There’s just a week to go until alternative/indie rock trio Wallows will release their debut album Nothing Happens on Atlantic Records. Though this is their first full-length release, vocalist/guitarist Dylan Minnette, vocalist/guitarist Braeden Lemasters, and drummer Cole Preston have been playing together for years, and Lemasters states that making an album “has always been the end goal.” Previously playing music under different band names, they settled on the name Wallows in the spring of 2017 when they released the single “Pleaser,” which quickly picked up steam, leading to sold-out shows before they’d released an EP (Spring was released on Atlantic Records in April of 2018). Preston is clear that they’ve taken the band seriously from the beginning, noting that “it just happens that when we decided to change the name to Wallows and do all this stuff, that’s when it became serious externally. But we’ve always done it the same way that we’ve done since we were twelve, thirteen.”
Part of the lead-up to Nothing Happens was a stop in New York in February, where they performed “Are You Bored Yet?” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It was their second time on late-night TV (they’d previously played on The Late Late Show with James Corden), and being on the show and being on the stage was “surreal.” Preston grins as he recalls past Fallon performances where he holds the band’s album – “then he was just holding our album, and it’s like, ‘oh my god, there it is.’” Minnette was confident in rehearsal, but says that hearing Fallon introduce them as they took the stage was nerve-wracking: “It’s funny how in rehearsal, it feels so good, it feels like it sounds so good, like ‘Damn, this is gonna be awesome, I’m not even worried,’ and then you get on stage and right as he starts introducing you, I just started shaking, I was so nervous – I never really get nervous, but I was really nervous before that.” Playing in front of a crowd feels easier, but “when it’s just cameras in front of you, you’re like, ‘there’s like two million people watching this.’”
Discussing their background, Lemasters remarks that he’s glad the band chose to release a handful of singles and the Spring EP first; went with this natural progression and built up anticipation for Nothing Happens rather than dropping an album right away. When it came time to create a full-length, the band were mindful of the flow of the record, wanting to make it “as cohesive as possible.” Minnette adds that they’ve always wanted to be “an ‘album band,’” sharing that, “We want to put a lot of work into each project being its own thing and making sure it’s cohesive. We’re very focused on making sure the records make sense as a whole, so it’s exciting for us to finally be able to do that for the first time. And I feel like we did that on this – I feel like we made an ‘album.’”
Wallows often pull inspiration from movies, soundtracks, or paintings – sometimes, it’ll be the name of a painting that gets the gears moving. While visiting the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Minnette was drawn to a painting called Inverted Narcissist (Camille Henrot, 2018), and decided to research the phrase. The phrase “inverted narcissist” found itself included on an early version of “Ground”, on the Spring EP (“inverted narcissist, Paris is on my list”); Minnette shares that “it didn’t really make sense as a whole, but it’s just a bunch of random images” – he decided the metaphor was too weird, and cut it (“Ground” now begins, “Inverted narcissist / Check something off my list”).
The phrase “inverted narcissist” stuck in their minds, and it made it into another song, though indirectly. Wallows were drawn to a Jimmy Fallon segment where he’ll translate an artist’s lyrics to Mongolian and then back to English, and the artist will have to sing the translated lyrics. When they translated “inverted narcissist” to Mongolian and back to English, it came out as “Treacherous Doctor,” inspiring them to write the song of the same name.
Nothing Happens opens with “Only Friend,” which introduces themes of loss of innocence, figuring out who you are and how to say what you feel, and finding your place in the world. It all comes together again in the closing track, “Do Not Wait,” an outro of sorts that Lemasters says is their favorite song on the record. Making “Do Not Wait” began with Preston playing some chords on acoustic guitar; Lemasters then added the riff on the guitar that’s now the melody of the chorus; Minnette and Lemasters then wrote the solo bit that happens right as the song kicks in. It’s not entirely new, however: the band have on occasion included that solo as a section in an acoustic set, and they were happy to finally put it in a song.
Lyrically, Minnette envisioned “Do Not Wait” as summing up what the album is about. “Do not wait / I’ll be there,” he repeats in the chorus; in the bridge, he lists the various trials and tribulations young adults can go through. It’s a coming-of-age song; a reminder that we all go through things that might feel overwhelming, and sometimes those circumstances repeat, but ultimately, we’ll all get through it. Minnette explains, “I wanted it to be the song that’s like, no matter what happens in your life, no matter what feels like the biggest deal in the world at some point in your life, really nothing really happened, and there’s so much life ahead of you, and everything’s okay.”
“Do Not Wait” opens with what sounds like a bass line, but was actually recorded by Minnette on a JUNO keyboard. Lemasters then went in and played some percussion parts – “he’s in there hitting stuff and banging, and we’re laughing in the other room,” Minnette recalls – then producer John Congleton took the sounds and played them backward. The resulting effect is “almost like a suction cup, just sucking you closer – and then it releases you.” “Do Not Wait” fades out on the same riff that fades in at the beginning of “Only Friend,” played at a different tempo; Preston explains that, “If you were able to play the record on repeat, it’s as if it never stops. It’s like a loop, really.” The loop effect also signifies what the album is about – “that you’ll go back through those thoughts; everything’s a cycle.”
Lemasters describes Congleton as the band’s “funky uncle… The mind that he has is so insane in the best way. He recognizes things that he loves and things that he doesn’t like and gives us infamous thumbs downs if he doesn’t like something.” On Spring and Nothing Happens, Congleton pushed the band to be “as creative as possible.” “We’ve known each other for a long time, so we all trust each other, but adding a new person into the mix can be kind of weird,” Preston acknowledges but says that building trust with the producer came quickly. They were on the same page from the start: before recording for Nothing Happens began, Congleton emailed the band to say that he wanted to ensure that the album “blew every song on the EP out of the water” and that he wanted to collaborate and write together even more. Though making the album was stressful and challenging, cracking jokes and free-flowing creativity allowed them to feel comfortable, making for an overall positive experience.
This spring, Wallows will be hitting the road for the Nothing Happens World Tour. For their first round of shows in 2017, they’d only released a few songs; their first headlining tour early last year ended up promoting the yet-to-be-released Spring EP. “Pictures of Girls,” which is now one of their most popular songs, at over 10 million streams on Spotify, was released between the two legs of the tour – on the second half of the tour, people starting singing along, which was “really exciting.” Now, they’ve got a full album, and are prepared to be “Wallows 2.0” on the upcoming tour, working on how they present themselves, the sounds and tones on their amps, and even adding lighting and production to “elevate these shows as much as possible.” They’re especially excited to play “Scrawny,” “Ice Cold Pool,” “Treacherous Doctor,” and “I’m Full” (an old version was played on the previous tour, but the version included on Nothing Happens is “just a banger live”). Arena shows may be a bit later down the road, but for now, Minnette hopes to have fans leaving the show saying that their sound could fill a much bigger room.
Check out Wallows’ upcoming tour dates here and pre-order Nothing Happens here. They’ll also be releasing more episodes of their Bored Games with Wallows series (Lemasters shares that the coming episodes are “a million, trillion times better than Episode 1”, more along the lines of what they’d initially envisioned for the series), as well as more online content for fans. The band also hints at more music videos, more collaborations, and even the possibility of more new music. Visit their website for more info and the latest updates.