Andrew Stockdale, centre, with Wolfmother bandmates Alex Carapetis and Ian Peres.

Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale on morality and touring in a changing world

Rewarding though it may be, travelling the world to share your art is no small feat. Having spent 2016 playing shows in Europe, America and Asia, perennial Aussie psych-rockers Wolfmother are no strangers to the gruelling logistical and personal demands of international touring.

Music Insight spoke with frontman Andrew Stockdale as he prepared to kick off the Australian leg of the Gypsy Caravan Tour.

“Last year was a busy one,” he said. “Six shows a week for three months in a row, then two weeks off, then do it again. It’s good to come out the other end and know that you can actually do that.”

Hectic schedule aside, Wolfmother’s time on the road isn’t quite as simple, or as safe, as it used to be.

“Before every tour my business manager calls and asks me if I want to take cancellation insurance. I always say no; if I don’t play, I don’t want to get paid,” he explained.

“Thing is, since the terrorist attacks in Europe, the premiums have gone up. There’s more of a risk of something bad happening to musicians. I think that’s really dark, man. I’m on this tour bus with my wife and daughter.”

Arriving in Belgium only days after the March 2016 bombings, Stockdale was moved by the resilience of the people in Brussels and embraced Wolfmother’s role in the process of healing.

“We played in Paris, at the Bataclan. We played in Brussels after the attack there. We walked into the place and people had left thousands of flowers for this tragedy, but that night we still played in front of 2000 people,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest compliment an artist can receive; this tragedy has just occurred and people still come out in the face of that fear to see a rock band. It’s kind of overwhelming.”

I think that’s the biggest compliment an artist can receive; this tragedy has just occurred and people still come out in the face of that fear to see a rock band. It’s kind of overwhelming.

Stockdale recalled his mother’s wise words, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.”

“Fear is the currency of terrorists, so I have a lot of respect for bands and roadies that have stuck it out and still live this way of life.”

This wasn’t the first time, however, that external issues threatened to prevent Wolfmother from connecting with their fans.

“In 2011 we were meant to play this festival in Jakarta which was sponsored by a cigarette company,” Stockdale recalled. “So this journalist was like, ‘Andrew Stockdale is taking money from cigarette companies! He’s an evil dude using corporate money!’ I had to think, maybe it’s ethically or morally wrong to play this festival.”

“Then I see a message from this guy in Jakarta who had sold his phone to buy a ticket to see Wolfmother. So, I knew I had to play to that guy. That’s from the heart. All this other peripheral stuff is just over the top.”

He reflected on modern society’s obsession with moral virtue and the propensity in people to “get all carried away with themselves and become overly judgemental”.

“In Byron Bay there’s a cafe with the sign, ‘This is the most ethical coffee in Byron Bay’. Is this a competition? Are we competing on who’s got the best ethics? Is this a status thing?”

Clearly, Stockdale doesn’t believe that musicians should be subject to such moral antagonism, especially when it comes to the processes of creating and sharing music.

“At the end of the day it’s just about writing a song and playing it. Do the things that are in your control and try to build a career.”

This practical, relaxed mentality is reflected in his approach to the logistics of touring. Despite playing some enormous venues over the years, Wolfmother are still “a lean machine with a small production”.

“We went to Russia and played a festival with Mastadon and all these bands, and we rocked up with no roadies. We just had our stuff in a van,” he says. “I’ve seen Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters doing his side project, playing stadiums in Australia with a huge crew, and then 6 months later setting up his own gear in San Diego.”

Stockdale’s comfort with his own humble beginnings has left him with a positive and refreshing perspective on what makes a worthwhile gig.

“I’m very flexible on how we tour. I’ll play anywhere. I’m stoked if there’s 50,000 people and I’m stoked if there’s five,” he said.

“The first gig I ever did as ‘Andrew Stockdale’, when I just had my Woman demo, I got free beer and $65. That’s the beauty of rock and roll. If you put yourself out there, you will get something.”

“If you busk on the street, someone throws $2 in your case, and then they throw $200,000 in your account for playing a corporate gig. It’s all the same. They’re all building blocks.”

Twelve years on from Wolfmother’s highly acclaimed debut release, Stockdale has begun to notice his own influence permeating through today’s rock scene, and inspiring younger generations of musicians.

“That’s when you know you’re getting older,” he joked. “This band, Electric Citizen, was supporting us in Europe. They told us that in 2007 they drove 3 hours from Cincinatti to Cleveland and saw Wolfmother, and it changed their lives. Now they’re in a band, travelling the world and playing shows.”

“I had goosebumps. I thought, this is how I can inspire people.”

You can catch Wolfmother on their national tour throughout April and May.

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Wed April 26th – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River WA 

Tickets & Show Info HERE

Thu Apr 27th – Metro City, Perth WA
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Presented By Triple M
Fri Apr 28th – The Gov, Adelaide SA
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Presented By Triple M
Sat Apr 29th – Pier Bandroom, Frankston VIC
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Presented By Triple M
Sun Apr 30th – The Croxton, Melbourne VIC
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Wed May 3rd – Club Forster, Forster NSW
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Thu May 4th – Panthers Club, Port Macquarie NSW
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Fri May 5th – Sawtell RSL Club, NSW
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Sat May 6th – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast QLD
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Sun May 7th – The Helm, Mooloolaba QLD
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Thu May 18th – Kay St Entertainment Complex, Traralgon VIC
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Fri May 19th – The Wool Exchange, Geelong, VIC
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Sat May 20th – The Granada, Hobart  TAS
Tickets & Show Info HERE

Sun May 21st – Club 54, Launceston TAS
Tickets & Show Info HERE

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