together completely out of the blue.”
“Are You Bored Yet?,” another album highlight, came together after Preston lost all his demos and ideas when a friend spilled wine on his computer. In the process of writing new songs, he first came up with “Are You Bored Yet.”
“We thought it was super cool,” says Lemasters when asked about the track. “We recorded it and mumbled lyrics. Dylan [Minnette] thought he heard himself say, ‘Are you bored yet?’ We were fascinated with [singer-songwriter] Clairo. We liked her vibe. We did a section where Dylan’s voice sounded like Clairo and thought it would be cool to reach out to her to see if she wanted to do it. She was down to do it. We had a different melody for her, but she didn’t know that’s what we meant. She made up her own melody on the spot there. We thought it fit better, and our original melody for her became the main keyboard line. I think the song works better the way it is.”
Still riding high from a sold-out tour of the UK and Europe, the band comes to town with some serious momentum behind it.
“On the last run of shows we did, people got very energetic and sang the words,” says Lemasters. “We work off the crowd a lot. It’s a very high-energy show, and we try to bring as much energy as we can.”
Wallows, Remo Drive, 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $25-$35, houseofblues.com.
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