By Kat Bein
Imagine growing up in southern California and heading to your first Coachella as a high-school freshman. You’re a snot-nosed kid with indie-rock dreams jamming with your best friends, and at the malleable age of 13, you see The Strokes, Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, and more. You fantasize for the next seven years or so about playing that stage, and then, suddenly, you’re standing in the Indio desert sun, ready to rock the next generation of idealists.
That’s the story of Wallows, the fresh-faced rock trio that brought the house down early Saturday at Coachella. Singer and guitarist Dylan Minnette, guitarist and vocalist Braeden Lemasters and drummer Cole Preston have been playing together for a decade, and its given the early 20-somethings a tightness and a brotherly affection that fans can feel and critics have to respect.
Coachella brought a day of many firsts: The band debuted much of their debut album, Nothing Happens, during the performance, which also kicked off their upcoming North American tour. A few technical difficulties couldn’t slow their energy. MTV News caught up with Wallows after the set to hear about that Coachella high.
MTV News: Congrats on the debut Coachella set. It was also the first time you played the music from Nothing Happens. What was it like being up there?
Dylan: It was surreal. I knew going into it I would have a lot of nerves before and a lot of nerves after. I was totally right. I’m excited for weekend two, because this is a lot of firsts. “First” off, it was the first show of our tour, first time playing any of the new songs live, it was the first time using a lot of this new equipment that we’re using, first time playing Coachella. All that combined into one … but it was really fun. Took me a few songs to loosen up but I had a great time.
Braeden: I would agree. It felt really good.
Cole: It felt like it flew by. One second we were like, oh we need to set up, the keyboard’s not working, and then the next second it’s like, whoa, we are doing this, and here we are.
MTV News: You guys grew up going to Coachella. This is almost like your backyard music festival. You guys said you’ve been seven or six times each.
Cole: We went when I was a freshman in high school, 2011. Epic lineup, honestly.
Dylan: It was all the most influential bands for us. It went Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and The Strokes.
Braeden: My first year was the year after that; Snoop Dogg and Radiohead. I remember being so claustrophobic during Radiohead. I was so scared.
MTV News: That’s very akin to their lyrical messages, though. You were feeling Thom Yorke’s anxiety.
Braeden: One of the biggest memories I have from Coachella was the second time they played here and their power went out.
Cole: Imagine over the main stage PA, just this sound going [mimics electronic hissing], cutting out, and they were still playing. … When they started playing “Creep,” I was like, this is once in a lifetime. Unreal.
MTV News: You guys have been playing together for about a decade. Critics are always trying to say that rock is dead or close to it.
Braeden: Critics are dead! Come up with something new!
MTV News: Is that something you guys actually felt when you were getting together and making music, or is that just windbag bullshit?
Braeden: No way, because when we were making music, all I would be listening to is Arctic Monkeys or The Beatles. I would only listen to that when I was 13 growing up. I had no idea that people thought that. I was like, what? And then as we’ve gotten older, we started loving every other genre of music as well, and now we love anything and everything. There’s no limit.
Dylan: I think it depends on how someone is saying it. If someone says, “Rock and roll is dead,” do you mean as a genre? Then, no, because there’s incredible bands right now making rock music that is some of the best rock and roll you’ll ever hear, and that’s happening now. But if you mean rock and roll as a concept or a construct is dead, I guess I understand that but I also disagree because I feel like the idea of being a “rock star” has transitioned over into hip-hop. Rappers, people playing hip-hop right now are the rock stars. That’s that lifestyle, so rock and roll is not dead if you have a broad mindset about it.
MTV News: Talking about this rock star lifestyle and attitude, have you found any of the rock star lifestyle stereotypes to be true? Anything not so glamorous as you maybe thought when you were fantasizing about playing Coachella as kids?
Cole: Everything is pretty much what I imagined.
MTV News: Throwing TVs out of window and signing boobs?
Dylan: I wouldn’t sign a boob.
Cole: Yeah, we’re kind of the anti-rock stars. I mean, I would love to be able to live that way. I’m just too mild.
MTV News: Well, you guys have a vlog about playing board games.
Cole: [laughs] We’re just nice young men.
MTV News: You’re about to head out on the tour. Are your board games ready? What are you going to do to survive the road?
Braeden: Green tea. Vodka.
Dylan: Today made me more excited, especially because our shows inside the rooms we’re going to be playing will be so different with lights and the sound.
Cole: Lights and sound [laughs]. There was no sound at this one.
Dylan: I’m just excited to go into those rooms and play the shows.
MTV News: I also love just the title of the album, Nothing Happens. It’s like the biggest NBD ever. Obviously there are consequences to the debut album being out and the 10 years leading up. There’s this adage that you have your whole life to write your debut album and you have two years to write your second.
Dylan: That’s kind of inspiring. I’m just excited for all these brand new songs on the next album to just completely surprise us. A lot of the songs are old ideas, and they still feel fresh, but they can still also feel like, of course. There’s gonna be at least half of our next album that we have no idea what the songs are already.
Braeden: It’s refreshing. A clean slate for us.