Los Angeles-based indie rock band Wallows is determined to make its weekend appearances at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio this month memorable ones.
Back in 2019, the trio performed on the smaller Mojave stage in the blistering heat at 1:30 p.m. to a decent-size crowd, but guitarist-vocalist Braeden Lemasters said that behind the scenes, just about everything that could go wrong did.
“Not only was that our first time playing Coachella, but it was the first show of that tour and our first time using in-ear monitors,” he said during a recent Zoom interview along with guitarist-vocalist Dylan Minnette and drummer Cole Preston from a hotel room in Boston, where they were finishing up tour production rehearsals late last month.
“Looking back, it was fun, it was important for us and a great experience, but I do feel like we have some unfinished business with Coachella,” he said.
A more seasoned version of Wallows will be back to perform on Saturday, April 16 and 23, during both sold-out festival weekends (April 15-17 and 22-24) as Coachella makes its mighty return to the Empire Polo Club in Indio for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The band, now all in their mid-20s, has gone to almost every Coachella since 2011. Minnette said that as both a performer and fan of the festival, it was exciting to see his band’s name appear on the official 2022 Coachella lineup poster.
“We’ve been going since we were kids and it really is a dream come true to see our name in that font size and in that place,” he said noting the upgrade from its 2019 position, which was significantly lower on the poster. “I think ourselves at 14-years-old are freaking out. But really any slot at Coachella is a good slot. It’s such an iconic festival and a staple in our culture. Knowing what our rough set time is now and where we’ll be playing this year, yeah, 14-year-old me actually is freaking out because we saw Tame Impala in that spot years ago. We are going for the whole weekend and I’m going to watch everything. There’s so many good people, but I’m actually nervous to see who is playing at the same time as us because I’m sure it will be someone I’m dying to see.”
Learning from its rookie mistake in 2019, Wallows kicked off its most recent tour on April 1 in support of its sophomore album, “Tell Me That It’s Over,” which dropped on March 25, as well as its 2020 EP, “Remote.” They’ll be several shows in before hitting the festival stage, which Minnette notes “makes us feel a lot more comfortable.” Wallows even have a few dates in between fest sets, including the Fox Theater in Pomona on April 18 and Humphreys Concerts by the Bay in San Diego on April 21 with fellow L.A. rock band The Regrettes.
The guys have mixed several new songs into the set including “Hard to Believe,” “Marvelous,” “Missing Out,” “I Don’t Wanna Talk” and “Hurts Me.” That latter song, the band insists, is a perfect example of the hard work they put in while in the studio with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who has worked with bands such as Vampire Weekend and Haim. “Hurts Me” was originally darker, moodier and had a more psychedelic sound, but Rechtshaid challenged the band to try to record different versions of the new songs and “Hurts Me,” though lyrically heavy, wound up musically a much more upbeat pop song.
“We went to Ariel’s house and it was a nice and sunny day in Los Angeles and pretty quickly he was like ‘this needs to be a rippin’ pop song,’” Preston recalled of working on the track. “We started changing up the chord structure to be a little more anthemic and happy and it became something so different than what we had imagined and we actually felt more inspired by that direction than the sleepier one, so that was a good jumping off point for us. Sometimes you have to take things apart and then find a way to stitch it back together.”
Though Lemasters and Minnette are also both actors, having starred in television shows such as the TNT comedy-drama “Men of a Certain Age” and Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” respectively, they started playing music together with Preston in 2011 and eventually formed Wallows in 2017. The band found some success early on with the single “Pleaser” and the song “These Days” off the 2018 “Spring” EP.
Wallows had just begun to gain some real momentum with its 2019 debut full-length, “Nothing Happens,” when the pandemic shut down all live events and the trio found themselves back home in Los Angeles and hunkered down. However, the lull didn’t last long and just a few weeks into the lockdowns, TikTok users found and rapidly shared the band’s seemingly clairvoyant stay-at-home single “Are You Bored Yet?” featuring Clairo off its debut. Though unable to tour, Wallows didn’t take the sudden surge of exposure for granted and put out several singles and an EP until the members got the green light to head back into the studio to record its second LP.
“We were very fortunate to have a song that did well for us in 2020 and at least on paper and on streaming, we’ve grown pretty significantly since we last toured, but it does feel a bit like we skipped a step between 2019 touring Wallows and 2022 touring Wallows,” Lemasters said. “What we’re putting out has definitely leveled up not once, but twice I feel like. I don’t know if people who saw us on the last tour will know what to expect from us, but I think they’ll be pretty surprised. I’m bursting with excitement for it because it’s been so long and we just finished our production rehearsal with all of the lights and all the band is set up and we’re running the setlist and it feels so good. We’re playing bigger shows than ever and they’re selling very well and it’s a beautiful thing. We are so lucky and can’t wait to get out there and like tangibly see and experience the growth.”