New Years resolutions are usually pretty tame- lose some weight, stop smoking, etc., but Lullwater has only one thing in mind for 2019… world domination. They are eagerly awaiting the final release date for their new album, Voodoo, and they’re fixing to go on a star-studded tour with the likes of Sevendust, Tremonti, Cane Hill, and Kirra. I spoke to Lullwater drummer Joe Wilson about the band and their amazing start to the year, secretly hoping that he might share some of his good juju with yours truly. Check out the full interview here, and don’t forget to check out Lullwater on Facebook, Twitter, and their website!
Rob Gomez- Joe, thanks for talking to us today! There are so many amazing things happening in the world of Lullwater. You guys are releasing a highly-anticipated new album this year, Voodoo. Tell me about writing and recording the new album.
Joe Wilson- Well, we usually try and get away from Athens (Georgia) once we are set to do a new record, so this time around, we chose New Orleans. Looking back, that might not have been a great idea! It was crazy, to say the least. They don’t close the bars there, so we have a 10am call time for the next studio session, and it’s like, “Oh, wait… we got work to do!” But it was great, man. We went down there with pretty much no lyrics… all we had was the music, you know? Which is definitely a different route for us to go, as far a recording a record. We usually have it pretty set in stone. But I think it benefitted us, because we were able to tweak a little bit and move things around, and kind of make the puzzle pieces fit without having to change something else that was already in place. So there really weren’t any walls set up yet. Our lead singer John (Strickland) would sit there while we were tracking and come up with ideas or subject matter, but we really went in focusing on the music first, which I think benefitted us alot, especially with the finished product.
RG- I talk to a lot of bands and they all seem to feel the same way about that. What comes organically out of the studio, out of thin air, really seems to capture the moment of them being together and what they want to say. So that’s interesting to hear you say that.
JW– Absolutely. You know, the other day I got to listen to the demos that we did prior to leaving for New Orleans. I hadn’t listened to them in about a year, so I went back and listened… and it’s hilarious! (Just) to see what’s changed and what’s different!
RG- Then you have that 24 hour motivation of a bar being open, so that always helps, right? (laughs)
JW– Well, we like Jameson, so once we were done with studio nights, we’d kind of go out and have a good night on the town. We were there for a month and some change, so after a while, it kinda felt like home. Great city, man. Unbelievable people.
RG- Was the title of Voodoo at least partly inspired by being in New Orleans for a month while recording this album?
JW- Oh, without question, yeah. It was very apparent that there was some voodoo in that town. Whether it was all of us getting sick… there was a point where everyone was just sick, to the point where we couldn’t even get off the couches. We had some moments where we were like, “What is happening? This is unexplainable!” So, we felt like the voodoo is real, and that’s why we named the record that. Also, theres some elements on there, like horn sections, key arrangements, and string arrangements that we kind of took from the town. We wanted to put a stamp on it! Records are like a snapshot of where the band is at the time, and we were in New Orleans, where you can’t go anywhere without hearing jazz or the drumlines, so we felt like we wanted to incorporate that a little on the record.
RG- Rhythm and soul and music is the heartbeat of that town!
JW– Oh, man, it’s incredible!
RG- Your first album had a definite marriage of modern alternative with 70’s rock and this really wild, southern-rock abandon. Revival had that same old school feel, but it also had this punk edge to it that added a really cool urgency to some of the tracks that I really liked. What are you guys doing with Voodoo that’s different and how do you guys feel it compares to the last two albums?
JW- Well, the first two were done completely on analog tape, so we kind of wanted to get the essence of the vintage (sound) of the bands that we were listening to growing up. They had that raw (sound) that’s not overproduced or overdone, and what the band wants you to get out of that music is just very apparent on those records. On Voodoo, we went the digital route, and there are many reasons for that. Doing a record on tape is also a lot more expensive. So, doing it in New Orleans and getting everything right, we made the call to do digital, which allowed us to make it as good as we could. We could take more risks and know the outcome was going to be beneficial, because we didn’t have to rewind the tape and start over if there was something we needed to fix.
RG– So you were a little more daring and took more chances?
JW- Yeah, kind of. Our producer, Jakob Herrmann, he’s from Sweden and he’s a very, very respected guy, we talked about it with him and he was like “Well, let’s go digital! It’ll benefit you guys” I would say this record is more of a modern sound, if you compare it to the last two. A little more up to date, I would say, and quality-wise….we’re just so proud of it. It’s just killer quality compared (to the last two). Jakob really pushed us. He’d say “I know this is digital, but I don’t want ya’ll to rely on that! We really need to lock this in” He got the best out of us that he could. So as far as comparing to the last two, I’d say it’s more of an updated sound for the band, and there’s definitely a maturity.
RG- Well, I’m excited to hear it. That’s what a good producer does, is give you the confidence to do your best and play your best and demand more from you.
JW- Oh, he worked us, man, no question! (laughs)
RG- Then you got this massive Sevendust tour you guys are going on that also features Tremonti, Cane Hill, and Kirra (some buddies of mine). That’s a hell of a line-up! You guys excited about kicking this bad boy off in Houston?
JW- Yeah, it’s pretty crazy! Dude, we’ve known about this tour since June of last year, and it’s been so hard to deal with the fact that it’s coming up but it’s still far away! Now that we’re a week and a half away, we’re pumped! We’re anxious and we’re ready to hit it, man! It’s gonna be cool, because the Sevendust guys are Georgia guys, as well, so we’re all big fans of them. It’s gonna be a pretty crazy lineup, I would say. Every single band on this bill is just crazy good.
RG- Musically, you guys are definitely layered… theres some 90’s alt laying on top of classic rock on top of that southern rock goodness. It’s interesting to listen to one of your albums and have each layer get peeled off, because you guys definitely unwrap yourselves and let it all out at one point or another. It’s like you guys change hats over and over again in the same song, and it’s such a different approach to being diverse with your music. Where did that come from?
JW- Obviously, we’re all big 90’s grunge fans, so we have that in common. Everybody has the classic rock bands they love, so it’s kind of engrained in your DNA, at some point, when you start writing original music. It just comes out, there’s just no way to stop it, and we don’t want it to. We want it all to be from us, and whatever we have inside us, we want it to come out. But at the same time, we are all fans of different music, as well. Once I hit high school, I got way into the jam band world, where improvisation is a big thing. So a lot of times when we’re writing, I’ll kind of approach it that way. I won’t really play the same thing as often as I would if we were just writing an A-section, B-section, C-section rock song. We kind of like to let it happen. Our bass player, Ray (Beatty), is a huge metalhead, so he comes in with the more technical side of things. So once you put it in the pot, you stir it around, you cook it a little bit, and it’s kind of what just comes out. That’s what Lullwater is. We all have this one common headspace, but we also have these sections of the brain that are wired a different way from what we are all into, so I think the recipe that you get is our sound. There’s no formula, it’s just kind of a big melting pot. Everyones influence gets incorporated, and then we write the tune.
RG– Well, that’s what makes it signature, man. That’s what makes it special. It’s you guys, it’s your personality in that music.
JW– Well, I appreciate it, man. It’s kind of an unorthodox way to do it, but it works for us, you know?
RG- It definitely does. Switching it up a little bit; With 2019 opening up on such a high note, with this great tour and this new album on the horizon, do you guys feel like you’re at a stepping stone in your career?
JW- I would say yes. You want to start every new year with a bit of a bang, and just set the pace for what the year has. I think we are, man. We’ve got Voodoo coming out in February, and obviously, starting off with the Sevendust tour… you can’t really ask for much more than that! We also have an 8-song acoustic record that we’re just sitting on, too. Kind of an MTV Unplugged-type vibe. It’s full band, but it’s everything is stripped down, all acoustic. I’m playing a full drum kit, but other than that, there’s no real electric instruments, other than a couple of guitar solos here and there. So the amount of music we’re sitting on is very exciting. We’ve never really had that situation. Sometimes bands are feeling pressed to deliver new music to the fans, but we’re kind of at a place now where we have everything in the archive, and we’re just ready to roll out! So I think we have a plan as far out as fall for music coming out at a decent pace. If the fans want more, it’s definitely going to happen, this year, maybe even in the first half of the year. We’re planning on hitting like 150, 160 dates this year. We’re planning on being pretty busy.
RG- That’s going to set you up for a huge 2019! That’s a lot of dates!
JW– It’s gonna be a wild one, man! Our booking and our management (have been great), and Tom (George, TAG Publicity), he’s absolutely killing it as far as PR goes. He’s the man!
RG- Oh yeah. Shout out to Tom George and TAG PR, man. Those guys are great. Song River and all his crew, they’re awesome.
JW– They work, man. They work hard. That’s what you need on your team, hard workers and people who believe in you, and they absolutely do.
RG-Who would you say your biggest influences are as a band, and who would you all like to play with one day?
JW- As a band, the 90’s godfathers of grunge, man. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Foo Fighters. We are huge fans of that era. It’s just what we heard growing up, and we’re like “Well, this is definitely different! What the hell is this?” And then we were hooked. So I think any of those bands, we would all say, are the top for us. As far as playing, if we ever got a call from Eddie Vedder or Dave Grohl, I think we’d absolutely jump at that. Whether it was one show, or a collaboration, or whatever it may be, that’s a dream scenario.
RG- Jam in a garage, I’m there!
JW– Dude, we don’t care what it is! That’s a dream scenario, and we’d drop everything.
RG- I would too! (laughs) We’re beginning to see a revival of classic rock in modern young bands like Greta Van Fleet and The Struts… as a band that has blended so many influences to create a unique sound, how do you guys feel about newer bands looking back for inspiration?
JW- I think it’s great, man! It’s a good thing. Especially in this day and age where most people that aren’t a big part of the rock community, or going to see festivals, or even going to rock shows, don’t realize the resurgence that’s happening right now. We’re only a few years away from listening to Top 40 Radio and hearing a rock song or two.
RG- I agree!
JW– I know a lot of it has to do with what “the kids” are into (I’m using air quotes here), and what sells, and that’s a whole different machine, but it’s really encouraging to see some of these bands that are coming out with this rock music getting the credit and the publicity they deserve. I think it’s a big deal for bands like us, trying to continue to put a mark and pave our way, too. A lot of people look at it like a competition, but it’s not, man. We’re in this together, especially in the rock world. We need more bands to stake their claim and make some noise so that the rest of us can be a part of it, too. It doesn’t really matter if you’re into it or not. If it’s not your bag, that’s cool, but it’s important that those bands do well for everybody in the rock genre.
RG- I completely agree, man. I feel like sometimes artists get a little bit confrontational or hostile… not really jealous, but just too competitive when it comes to that. They feel like these bands are somehow encroaching on their territory, but in reality, when the genre succeeds, I think everyone succeeds.
JW- Exactly! It might not be your bag, but if everyone is doing well, that’s all that should matter! A lot of musicians are ego-driven, and that’s fine, but at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Like you said, if you do well, we all do well.
RG- You’re from Georgia, I’m from Texas, so this pertains to us… do you think Southern Rock will ever make a similar comeback?
JW- Like the Lynyrd Skynyrds and Molly Hatchets?
RG– Yeah, the same way classic rock is enjoying a resurgence, do you think we’ll see more southern rock bands pop up like that?
JW– I don’t know. It’s hard to say, man. Being from Georgia, I think of the term “southern rock” a different way (compared to) what we play. I tell people we are like a swampy Foo Fighters. Because southern rock, you think “Sweet Home Alabama” and you think of Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band…
RG– Atlanta Rhythm Section
JW– Yeah, for sure! I mean, you can’t say no, it never will, but I think the sound coming out of the southeast and southern states is a little bit less of that kind of southern rock and a little bit more rock with elements and similarities sprinkled in there. I wouldn’t be opposed to it! I love some southern rock. It’s all great music. The nostalgia factor is what I love about it.
RG– Exactly. Me, too.
JW– I think about growing up, my dad was a huge music nut, so all those bands are bands I heard growing up.
RG- Same here, man. What does Lullwater see when they look out at a fired-up crowd of rockers in 2019?
JW- When we see the crowd? Aww, dude. That’s what drives us, man. It’s like we’re playing pingpong up there. We’re throwing it out, and if they’re throwing it back, that’s all we need. I think fans should understand that, whether or not you’ve heard us, or any band, especially on this bill coming up. If there’s a band on the bill you’ve never seen, just go to enjoy it, because if you give it all to the band, they’ll give it back to you, and you’ll have a better time. It’s what makes the show happen. We’re all in that room, that sweaty, sweaty venue for 3 or 4 hours, so if you give it everything you’ve got, every band on that stage is going to give it everything they’ve got. We’re going to play better, you’re going to have a better time, and you may walk away with a CD or two, and maybe a new band in your playlist.
RG- Definitely. It’s funny that sometimes people might be intimidated by rock or heavy metal shows, but if you step back and look at it, it’s all one big dance, man. Sometimes the band can step on the audiences feet, sometimes the audience can step on the bands feet, but whenever things are moving along, it’s really something special.
JW- There’s no other thing like it, really. I think people do have that stigma sometimes. “Oh god, metal” or “Oh, it’s hard rock”. But I promise if you come out with an open mind, you’ll have a blast.
RG- I’ve always said, man, and I said it in an article a while back, that it’s the one place where you can go with no family, no friends, and you’ll come out and have a crowd full of family and friends. Rock shows are amazing.
JW- No question! A lot of times on the road, on days off, we’ll go just find a show in town. Find something going on, go see some show, while we’re not having to play one. We’ve met people through doing that that are fans of the band now. We have good friends nowadays that we met that way, and that’s how it happened. They come see the band wherever we go, or when we’re in the area, and that’s just from us talking at a show, having a couple of beers. It’s definitely a community.
RG- It really is a big family, a community. Well, we’re going to have a little fun here. According to science (I just made this up), every band has at least one of these in the band, so just tell me the name of the band member who does this… Who is the dedicated but sometimes overzealous member?
JW- That would probably be me. I’ll take that one.
RG- The slacker (sleeps late, forgets where he is, loses his stuff, etc)
JW- That’s Ray, our bass player… love him to death!
RG- Sorry, Ray! Ok, who’s the who eats/drinks EVERYTHING if you leave it out
JW- Ray’s gettin’ two. That’s Ray, as well.
RG– The one who hates to drive
JW- Damn, that’s a tough one. I think most of us don’t mind it. I think Ray, because he doesn’t drink, so he usually ends up driving late. So it’s probably him, because he’s got to deal with us going to a bar after the show, and he’s like “Ok, let’s go”, and then he’s dealing with three drunk dudes. (laughs)
RG- We’re beating up on Ray! The one who never passes to the left (or passes at all)
JW- I don’t think any of us qualify for that one. We’re all good on that one. (laughs)
RG– The one who will take a leak anywhere and everywhere, no matter who sees
JW- Oh, that’s (Daniel) Binnie. That’s our guitar player. Yeah, for sure. He’s a man’s man, he doesn’t care.
RG- Nothing wrong with confidence! One who will flirt with ANY girl who talks to him, to the point of embarrassing the others
JW- Uh, Dan can have that one, too.
RG– Best merch seller (could sell water to a whale)
JW- Ray, 100%. John’s really good at that, too. We all go to the merch after our set’s done, and I kind of stand off to the side and make sure everything’s going right, but John is very approachable. He’s a big caveman-looking guy, but he’s very approachable, and Ray as well. We’re all good at it, but they’re probably better at it.
RG- The one that constantly takes selfies/candid pics/secret pics
JW– No selfie-takers, but Ray does sneak some pictures every now and then. We’ll be driving, and then all of a sudden, we’ll get 4 or 5 photos that show up in the group thread that he took the night before.
RG- Man, Ray is the fun one in this group!
JW– Oh yeah, Ray’s the man!
RG- Ok, who’s the OG Prankster
JW- He definitely is, no question.
RG- Thank you so much for playing along, Joe, and for answering all our questions. We’re really excited about the new album, the tour with Sevendust. You guys are going to be kicking off the tour in Houston on Feb. 1st.
JW- We can’t wait. Scout Bar, we love that place. Scout Bar is the jam!
RG- And it sold out, did you know that!?
JW– It sold out, and there’s a lot that are close. So if anybody is listening and planning on going to any of these shows, do your due diligence and get your tickets now, because they’re definitely going quickly.
RG- Like I said, it’s a hell of a lineup! Is there anything you want to say to the young, aspiring musicians listening out there?
JW- Yeah, I do. I’ll take this one from Dave Grohl. He said this a couple of years ago at a keynote, I think for SXSW in Austin. He basically said to get an instrument and just go suck for a while. Get in a garage and just suck, because that’s where it all happens. If you put in the time and put in the effort, you’re going to get to a place where you want to be. It’s not going to happen right out of the gate, but you can’t let that deter you. With anything you want to be good at, you’ve got to suck at it first.
RG– That’s great advice. I remember hearing it, now that you mentioned it, and it’s really good advice. I wish I had taken it when I was 16.
JW- It’s never too late, man. (laughs)
RG– (laughs) Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Lullwater, keep an eye out for Voodoo, follow them on social media, catch them on the road with Sevendust and Tremonti this spring. Thank you so much bud, I appreciate it!
JW- Yes, sir! No problem!