In Conversation With Wallows

There’s more to Wallows than meets the eye. The Los Angeles based indie rock band fronted by Dylan Minnette, also known for his role as Clay Jensen in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, has been going from strength to strength in recent years. Childhood friends, Braeden Lemasters, Cole Preston and Dylan Minnette started their journey in a child musical group named ‘Join The Band’ before eventually becoming Wallows in 2017. Catapulting into fame with the viral hit ‘Pleaser’ featured in the Spotify global viral 50 chart, the talented trio quickly gained notoriety, racking up millions of hits with their LP ‘Nothing Happens’, charting on the Billboard top ten. From performing at Coachella on The Late Night Show With James Corden, there seems to be no limit to their vast reach.

We had the pleasure of chatting with the boys before a shoot while they were over supporting Vampire Weekend at Alexandra Palace late last year. Having a honest and open chat with the band on everything from the future of music to their relationship with social media and even the TikTok craze with Dylan confessing a disinterest – “There’s these beautiful looking boys and girls rolling their eyes back in their heads and pretending to strangle themselves, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen- I don’t get it. We were a part of Vine when we were younger and that was like a high school thing and we were so into it.” 

Read on to go into the minds of Braeden, Cole and Dylan as they discuss thoughts about life and music making.

What got you guys into music?

Cole: I hated playing sports, I wanted to play drums and my parents were like “oh that’s cool”.

Dylan: I was not good at sports, so my last resort was music. 

Braeden: I mean I was pretty good at sports; I played guitar pretty young after I stopped skateboarding. I was skateboarding a lot, then I stopped skateboarding and played guitar a lot more. Literally 1 or 2 years after, I met these guys and we formed the band and it’s just weird how that leads, it’s like mini moments that lead to bigger moments. 

Did music play a big part in your life growing up- we know a couple of you did acting- what was first for you?

Dylan: Acting was naturally a big part of mine and Braeden’s life growing up because we’ve done it for a long time and obviously that was a big part of it but I’ve doing that since I was 8.

Braeden: same here that’s how we met.

Dylan: Yeah that’s how we met originally but I mean music has equally has been a huge role in my life the whole time, Braden and I feel like we found success in acting pretty early on, it became a job very young. But music was always still like a dream growing up and it was a thing I wanted to do and you wanted to do so it’s sort of now we are finding the sort of first in glimpse of success in music and it’s like “woah, this is what I dreamed about when I was like 11” like when I discovered the stokes or something, that’s the kind of stuff we are doing now and even when I was 4 years old, I was singing the words to abbey road because my dad introduced me to all that music when I was so young- music has always been an inspiration and huge huge part of my life.

Is there anyone you guys find musically inspiring, apart from those people you mentioned earlier?

Dylan: Our musical inspirations are never ending at this point.

Braeden: I feel like when we were kids, I remember it was like Kings Of Leon, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys- like those were the very important like formative of groups and now it’s just all over the place. Like I feel we’re both the biggest frank Oceaners that I know. 

Dylan: I’ve always been, I love his work. I buy limited edition vinyls of his music, I listen to the blonded app music episodes now I’m just waiting for his new album. I could go on about this.

How was the recording process for your album and were there any challenging moments in there?

Braeden: I think the main challenge was lyrically; we had a lot of songs that were written but then there would be a lot of lyrics that weren’t finished which is the most particular, because you have to put words together and then sounds- so this is an interesting thing. There would be a lot of times where we’d record the whole you know backbone of the song and we’d have to come up with the brain you know- so we’d have the structure the skeleton, but we’d need the brain, I feel like the heart’s the music and brain’s the words. We’d be in the backyard or in a restaurant and come up with words that we’d put together and hope it sounds good because you want them to be honest.

You’ve been in the industry for a while now, how would you say it’s evolved since the first time you’ve made music to how it is now?

Cole: It’s a lot different to how it was when we were kids, I feel like when we were kids, like I was buying CDs and I would listen to them in my car because I didn’t have an aux cord, so I still bought physical albums but now I don’t buy that stuff anymore I just use my phone, which is so weird because I feel like it’s become very like less important than it was, I can like listen to one song from a band and be like “oh cool” and then have playlists of stuff. It’s becoming much quicker to digest or something. 

Braeden: I feel like streaming is more convenient, which I think is great and I think enables artists and it’s cool and anyone can make music and put it up but also it makes me care less about who I’m listening to. Then I find myself listening to stuff that I know. 

Dylan: It’s so much easier to become bored with something, because it was all about buying CDs and being committed to an album and you could appreciate it more but now you can be three songs into an album and just click to other songs and albums. It’s like you have to find ways to keep people’s attention and keep them entertained but then you don’t just want to conform to streaming needs. 

Cole: I always find myself if I’m listening to something new I’d skim forward 30 secs, I’m like where is this gonna go? 

Dylan: And then I’d listen to a whole song later and be like why did I skim through the first time, because I mean it’s so easy whereas if I had just digested this then I would of just appreciated it a lot more.

Cole: Yeah like with CDs you could do that unless you would push the fast forward button, I mean it’s really difficult and unwieldy.

Braeden: Yeah, I mean I still listen to full albums but not as much because now I just go on my apple siri thing and be like “play this or play that.” It’s like everyone has the attention span of a squirrel because of Instagram, you’re just always thumbing through and I just feel like I don’t think it’s bad but if there are albums that can still keep your attention or at least for whenever you wanna listen to them but then the idea that you can listen to any song you want at anytime I think is really cool.  Maybe that will just make people innovate quicker and faster, everyone’s just kinda running around. I feel like everyone’s got so much coffee in their system all the time, metaphorically. See that was an interesting question you asked and I feel like maybe radio will go away too because I don’t know anyone who listens to the radio. I can envision Spotify or Apple taking over radio somehow, so there is gonna be a way that people can turn on their music and have songs playing but it’s gonna be through something other than just like what it is now. Because it just seems so dated to me, it’s gonna be a cassette or something. I’m excited to see how it’s gonna evolve. I always want to be with it, we were all talking about that earlier, and not be one of those dads that are like “that music sucks!”

Dylan: There is an appreciation for vinyl now though, when we put out our album I was so excited to get the vinyl, I used to see young kids at concerts holding the vinyl because they think it’s cool. I feel like that’ll always still be exciting and still will be considered a cool trendy thing. 

Sometimes self-doubt can creep up at the worst times possible, what would you say you do to combat those negative thoughts and what do you do to overcome it?

Braeden: Let’s say musically for example if you have doubts about something you’ve written recently or writing I feel like how I would get over that is by not listening to it for a long time. So if you have a song that you think is really good, and you continuously keep listening to it, you begin to dislike it. And by not listening to it for a long time you like it again. I feel like you can apply that to life, and it means don’t overthink anything and just let everything go because it doesn’t really matter at the end. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, just let things got and it’ll get better. If you’re feeling bad about something just direct your attention to something else- it’s easier said than done. If you feel bummed about something my advice would be going for a walk or meditate or listen to a podcast about something completely different. And just rewire your brain for a second to get over that problem.

What would you say makes you strive for greatness?

Braeden: I think it’s the idea that greatness exists, I mean what makes me strive for greatness is when I put on something great, it’s like when I listen to something great, it’s like “woah I’m going to strive for this…” and I feel like it’s something that’s inside of you, you don’t really know why. Like one of my favourite River Phoenix quotes I always say is someone asked him why he thinks he’s good at acting and he said “I can’t really explain why I understand what I understand, I just do. And to try and figure it out would kind of ruin it. I want to leave it like a mine of gold, without ever mining it and selling it; I don’t want to sell it off. I don’t want to talk about, I don’t want to understand it in a way that will exploit the pureness, so I just leave it. I don’t understand it but I believe it.” So that’s what I feel like striving for greatness is, it’s like if you know why you’re striving for something greater you know why you’re good at something, it just ruins the magic behind it. So I don’t know why, but I think it’s just because it exists and you’re striving, you’re always wanting to improve yourself in any way shape or form – it doesn’t have to be music just anything. You just want to be better which is such an interesting thing and that’s what makes the world go round.

Dylan: Weirdly for me without being cheesy or anything but honestly it’s true. I’m in a relationship and I’m so inspired. I’m always like “what would the person I care about the most, like what would they find to be cool or great?”, if you have someone that inspires you so much it just wants you to be great in their eyes too. Like I want to be so good at what I do, so people around me that I care about can be impressed by. Close relationships are what make me strive for greatness.

Cole: It’s fun to visit something you haven’t fully achieved, like for me I’ve never been like “ohh I did it, I was great!” I always play with my cat with a laser pointer, and the cat will never catch the laser, the cat’s always going to try and figure out ways to try and get the laser, so it’s like if greatness is the red dot you’re never gonna get to it but you’ll always work towards it. It’s like what’s next?

What’s next for Wallows?

Braeden: We’re bringing out more music in 2020, more singles, more songs and trying to keep chasing that laser pointer. 

Cole: We’re continuing to progress, I’m way more excited about what we are going to do than what we’ve done. And that’s partially because I’m just, I think all of us are just really hard on ourselves, so we put out the record and we were like god I hate this, well not hate but it’s like we wanna play new things and not the same things over and over.

Dylan: Well I honestly just cannot wait to have new songs to play, not that it’s boring to play the old ones, we just can’t wait to have new songs to replace some of the ones we constantly play. I just want to feel simulated by new songs, that’s what I’m looking too, for sure.

Follow Wallows on Instagram

Interviewer: Rojan Said

Photographer: Joe Hart

Stylist: Samuel John Borg

Photographer’s Assistant: Jack Keyon

On-shoot Assistant: Rachel Lock