BRISBANE, Australia (Billboard) - Like all animals, Wolfmother faced two choices: evolve or die.
Citing “longstanding frictions,” keyboard/bassist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett left the Australian band in 2008. But frontman Andrew Stockdale wasn’t about to give up after achieving so much — the group sold 537,000 U.S. copies of its self-titled 2006 debut, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and won a 2007 Grammy Award for best hard rock performance.
“The Beatles lasted seven years (of touring), we lasted four,” Stockdale says from the band’s temporary Los Angeles base. “We toured our arses off around the world. We did 300 shows. It takes a certain type of person to want to continue to live that kind of life.”
Stockdale replaced his departed bandmates with drummer Dave Atkins — a veteran of Brisbane, Australia, bands Resin Dogs and Pangaea — guitarist Aidan Nemeth and Ian Peres on bass and keyboards.
Together they crafted the blues rock of “Cosmic Egg,” due October 23 in Australia on Modular Recordings/Universal, October 26 in the United Kingdom on Island and October 27 in the United States on Interscope.
Also new to the project is British producer Alan Moulder. But despite the changes, Wolfmother’s trademark rock sound remains intact, with tracks like “In the Morning” and “California Queen” likely to more than satisfy fans of the first album.
“I can listen to the whole record without cringing, which is a good sign,” Stockdale says. “I wanted to take it back to an old-school hi-fi sound.”
“It’s a difficult situation to come back from,” Modular A&R manager Glen Goetze says of the split. “But (Stockdale has) worked his way through it. It’s like starting from scratch on a debut record all over again, but we already have a sizable fan base out there.”
The band has been re-engaging those fans for several months now, with a carefully plotted live return involving a mix of high-impact shows, festival dates and intimate secret gigs. The group was one of only two acts to play both of the Sound Relief bushfire benefit concerts held March 14 at Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney Cricket Ground. It also closed out the March 27 MTV Australia Awards, performing the appropriately titled “Back Round,” a non-album track that was a free download on Wolfmother’s Web site and the site for the videogame “Guitar Hero 5,” which features the band.
In the United States, the group opened for the Killers on six dates in August and September and — after Australian and European shows — will start its own monthlong U.S. headline theater tour October 29 at Dallas’ House of Blues.
The band will play to 600,000-plus Australians when it opens AC/DC’s March 2010 homecoming stadium tour. And Stockdale has collaborated on a track for guitarist Slash’s next album.
“We might do a few shows or some surprise guest appearances. I’d love to have him play at some Wolfmother shows,” Stockdale says of Slash.
All the signs are that Wolfmother can build on its debut success, despite the changes in personnel. But Stockdale says he’s taking nothing for granted.
“At the start when people were saying, ‘Wolfmother returns,’ I was like, ‘Don’t say it’s a comeback,’” he says. “But maybe a comeback is a good thing. A bit of a struggle, a challenge, is a healthy thing to have in life. Every time I do a gig now, I think, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’”
Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters