Interview: Call Of The Wild
Call Of The Wild is a new New York City-based band that is playing some wild-assed punk n’ roll. On their Kemado Records debut, Leave Your Leather On, the band plays the type of rip-roaring, down and dirty rock that has somewhat disappeared over the past few years, but desperately needs to make a comeback. It’s fun, loud, and full of attitude.
The band features Allison Busch, formerly of Awesome Color, on drums, as well as Johnny Coolati on guitar and vocals and Maxwell Peebles on bass and vocals. Coolati and Busch recently answered a bunch of our questions. One warning: Morrissey fans may not want to read this.
What was the main reason to start the band? How did it come about?
Johnny Coolati: I was in Nashville playing guitar for some friends. [I was] in need of a lead guitar player, and we were touring a lot. Once the money ran out and my relationship with my girlfriend at the time went to utter and complete shit, I had moved in with some good friends and their baby boy and was literally a live-in “nanny” for a month or two. I knew I couldn’t do this shit forever, so I started calling friends in Detroit and New York because I’m from Michigan and I lived in New York for about five years prior to Nashville.
I was seriously thinking about moving to Detroit, but I ended up calling my friend Greg Stovetop — he was getting drunk at Daddy’s, where Allison had just started bar tending. I had no idea she was back in Brooklyn, because I heard she had moved to Michigan after Awesome Color broke up. Greg really wanted me to come back to Brooklyn and I heard Allison in the background on the phone being like, “Yeah dude, I’ll be your drummer! Let’s kick ass and party!” I was sold immediately and booked my flight that day.
I knew Max was there, and we always really were on the same page and played well together on previous short-lived projects… and he’s a bad ass just like Allison. I knew this lineup could turn into something special. We all had been through so much shit, so we were really excited to have this new band, almost like a support group, where no one is the “leader” and we all make our decisions together. A true collaboration. Let’s face it, people make the best shit collaboratively, rather than trying to take all the credit.
What is the significance of the title “Leave Your Leather On,” If there is one?
Allison Busch: One reason for the title is because Johnny used his leather jacket as a blanket when he went to jail the day we were mixing the record. But the first time I heard the phrase “leave your leather on” it was a request from a *ahem* …gentleman friend of mine.
Allison, how would you say this band is different from Awesome Color? How would you say it’s similar?
Allison: It’s similar in the spirit of the music: heavy music! The difference is that we’re faster and louder in Call of the Wild.
Do you guys and gal believe there is a death of good, kick ass rock n’ roll these days? Is this band a way of bringing it back?
Johnny: Yes, absolutely. Rock n’ roll had its balls removed somewhere between 1985 and 1990, in my opinion. Yeah, there have been good bands since then. Some really good bands. It’s just not as well accepted as it was before though, you know? All these Goddamned synth-indie bands make me want to fucking throw up. Aside from a few, because not all those bands come off as jerks, like a lot of them do. If you come meet us after a show, you’ll find out we’re three of the most accepting, fun people you’ll meet. We don’t care what you look like, who you fuck, or how much money you make. We have all kinds of weirdo crazy friends.
I guess this band is a way of addressing this issue, but it’s almost about “character” more than anything. Honestly, I don’t think anything is going to change. I see the underage kids going to DIY shows I work at, and they go fucking ape shit for these bands that act like complete and utter — excuse my French — pussies. I’m not saying everything needs to be all hard and crazy and high energy, [but] I guess it comes down to this: you’re either a Smiths fan or a Cure fan. The Smiths are pussies and terrible, in my opinion, but what really makes me hate them is the way Morrissey comes off onstage and in interviews. I can’t stand him. But some Cure songs I really can dig on, do a popper and dance to — because they aren’t acting like complete pussies and don’t come off like the Smiths do.
This might make no sense to anyone, but it makes sense to me. We love all kinds of music. What I’m trying to say for me personally is I hate pretentious music. I hope we don’t come off like that, because we’re actually trying to convey the message “Be yourself and have fun.” I hate cool people. I’ve always rooted for the underdogs, outcast, and misfits — probably because I was picked on a lot in high school…until I started selling pot. [laughter]
Allison: We’ve played with a lot of like-minded rock bands since we started. Even if we don’t sound alike, the blood and guts is the same. I think there’s always going to be a crew of maniacs playing dirty rock for their friends. This is music we play naturally and love; it’s why we live our lives.
What motto does the band live by? I’m thinking, “young, loud and snotty,” but I might be wrong.
Johnny: I like that motto, but I’m 29 years old, and one of my favorite bands named a kick ass album after it. I don’t feel young so much anymore. I’m refusing to grow up to some degree, though. I would say, “Take it or leave it, win or lose, this is the life we choose,” would be our true motto — a wonderful lyric that Max wrote for our song “Choked Out.”
Allison: “I don’t care, I like it.”
What is the New York City music scene like these days? How does or doesn’t the band fit into it? Do you stand out like a sore thumb?
Johnny: I love this question. Yes. Yes, we do stick out like a sore thumb. There are still some really good bands out there in New York City, though. Bands like Hard Nips, Hardbodies, Endless Boogie, Prince Rupert’s Drops, Snake Dudes, K-Holes, Bezoar, Blackout, Liquor Store, Pampers, Foster Care, Stalkers, Pygmy Shrews (who broke up), and The Men — they’re from New York, right?. Hell, Andrew WK lives here, and I love his stuff. One of my best friends fronts Suckers, who I personally think are awesome for a pop band.
I’m probably forgetting a few, but let me say, you can only play the same shows with the same bands for so long. And this is a very frustrating thing for me because we live in New York City, one of the biggest cities in the world with the most bands. Shouldn’t there be thousands of really good bands here? I love playing with our friends, but I’ve played a lot of shows with most of the bands I just mentioned.
You have to be kind of out of your mind to be a band in this city. It’s so fucking expensive. I eat dumplings practically every motherfucking day, and I hate them now. I’ve got holes in my shoes. But they’re is always some place to go, some girl you haven’t met before, or some drug you’ve never done. That’s why I live here. When I go to Chelsea, Michigan, back home where I was raised, I’ll go to the Mobil station to fill up my mom’s car and I start freaking out because the guy filling up his big red truck next to me is looking at me like he wants to kill me…or fuck me, I’m really not sure. Either way, it’s terrifying. People don’t really give a shit what you’re up to here. Just leave me alone and let me do my own thing, right? I feel safer here than I do in Chelsea, Michigan. [laughter]
Johnny, who are some of the guitar players and vocalists who inspire you?
Johnny: Wow, where do I begin. Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham — that’s pretty obvious if you’re a Thin Lizzy fan. I’m probably one of the biggest Thin Lizzy fans I know. Plus, Robertson was on one of my favorite Motorhead records, Another Perfect Day. I like these guys because they really aren’t afraid to cheese it up. Their playing is beautiful, especially when they play duel leads. Part of me always kind of wishes I had a Scott Gorham to duel up on stuff and keep me in check — but I really love playing in a three-piece. Call of the Wild is my first three-piece.
Let’s not forget Fast Eddie, Hendrix, you know — all those dudes. Shit, Kirk Hammett on the first three Metallica albums? I’d kill to play like that. My dad actually taught me a lot of guitar. He was a blues guitarist back in Detroit.
As far as vocals go, I have no clue. I’d never sang in a band until Call of the Wild. It just kind of came out that way. Sometimes I feel really pissed off, so I’ll just growl more. Sometimes I feel silly, so I’ll sing kind of silly. Sometimes, I’m just not even thinking at all and just doing it. It also depends on what’s going on at that moment. Honestly, a lot of times I think about the past, how I’ve been fucked over. Or maybe how I failed someone in the past. It’s a two-way street. Either way, these things make me fucking mad and frustrated. If you talk to me in person, you won’t usually find me to be an angry person. I’m a really nice guy who only gets pissed off at assholes. I think most people who know me would agree. I don’t like it when people see that side of me in person, so I try to get it all out in the music. I think that comes through pretty well. Sorry if it’s not cool enough for some people.
What is the songwriting process like? Does everyone contribute?
Johnny: Yep. Sometimes people have more to do with songs than others but we all contribute and work together. All songs are by Call of the Wild. Sure I got a song about my ex and stuff but who do you think helped me finish that song? My band! I don’t think you’ll ever see our songs credited as Peebles/Coolati or Busch/Peebles. I always thought that was all bullshit. It just drives a wedge in a band. A band should be like family. Everyone is working and helping out as best as they can. I know everyone is in this band. We’re all best friends. We’re more than that. That doesn’t even feel like a strong enough term. I think I’d be in a lot of trouble if it weren’t for Max and Allison.
What are some of the band’s musical influences? What are some of your non-musical influences for the band?
Johnny: I think it’s probably pretty obvious who our musical influences are. As far as our non-musical influences… Hmm, I’d say just the struggle of an unpampered life in a tough world where no one is really going to understand you except for other degenerates like yourself.
Allison: Every day it’s something new. The two best records I’ve heard this year are White Boy & The Average Rat Band and Coloured Balls Ball Power. I’m also pretty inspired by this pizza joint down the street; it’s been there since the ’60s and is just a little hole-in-the-wall. It’s the perfect definition of humble pie. They’ve got their crust down better than Mob 47.
And, most importantly, what do you think is the best way to wreck a party?
Johnny: Take a shit on the floor in front of everybody, and while everyone is shocked and appalled and not looking, have your buddies steal all the booze. That or put on some Leonard Cohen…ha! That’s some really bad party music. Not hating on you though, Leonard.
Allison: I’d put on a Nig-Heist record.