THE WILD! – “Sometimes The Party Takes You Places You Never Thought You’d Be”

March 20, 2020, 4 years ago

By Aaron Small

feature hard rock the wild!

THE WILD! – “Sometimes The Party Takes You Places You Never Thought You’d Be”

Still Believe In Rock And Roll - that’s the title of the new album from The Wild!, due March 20th via eOne. Make no mistake, that’s a statement, a declaration, certainly not a question. In fact, it needs an exclamation mark, just like the band name. “When I wrote that song, it sort of started as a two-part thing,” reveals vocalist / guitarist Dylan Villain. “I wrote the song thinking of bands and musicians such as myself, and how things shift throughout your career; how you look at things, what your priorities are from the start, to the come-up, to where we’re at now. Things change, but a lot still stays the same. That’s where that started, getting those words out.” 

“But as the album developed, and I started to really listen back to it; sort of remove myself from the process as an artist and writer attached to the music, and just look at it from the standpoint of a producer – and a fan of rock music – I started to hear this common thread to the songs and the feeling of it. In a way, I felt like we really got it; we achieved what we set out to do, and that was to make a cohesive sounding rock record that was the best we could do for our third record. We really wanted to put a lot into the songwriting; I put a ton of pressure on myself, I wanted to bring it up a notch. Like you said, this is a statement to make with this record. It marries to the sound of it perfectly, and it’s something we feel really strongly about. That’s how the title came to be.”

The cover art for Still Believe In Rock And Roll is kind of cute. It’s reminiscent of tattoo flash art, yet it’s also got a smirk to it, indicating that you don’t really know what you’re in for. “Obviously I’ve been involved in the tattoo world for a number of years; I started getting tattooed when I was 14 or 15 years old,” admits Dylan. “It’s been something that’s always stuck with me, it’s part and parcel to my version of rock and roll. But that said, the traditional flash stuff is timeless to me. Anything classic like that has a really good aesthetic to it that stands the test of time. That’s sort of why that appeals to me. When I had the title in my head, I was thinking, how can I depict a cool image that ties into these words? For some reason, that kept popping into my head – the Little Hot Stuffs Devil – and he’s praying, looking up. There’s a lot of things going on in the cover art. He’s looking up at our logo, he’s looking up as if he’s in hell, thinking about everybody on earth – do they still believe in rock and roll?” 

“That’s always been the thing over time, that rock and roll is the Devil’s music. I’ve got a deep running theme with religion in my life, because I actually went to Catholic school for ten years growing up; that’ll do damage to just about anybody. The whole thing of rock music being the devil’s music has been put on me since I was a little boy. It’s such a laughable thing because it’s so fun and freeing. Anything that good, apparently is sending you to hell. That’s sort of the why behind it, but all in all it’s just this classic feel. There’s something really timeless about the aesthetic to it. You’ll look at it later in life and go, that’s still really cool. It’s not something that’s specific to the time we’re in right now; that sort of stuff just doesn’t interest me. I prefer to think of things with longevity. It’s the same thing with guitars. It’s the same thing with cars for me, I like classic things. Honestly, it’s the same with music in a way. There’s a reason we’re still listening to records like Exile On Main St. (by The Rolling Stones) and Highway To Hell (by AC/DC). We’re still listening to them, going, fuck, this is a great record! I don’t care where you are or who you are, if somebody pulls up in a ’59 Merc or a ‘60s Caddy, something like that, everyone will go, oh look at that car! Nobody’s doing that about a fucking 2010 Audi. Nobody gives a shit.”

A lot has happened for The Wild! between the 2017 release of Wild At Heart and the 2020 release of Still Believe In Rock And Roll. A ton of good times, amazing tours, great videos, and the band underwent a member change behind the drums. Reese Lightning is out, Crash Anderson is in. “There’s a lot of stuff I won’t get into, but what I will say is, it was just time for us to make a shift. Sometimes this business is really hard on people; we’re no strangers to any of it. It was the best decision for everybody involved to move forward in different ways. Crash is somebody we’ve known over ten years actually; he’s been a friend to all of us. He’s played in a lot of bands out here on the west coast. It was a really easy transition, but it was a big shift for him. He literally went from touring western Canada every now and again to his first full American run and full European run. He handled it well, he can tour very well; he stepped up to the plate. He’s really been a fantastic addition to the band because he’s a really, really hard worker. And he gets it. He’s a straight-ahead drummer, maybe not as flashy as some, but he’s there where you need him to be, and he’s a great time. The fans love him, fun-loving guy, likes to hang out and drink. It’s been a really positive addition for us, so we’re happy about it.”

Delving into Dylan’s lyrics, the final track on Still Believe In Rock And Roll, a song called “Gasoline”, almost sounds like a confessional. The line, “When I got to the city, I felt ten feet tall, ‘til I took too much in a bathroom stall” is undeniably harrowing. “Yeah, that song took me a long time to write. I was riding home on tour, I was sitting there awake, late at night, in the middle of Ontario – that space between Toronto and Thunder Bay where there’s not a lot going on, no cell service. It was one of those reflective moments where I was thinking back on some of the things I’ve been through in my life. I started writing that two years ago, almost three years ago actually. There was a lot of shit I wanted to get off my chest about how I was feeling at the time. You know those moments in life where you’re unhappy, but you’re okay. You’re reflecting on all the really negative shit you’ve been through. But in a way, it’s like you’re at peace with it. For some reason, the words came to me, and they started to spew out. Like you said, I basically wrote it as a confessional, because it wasn’t at the time, song lyrics. I just kept dumping out all these thoughts and feelings about things I hadn’t really thought about in a long time.” 

“I got home, and I was messing around with it, and I remembered being on the road when I was younger. We were playing in Sault Ste. Marie (in Ontario) and we were at this party that was attached to the venue in a motel. There were all these people partying, and these kids that lived in this motel. We were all young, but these guys were pretty fucking young. These guys were really fucking about it. They were selling drugs and doing drugs. We were over in our hotel doing our thing, we ended up outside having a cigarette and talking. I remember there being a kid who looked fucking young, and all these kids were shooting dope. I was not shooting dope at the time. It was like, I don’t understand. I can’t even believe that these kids… I know it exists, but to witness it with your own eyes was really something. I just wrote down, ‘I’ve seen a lot of things I never wanted to see, I watched a kid shoot dope in Sault Ste. Marie.’ I remember that breakdown reflection moment I had coming home from tour, and I started going through all my journals. I remember I played it for Mike (Fraser, producer). I’ll be honest with you, at the time, I was doing it for me. I was not doing it for The Wild! I was not even remotely thinking that it would ever be a Wild! Song. All Mike said was, ‘Wow.’ It was in that moment that I was like, okay, there’s something here. I didn’t know if it could be a Wild! song, and he said, ‘Let’s just leave it alone for right now.’ Again, this is over two years ago. I remember I played it for the guys, and they had a similar reaction like, ‘That’s so fucking good!’ I kept saying, I just don’t know if this could be a song for The Wild!”

“I continued to keep trying to write it, and it was really, really hard man. I knew I needed to do it the proper justice because of the subject matter. I really wanted to do it in a way that other people would feel it. I wanted the melody to be something that got into your head. And the words are just fucking soul-baring and honest. I went through all the things of how it happened to me, from being a young musician, to being a young criminal and getting in trouble with the law. You’re partying and you have no regard for your own life because you’re not thinking about that sort of thing. You’re living night by night, just trying to get by. I spent a lot of years living that way. In doing that, sometimes the party takes you places that you never thought you’d be. Be it in handcuffs, or on the floor of a bathroom, you find yourself in a less than favourable position because of the drugs you’ve been doing. And you know what man? Even talking about it right now, I just have this sort of resilience about it where it’s like, it didn’t kill me. I’m still here because I’ve still got so much more to do, so much more to talk about it. I’m thankful that I’m still here, but I’m also thankful for the experience. I just know it’s not my time because I’ve got so much more living to do.”

Speaking of being in handcuffs, law enforcement is another theme that runs throughout Still Believe In Rock And Roll. Cops are mentioned in both “Bad News” and “High Speed”. “It’s funny because I did spend a lot of my time as a youth, and even into my early adulthood, basically trying to avoid them at all costs. And I still don’t really trust the police. It’s a little bit different in Canada, but it’s really not in a way. I spent a lot of years living in Toronto, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Vancouver; I’ve seen police do some terrible things to people that didn’t really deserve it. But nowadays, we’re on the road and I know there are some police officers that come to our shows religiously. You find out that they’re cops, and I’ll admit, at first everybody is a little apprehensive. But there are a couple of die-hard fans that are police officers. I will say, the topic of avoiding law enforcement is definitely something I’m able to write about through experience, and that’s as honest as I can be with you about that.”

Going back to the making of the album, The Wild! utilized three different studios: Armoury in Vancouver, Arc House in Kelowna, and Studio D in Los Angeles. “That was basically done out of necessity,” recalls Dylan. “This record, man, we wrote… let me back it up to explain how it really happened. I’d written the record, went into the studio and tracked half of it at Armoury. We had to go on tour in The US and then Europe. When we got home, I had to finish some of the vocals on it, and a little bit of guitars. It was like fuck, am I going to sit in the studio in Vancouver for another three weeks? Or, can I do it in Kelowna where I’m at least home every night. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the studio in Vancouver wasn’t available. And it worked! Me and Mike (Fraser, producer) locked down the whole studio; we had the whole place to ourselves. We brought in all our own gear and it was cool.” 

“I will tell you this - the half of that record I’d recorded, you’ve never heard it. No one’s heard it because I scrapped all of it. I wrote this record a few times actually. Keep in mind, it’s been three years since Wild At Heart came out. There’s been a lot of incarnations of the record. There was so much riding on this record that the pressure of it really got to me. But I needed it to sound the way it does, and it took a while to get there. I needed it to be impactful. Then we went back into the studio to record ‘Bad News’, ‘Young Rebels’ and ‘Goin’ To Hell’. At that time, I knew what I was doing with this record. It was actually ‘Bad News’ that set the whole tone of the record in my mind. There were so many other songs before that one, that people will maybe never hear. But there was something about that song… I found that lane as a writer stylistically, and I stayed in it. That’s how the sound and the vibe, the theme of the record came to be. Studio D thing in Los Angeles, on ‘Gasoline’ there’s some wonderful backup singers Ijeoma Njaka and Kandace Lindsey, who I got hip to from the Social Distortion camp. Both those women sang on Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll – one of my favourite Social D records. They also toured with Social D quite heavily on that album cycle. I just loved their voices! I saw them on that tour. I just hit them up and said, I want you on my record. They’re out in Los Angeles, so that’s where those vocals got tracked.”

(Photos by Joelsview Photography)

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