Humble Wolf amp up the riffage on their forthcoming album, Black and White
If you see some of the latest band photos of Humble Wolf, you might be slightly intimidated. They’re all wearing sunglasses and have immaculate rock ‘n’ roll hair.
But it’s not long before bassist David Albertson humbly says, “We’re all nerdy musicians, you know… What you see is what you get.”
Perhaps he means nerdy in the sense that he and the band’s lead man Jayson Angove have software engineering backgrounds, and that drummer Jesse Sherwood is an IT guy. After all, Angove was instrumental in troubleshooting Skype so that he and Albertson could video chat with Submerge.
Or, perhaps it’s because the Roseville-based band, comprised of Angove on vocals, guitar and keys, Chris Winger on backing vocals and guitar, Albertson on bass and Sherwood (Kit Coda) on drums, spent the last two years laboriously perfecting their latest album Black and White side-by-side with their engineer and producer Sean Stack.
“I think I speak for everybody in the band when I say we take pride in our craft,” Angove says. “It’s two years of hard work finally coming to an end, where we can finally show people what we’ve been working on for so long.”
They will have the opportunity to do so at their CD release show at the Shady Lady in mid-January.
The album was recorded at Fat Cat Recording Studio in Sacramento, and it is an intentional move away from the more pop feel of Paper Thin, the last Humble Wolf record, and a step closer to rock ‘n’ roll.
“Paper Thin is really more on the mellow side,” Angove reflects. “I would say it’s more easy listening.”
“I’d probably say we’re like the Foo Fighters meets the Black Keys for this new record,” Albertson adds.
It’s any band’s hope to meet a funding goal via crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, and it’s any band’s fantasy to exceed it. Humble Wolf did. In fact, that’s how the band funded the completion of Black and White. Just a month after they posted their funding campaign in July, they exceeded the pledged amount by $270.
“It kind of spread around like wildfire,” Angove says. “I can’t express enough gratitude for how much it helped.”
Thanks to the extra cash, the band could finish mixing and mastering the album and get more physical copies made. They also could make up T-shirts, posters and custom sunglasses to give to their funding backers and to sell as merch at upcoming shows.
Black and White is solidly rock ‘n’ roll, featuring Winger’s rocking guitar solos, with the occasional tastes of indie folk, like the song “9 a.m.” The song that perhaps shows off the band’s strengths the most, however, is “Through the Walls,” Angove and Albertson agree.
“This Should Scare You” is arguably the dominant song on the record, and a searing critique of mainstream culture. Angove’s vocals ride a simple guitar riff before cutting into a bridge where he resentfully sings, “There are too many ‘I’s in this generation/They are blind to the world around them/Their minds are starving and their hearts are empty/I am sick that I am a part of you.”
By definition, these guys are full-time musicians. They’ve played in various projects together. Currently, Angove, Winger and Albertson are in the cover rock band Guitar Head, and Angove also plays with local singer Rebecca Peters, a project that Albertson was formerly a part of. Angove, Winger and Albertson teach private music lessons, and Angove is also a recording engineer at One Eleven Studios in Roseville.
As far as Humble Wolf goes, the band’s beginnings go back to 2010. The name was originally for Angove’s solo recording project. He completed his first recording, Never Mind This Resistance (no longer available), in his apartment with Albertson and a few friends before he moved to Australia.
He moved back home a year later. Paper Thin came next, which mostly featured Angove playing. That was recorded in about 10 days.
Angove had already known Winger and Albertson for years, since middle school. They all grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, and eventually decided it was time to start playing music together. Sherwood came into the picture later on, after he met the three at a drum-off at Guitar Center.
Since they’ve become a four-piece band, they’ve played all over town, including Concerts in the Park, Tap Folsom and the California Brewers Festival.
This year is looking good for the band already. Not only do they have lots of shows lined up, they’re aiming for tours throughout the spring and summer with plans to hit Portland and Eugene, Oregon, in April. They’re hoping to play the Knitting Factory in Reno, SXSW and Outside Lands.
And, they are working on new material, at least 10 to 15 songs’ worth, that they hope to release this summer. Save your ears for that.
How has it been being a band in Roseville, or forming a band in Roseville?
David Albertson: The suburbs are fairly involved in Sacramento all the time because it’s not that far. We do have a good following, and we play a lot of places locally in Roseville, like Bar 101 and the Trocadero Club. But we also play at Harlow’s, the Shady Lady and Ace of Spades. We play in Sacramento pretty regularly. It’s just this big melting pot; there’s a big scene… I think if anything it kind of helps to work our way into the city.
Which song or songs would you say were most difficult to record and why?
DA: When we go into the studio, all the songs have been worked out… The mix, I think that’s what we spend the most time on… It’s probably the most challenging thing when you’re blending all the different instruments and recording takes.
Jayson Angove: I often say that Sean Stack is the fifth member of Humble Wolf because he takes great care, and he really makes us sound fantastic.
Rewording that question, which songs were most difficult to write?
JA: I definitely have a philosophy to not write overly complicated music. It’s not that we’re unable to do that, it’s just that when we play a show, we want to put on a show, too. If you’re playing something that’s technically demanding, you’re going to spend a lot more time focusing on your playing, and it’s harder to move around and be energetic when you’re just shredding away on your instrument. It’s more fun to have a song that’s not overly complicated, that’s enjoyable to play, so you can move around and put on more of a show.
How did you come up with the lyrics for “This Should Scare You?”
JA: I’ve worked a lot of retail and a lot of minimum wage jobs, and I like to read a lot about what’s happening in the country. There was a report that was released recently about how many hours you would actually have to work a week on minimum wage to actually meet livable standards. And it was something like, in no state working 40 hours a week would you actually support yourself on minimum wage. It was more like 80 to 100 hours a week was more realistic. Also, a lot of people don’t really talk about what’s happening. Or, if they do, they don’t actually do anything about it, they just talk about it, accept it as though it’s kind of how it is, and just let it happen that way. I wish people would pay more attention.
Are you guys the same offstage as you are onstage, or do you have a Humble Wolf persona?
DA: We’re all nerdy musicians, you know? I think the music’s pretty honest. We don’t wear spandex. What you see is what you get, which is what I think people grasp, what they like to see. I don’t think any of us have any Axl Rose personas going on or anything like that.
But you guys do look pretty rock n’ roll in your profile pictures.
JA: Well I appreciate that. I try to be as rock n’ roll as I can all the time!
Check out Humble Wolf’s album release party for Black and White at Shady Lady in Sacramento on Jan. 16, 2015. Check out Shadyladybar.com for more details, or hit up the band on Facebook (Humblewolfmusic).