In August 2008, after nearly two years of touring in support of their breakthrough debut, Wolfmother returned to their native Australia for a triumphant homecoming show at the Splendour in the Grass festival. It would be the last time they’d ever share the stage together.
Three days later — amid constant media speculation that the band had broken up — [artist id=”1830962″]Wolfmother[/artist]’s record label released a statement announcing that drummer Myles Heskett and bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross had left the group due to “irreconcilable differences” but that wild-haired guitarist/frontman Andrew Stockdale had decided to soldier on under the Wolfmother mantle, with plans to write and record a new album … all by himself, if necessary.
For almost a year, Stockdale toiled away, writing and recording, playing guitar, bass, drums (and even a Fender Rhodes here or there) on what he hoped would become the new Wolfmother album. He battled writer’s block, feared that the musical muse had abandoned him and thought about scrapping the project more times than he cares to admit. But he never did. Because he never could.
“I used to think musicians were like monks … and music was like a religious path, because it tests you. It tests your ego, your jealousies, your competitiveness — all those things. How it’s going to consume you. If you can keep writing songs. It tests you in so many ways,” Stockdale told MTV News. “I decided to answer those challenges, for one, because I can’t help myself, but also, because I’m the Wolfmother guy all the time. I’m the dude from Wolfmother. It confronts me all the time. I didn’t want to justify myself to the press, or explain what happened, or what didn’t happen, or who said what, or why. … I didn’t want to get involved in all that. So I thought the best thing to do was just make music and let that speak for itself.”
And it does. Due in October, Cosmic Egg shouts very loudly, showcasing the added punch of three new musicians (rhythm guitarist Aidan Nemeth, bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres and drummer Dave Atkins) and taking everything that made Wolfmother’s self-titled debut such a smash — namely, gut-busting riffs, incendiary solos and bong-glazed mysticism — and cranking it to the absolute maximum.
Tunes like “California Queen” and “Sundial” chug along on meaty chords, dive into sludgy breakdowns and sizzle with Stockdale’s flame-kissed solos. “Far Away” and “Pilgrim” are moody, fog-machine ruminations on astral planes and mythic realms, floating on pealing organ lines and stony synths. And, of course, all of it is entirely intentional — because Stockdale loves a good challenge.
“For a while, I was thinking of not going forward as Wolfmother … but then, eventually, I decided just to do it. It’s a bizarre situation, because you’re making new music, but you’re also connected to the first record, and the new people are replacing people. It’s not a new band with a fresh slate,” Stockdale said. “But once we got started making this record, I thought, ’It’s more of a challenge to continue as Wolfmother,’ because there is a first record, there is something to compare it to … and that makes you push yourself.”
Emboldened by the struggle, and with a new album on the horizon, Stockdale is on a mission: to carry the Wolfmother name onward into the future — which is why you can’t really blame him if he doesn’t want to talk about the past anymore.
“The past is the past … that’s over. Even when we started, people were like, ’Oh, you sound like this, you sound like that.’ Well, it’s like, ’You can’t go see Led Zeppelin tonight. You can’t go see Black Sabbath. We’re here, we’ve written these songs, so whatever,’ ” he hissed. “You know, like Jimi Hendrix ain’t here, and it’s all good and well for everyone to have these high standards and ideas, but, like, it’s not real.”