Vocalist Nick Reese, guitarist Blake Allard, bassist Greg Braccio, and drummer Robert Sodaro comprise Joyous Wolf; a rock and roll four-piece from Southern California who are hitting on all cylinders. After only four years together they have signed with Roadrunner Records, releasing their debut EP (out this month) and currently on a two-month tour opening for Buckcherry. Not too shabby.
I spoke with Nick Reese and Greg Braccio before their set at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The show marked the midway point of the current tour with Buckcherry. We were led by the band’s tour manager, Stripes, to an upstairs back corner lounge to conduct our interview. Nick and Greg sat down in padded bar chairs that had no legs attached, which puts them close to floor level. I’m now towering over the guys (being 6’2”) so I grab a “legless” chair too and join the guys on the floor. They let out a “yeah,” as we are now all eye to eye. “You should make a new show called “Tiny Chair Talk”” Nick says. We start laughing and get down to rock and roll.
Mickey Deneher: You’re a SoCal band. When I listen to your songs, you’re not the Beach Boys. You’re not the Eagles. Who is Joyous Wolf? Why did you put the band together?
Nick Reese: There wasn’t a reason, other than boredom.
Greg Braccio: That’s the interesting thing.
NR: It kind of happened.
GB: None of us went into this like we are going to be this kind of band, or that kind of band. Everyone had their set of influences and it just melded into what it is.
NR: It found it’s own way.
MD: Creatively isn’t that the way you want it?
NR: That is what we set out for. I could play you our original demos and stuff and it’s a totally different band.
MD: If you take yourself from the beginning to now, where’s the band gone?
NR: Everywhere (said with a very big grin, laughing).
MD: Not only physically, but creatively.
NR: I think we’ve always set out to be creative. I think we just figured it out ourselves. We really didn’t know what we were. We were pretty much a bunch of guys jamming together, putting out ideas. A lot of evolution has happened since then. That’s all I can say. It’s just evolving. Yeah, a lot of evolution.
MD: The writing process. Where does that (direction) come from? Who’s the driver?
NR: We all write together. Sometimes, someone will go and write something by themselves and bring it, and we all make it happen. That’s pretty much the main thing, or else we just get together and feel out the room, and what ever happens. Sometimes a song happens right there.
MD: You hear it? You hear it as your playing?
MD: And all of a sudden, it’s like “go over here.”
MD: That’s a cool thing.
MD: In your promo (bio) it says you go from heavy metal to delta blues. That’s a huge swash.
NR: When we did that thing (promo) it was, what do we listen to? What’s the range? We’ll listen to heavier bands and to Muddy Waters. Between the four of us there’s a pretty big collection of music. That’s really what I think makes this band fun, for me anyway.
NR: We get to apply all of it together. There is no one direction. I think people are going to see that on the record. I think they are going to have a lot of different feelings to our music.
MD: Is it always a personal thing when you write? Or is it, I saw something that impacted me?
GB: Honestly I don’t really think of it that way. It’s just kind of what ever we are feeling at that moment, or what ever we are playing, or what ever we are doing.
I think we try really hard try to just venture outside of the parameter of what’s the normal average rock band.– Nick Reese
NR: As far as myself, that happened to me lyrically. I bring in little bits and pieces, now and then. But the majority of my job is to translate the mass that they create.
MD: Is it you, or is everyone dropping little snippets of sound?
GB: It’s either that or we’re all kind of jamming together and it will come up.
NR: Sometimes it will be at a sound check. Sometimes it’ll be when we are completely far apart. No one’s near each other and someone wakes up in the middle of the night. It’s nothing new as far as how songs are written.
MD: Your right. It’s nothing new, but it is new.
NR: Yeah, it’s a new creation.
MD: You are looking for something new.
GB: It’s almost inevitable to create something entirely new, especially with rock music. But, it’s really just the four of us having our own set of influences and hoping to create something like a weird blend of genres, what ever you want to call it.
MD: That synergy sort of groove thing and follow along.
MD: And bring people with you.
NR: I think for us, it’s all about the energy of our music. I think that’s what makes it sound fresh. That, and I think we also try really hard try to just venture outside of the parameter of what’s the normal average rock band. I think we are going to do even more and more of that as we continue on.
MD: Setting yourself apart. In time, you want people to just say immediately “Joyous Wolf” as compared to “umm, sounds like umm,”
NR: “Whoever else.”
MD: That’s the individuality of it.
NR: We are fully prepared for things like that. Every band that has ever come around has been compared to somebody else.
GB: It is inevitable.
NR: Even when Led Zeppelin came around they said they sounded like Jeff Beck’s band. There is never going to be a brand new band that’s not going to get pegged for somebody else.
MD: You played at a festival in Sacramento, under a freeway, and got a record deal.
GB: It sounds that simple, but that’s is pretty much how it happened.
NR: It was Aftershock Festival.
GB: It was the third stage.
NR: And it just happened to be next to the 5 Freeway. I still think to this day that that is the most California thing that could have possibly have happened. We’re playing in Sacramento, in the capital; we’re from California, lived their our whole lives; and we’re playing under the f#cking 5 Freeway.
That performance lead to signing with Atlantic Records’s Roadrunner label and the recording of their debut EP, “Place in Time,” in late 2018.
MD: Had you guys ever been in a recording environment like that? Putting together an album with any other bands or anyone else?
NR: Not quite like that no. Everything else that we had done was very independent.
GB: That was like the first professional setting to be doing that in.
MD: I hear bands talk about the daunting task of going in, getting it right. The producer is such a critical cog in that wheel to make something happen.
NR: He helped educate us in a couple of ways, as far as our ability to write songs. It’s not like we ever had trouble, he just showed us little bits and pieces to help us do that. Honestly, I think in that perspective, it came out pretty great. As far as it being daunting, I think the only thing that we were worried about was having the material. We went and took a couple of weeks after our fall tour last year and we worked until (looking to George) when did we go in?
GB: Late November early December.
NR: We did pretty much the entire the record in around 2 weeks.
GB: So it was very new material still.
MD: The sounds you had in your head for those songs, I take it, all the songs where written prior to going into the studio.
MD: Was that sound, the actual sound that came out? Or did it go to someplace else?
NR: I don’t think there was ever an expectation really. You don’t know what you are going to get, you know, until it is done.
GB: Yeah, I mean it was close. I would briefly say it was not quite what we were expecting. But overall it’s us. We shine through as much as we could.
MD: And you can stand up and say, “we are proud of it.”
NR: Yeah, I’m proud of the songs. I am proud of the songs.
MD: I’ve seen a couple of acoustic things that you have done. It’s you (Nick) and Blake (guitar.) Is that something that you may lean more towards going forward? Or is it that just that we need to be acoustic because of where we are and that’s what we do?
GB: I think when it comes to a full-length album or whatever; we’ll defiantly want to incorporate acoustic or anything really. We are not stuck to one thing.
NR: Even on the EP already we are going to have some stuff that a lot of our peers I don’t think would do. I think we’ve already included some elements, things that are not exactly everyone’s idea of rock and roll. We’re really not afraid to go anywhere. We don’t have any machismo. It could be literally anything. I feel like that’s how rock’s going to go forward, just let it fly.
GB: Yeah, it’s not supposed to be still the Sunset Strip all leather kind of thing. It’s got to evolve from that.
MD: No walls. No constraints. You just take if where it goes. Who knows where it’s going to end up, but you are not stopping yourselves.
The guys nod their agreement. As we get closer to show time, we talk about what is ahead for the year
MD: Two months with Buckcherry.
NR: It’s a lot longer than that. We’re doing their second leg in the summer and even more, later in the year. We are also supporting Slash in July. We are also going to go to Europe for the first time this fall.
MD: This (current) tour you went to Canada and now you are doing a whole leg going back to California.
NR: Yeah and then we go back to Canada with Slash for six shows. We opened for him at the Paramount in New York last fall. He had picked us to come and open the shows. We were going to play Rock Fest, but when Slash calls, you don’t say no to Slash.
We’re really not afraid to go anywhere. We don’t have any machismo. It could be literally anything.– Nick Reese
There is a reason why Buckcherry, Slash and other top-level acts are booking Joyous Wolf to open for them. As the band hit the stage this night, they took charge. Nick gyrated across the stage as if he had conjured up the spirit of fellow Californian Jim Morrison. All the time drawing in the audience with every word sung. Supporting their vocal extrovert, Blake, Greg, and Robert cranked out some heavy, in your face, rock and roll power playing. By the end of the set, hands were pumping high in the air and Joyous Wolf had left their mark. With an impressive, well-produced debut EP and ever increasing exposure opening for some of rock’s best, it won’t be long till these guys are headlining themselves.