Drunken discussions of starting a band with my housemates in Vancouver nearly a decade ago mean I’ll always have a certain affinity towards bands with ‘Wolf’ in their name. The dream of forming ‘We Were Wolves’ dissipated as quickly as the alcohol that fuelled it disappeared from our systems, but the love for the wolf lived on.
But unlike me and my pals, Orlando-based rockers A Wolf In The City, in addition to taking on the wolf moniker, make pretty damn good music. The Floridian quintet embody everything I can imagine me and my mates back then would have wanted to write about: they’re heavily influenced by Manchester Orchestra, there’s moments of heaviness thrown in with overtones of indie and rock, and they have a song called Claustrophobia, which was exactly what we felt in abundance during our numerous red wine and fruit cider binges in a furniture-less, dingy flat.
A Wolf In The City have a superb ability to write powerful, emotional tracks that encompass lyrical brilliance, lingering guitar riffs, haunting vocals and some phenomenal percussion.
We spoke to guitarist Clayton and bassist Stephen (Steph) to find out more about this unique Floridian band. Clayton told us: “For me, there are fleeting moments of inspiration which tend to descend upon me at completely random and often inconvenient times, but I try with all my might to seize those moments and get whatever the feeling is in a recorded form, one way or another.
“Lyrically, Rob is definitely an introspective writer who tends to reflect upon past experiences and feelings while I, myself, tend to write through either a persona other than my own or through the perspective of the person I wish I were. I want our lyrics to be accessible, honest, and in some ways, timeless.”
In addition to the previously mentioned Manchester Orchestra, the band has collectively drawn influence from Have Mercy, while Clayton throws Hawthorne Heights and Circa Survive into the mix. The result of this is debut EP Heavy, which is a pretty special first effort that sees songs eclectically jump between moody, hugely atmospheric acoustic numbers, surges of electronic noise and full-on rock.
The EP kicks off with delicious acoustic track Drive, which features an awesome a capella section. Second track Reprieve picks up the pace with fast-paced, breathless verses that lead into a chorus of infectiously strained vocals that are imitated by cool guitar riffs.
Stag is a superb representation of the band’s songwriting brilliance, it builds slowly with jaunty guitar chords, a little drum roll and funky little guitar riff before Rob’s vocals gradually lead us into a powerful chorus then dropping down into a second, almost lingering chorus as Rob continues to tell his story. Guitar riffs float around in the background before the chorus vocals “In the headlights of an incoming car I watched everything fall apart, fall apart” kick in again and are loosely repeated multiple times, between a series of guitar solos. Check out in the video below:
That track flows into the previously mentioned and absolutely brilliant Claustrophobia, which again delivers fantastic lyrics with verses that gradually build into a powerful chorus that show off Rob’s wonderful strained vocals. The second chorus kicks in after a piercing blast of reverb, and you can’t help but get into it.
Clayton said: “Between Rob’s poetic lyricism and unembellished vocal timbre, Josh’s theory & composition, Steph’s earnest energy, Jentzen’s phenomenal percussive work, and my eternal tonal questing, we have found ourselves in an eclectic yet harmonious soundscape.”
And Steph adds: “I think across the board the main thing we’re looking to gain from the band is happiness. We put a lot into our music and it’s amazing when people connect with it.”
It’s fair to say you won’t see A Wolf in the City accept any old gig opportunity and they won’t release any old song for the hell of it, it has to be perfect.
Steph said: “We are super picky about stuff. We will go over stuff until it’s perfect to us, and we are relatively selective with the gigs we accept, because we want each of our shows to be meaningful and impactful, but we play as often as possible.” To which Clayton added: “Picky to the point that we have a few recorded tracks sitting around collecting dust, which took weeks to iron out that didn’t quite make the cut.
“If the demand is great enough, anything is possible! If you have a festival or sizable gig offer, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to see if we can make it work! Like Steph said, we’d LOVE to play a gig in your area!”
A Wolf In The City have worked hard to be where they are now – Clayton balances being in the band with a full-time college course, working for a non-profit, helping run Pineapple Record Co. (which released Heavy) and somehow keeping his girlfriend happy, and tells us that, despite his attempts at modesty, Steph is leaving out the fact that he works like a dog and sleeps less than anyone he knows, labelling him “the unsung hero of our band.”
And, when asked about succeeding in the music industry, Clayton adds: “If you’re smart about your work and you are willing to hone your craft, I believe there are opportunities out there. If anything should change, it should be the level of creativity and thoughtfulness artists push themselves to. If you create wonderful works of art, people will fall in love with it and that is something you can capitalise on if you’re smart.”
The good news is, I firmly believe the hard work is going to pay dividends for A Wolf in the City. Personally I can’t get enough of what I’ve heard from them so far, this is the kind of music that can instantly change your mood, with moments of delicious gentle lyrics teasing you in only to shock you into life with bursts of raw unadulterated rock.
The band is playing its first music festival, the Bryan Jackson Music Festival: Episode III, in downtown Fort Pierce on Saturday, 11 February. They’re also planning EP number two very shortly and are keen to crack on with their first full length record as soon as possible, so keep your eye out for this superb band. And hopefully we’ll one day see them in the UK!
Check out A Wolf In The City on Facebook, Twitter and get hold of Heavy on Bandcamp. They’re also a little vain about their play counts on Spotify, so go and give them a boost here, and then check out their Spotify artist radio, which is in their words “KILLER.”