For Bad Wolves founder and drummer John Boeklin, each new record presents a fresh set of challenges. While the L.A. hard rockers came up with a massive hit single, toured extensively and even appeared on late-night TV, the process didn’t become any easier as the band entered the studio to record its sophomore album, N.A.T.I.O.N.
“I never find it easy to write a record, ever, and if it is I’d probably question it,” Boeklin said.
While much of Bad Wolves’ debut album, Disobey, was written by Boeklin and vocalist Tommy Vext before the rest of the band was in place, the second album threw guitarists Doc Coyle and Chris Cain, and bassist Kyle Konkiel, into the mix. While Boeklin jokes that in some ways it gave the band more things to argue about through the creative process, the division of labor was helpful in finding inspiration.
“Doc was able to carry more of the weight, and Chris wrote some stuff too,” Boeklin said. “In general, it was nice to have more than one place beside my own or Tommy’s for starting from scratch.”
To avoid the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen, Boeklin first developed a song as fully before presenting it to Vext and the others.
“A lot of times, Tommy will take what I do and chop it into a million different pieces, and I feel like I’m starting over again,” Boeklin says. “So I try to present full ideas first so things don’t get completely too lost.”
The band’s members all come from a metal background, having played in some of the most prominent bands in heavy music. Vext was in Divine Heresy, Coyle in God Forbid, Cain in Bury Your Dead and Konkiel was with In This Moment. Burned out on metal, Boeklin tried to distance himself as much as possible. Eventually he realized he missed creating heavy music. Boeklin connected with Vext, who brought in some of his own songs while simplifying some of Boeklin’s ideas.
But Bad Wolves run their sound thorough a melodic lens, ranging from double-bass-fueled metal to tender acoustic ballads.
The first time around, the band used live shows to see which of their songs resonated best with fans. Some of that informed the forthcoming album.
“Some of those faster songs kinda go over the rock people’s heads,” Boeklin said. “But that’s also what keeps this kinda cool, to have such success with such heavy songs.”
Other songs came from the Boeklin’s evaluating the band’s current catalog to find tones and styles not already written. The drummer said the best example is a song called “No Messiah.”
“It’s just kind of a hypnotic, swinging song and a tempo we didn’t have yet,” he said.
Boeklin said the members’ extensive resumes provide a grounding that helps focus them for handling success.
“We’ve all been doing this for so long that it doesn’t feel like a group of guys cracking champagne on the back of a tour bus saying we can’t believe all this is happening,” Boeklin says. “It’s more of a realization that we’ve got a lot of work to do because we’ve been there, done that.”
Bad Wolves got a big boost in 2018 when they covered The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Initially, the plan was to record the song with Dolores O’Riordan, who passed away unexpectedly. The band later donated $250,000 of the proceeds from the song, which went platinum, to her children. Boeklin initially struggled having the band’s biggest song being a cover. At the same time, it gave Bad Wolves a platform they otherwise wouldn’t have had and led to the radio success of other songs like “Remember When” and “Hear Me Now.”
Boeklin realizes that he was able to experience a ride that some bands will never see because of the current climate in the music industry.
“I’m sitting here looking at seven plaques that I haven’t hung yet from around the world,” Boeklin said. “That’s some ’90s shit right there; that just doesn’t happen in this day and age.”
With all the pent up energy, is Boeklin nervous for the release of N.A.T.I.O.N.? Not really, he said. The reality is that the music business has changed to where much of the material is released prior to the date the album actually drops.
“Nowadays, it kind of slowly dissipates as each song keeps getting released,” he said.
Bad Wolves will hit the road hard following the release with Five Finger Death Punch, Megadeth and Three Days Grace through the end of the year and spending much of 2020 on tour as well.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.