Over the last two years, it's pretty easy to say that Bad Wolves isn't a stranger to Music City.
In fact, the alternative rockers, previously opened for Papa Roach back in May at Municipal Auditorium. Prior to that, Bad Wolves was the opener during a co-headlining tour between Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown at Bridgestone in Arena in 2018.
Currently, Bad Wolves is back on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, along with Three Days Grace and Fire From the Gods. They'll be stepping away from that tour to headline a show in Nashville this Monday at Cannery Ballroom.
While on the road, the band put up its new record at the end of October. Prior to its Nashville show, lead singer Tommy Vext took the time to talk with The News about the band's success, the success of "Zombie" and mental health.
Tullahoma News (TN): I know you guys are on tour right now, so how's things been going so far on this run?
Vext: It's really going great. We're having a blast. Today we're in Alabama doing an opening show, but the tour package that we're on is Five Finger Death Punch, Three Days Grace, and Fire from the gods are opening up the tour.
It's been a lot of fun… It's just been great, man. It's a great tour. It's a solid package. We've toured with all these bands before. Everybody's friends. There's a lot of hanging out going on and playing some bullshit going up backstage. It's pretty funny.
TN: Does that make things more comfortable whenever you go on tour? Because I know I've seen you guys on tour. I know last year you came through Nashville with Five Finger Death Punch and then Shinedown, now earlier this year with Papa Roach. Is it great to tour with those familiar guys?
Vext: Yeah, I mean I guess we only tour without friends actually. I'm thinking about it and I'm like, we try to only tour with people we already know and respect. We're very fortunate to be on a label that has a lot of bands that we already know, and a lot of really great artists. I think we wound up, we toured last year in Europe with Three Days Grace and we hadn't met those guys. And like right off the bat we were like, we f- love these dudes. And now they're like the nicest guys ever. And so now we're on our, I think fourth tour together. It has to be fun, because it's a job. It's got to be a fun job.
TN: Whenever you actually play Nashville you'll be headlining your show. Are you a little bit pumped to headline a show in Nashville?
Vext: Oh yeah, I'm stoked and I think we're going to be there a day early. We have a day off. So I'm like, going to see some friends, go to the gym, make sure I eat good. Nashville has some good food. It's going to be nice to play a full hour and10, to hour and 15 minute set list.
We're going to bring up the acoustic guitars, we're going to do some things that people haven't seen us do. So we're going to flex a little bit. And the lighting show, we just added on a new lighting package to this tour. So it's going to be cool.
TN: I’ve been able to see you guys twice and one of the things that I've always respected about you guys is you're always make a notion of mental health awareness at some point during your set. Could you just talk to me a little bit about how important that aspect of things are, and how good is it to be a part of a rock community that takes mental health so seriously?
Vext: I mean, well, like for me, I've never really shy away from expressing my personal experiences. I've been very open about, I'm an attempted suicide survivor; I'm a recovering addict, alcoholic. I've been sober for 10 and half years. I grew up in a home with alcoholism. I grew up with mental illness in my family. I've grew up with a family member who was mentally institutionalized since we were 10 years old on and off. It really is a family disease and I think we talk about that stuff in the song and songs like Sober and Remember When and For a Friend. I think that my experience has been, over the past, I would say I think around six and a half years ago I became a counselor and I started working as a sober coach. Helping people through their first 30 to 60 days of sobriety.
Just that kind of experience has carried over into the band and to the creative side. Because a lot of people who are dealing with these problems of addiction, alcoholism, mental health issues, depression, suicidal ideation or anger, they think they're the only ones. And so for me, I kind of utilize a few moments in the platform that the band has afforded me, to address issues so that people who are specifically going through that or family members and loved ones of people who are suffering from those issues, can understand that it's okay, there's a way out of it.
And I'm an example of how to heal and how to have a successful life beyond a childhood of violent trauma and alcoholism and addiction and all the things that come with that. And that they're not alone. Feeling like you're not alone is one of the most powerful tools in taking the first step in helping yourself.
TN: You brought up some of the creative process as well, which leads me to the new record, “N.A.T.I.O.N.” Talk to me a little bit about how long you guys been writing and recording that album.
Vext: I mean we kind of, we chipped away at it. In 2018, we played about 200 shows and we had a couple of breaks where we were off for like three weeks here, two weeks there, one week here. John and I just kind of use those times to go in and be creative in the studio. Then over the Christmas break, John [Boecklin] went to Vegas and he went into the recording studio out there and he really dug deep and dug his heels in. By February, I was tracking the record. I had already recorded about four songs on my own and then there was like another 14 and I was like, all right. We just kind of throw ourselves into it and, we'd be on a European tour and we'd be going through demos that people recorded at home and listening to them and be like, this riff is cool, let's not use that riff.
Or I like this, oh, I like that. And having a so many creative people in the band this time around, because originally the first album, pretty much me and John wrote together before the band was put together, with the exception of a few tracks that we did later on and in the 11th Hour. It was good to have Doc and Chris put their input in and people go off and they go to their home studios and they like, Hey, what about this song? It becomes easier when there is more material to choose from, you know?
And it's also easier for me because I have guys who are very musical. So they also come up with melodies. Sometimes they have ideas for lyrics or I'll interview them. Like if somebody writes a song and they're like, this song means something to me. I kind of interview them about how they feel about it. And I'm better at writing lyrics, so I try to take what their feelings are and transcribe them into poetry. And so some of the songs are like me, like 100% my experience. And some of them are the other guys experience. And I think it's cool to give the non singer dudes in the band a voice so that when they hear their song sang back to them, they're like, those are my feelings, you know?
TN: I think one of the first songs that I heard from you guys, and really a lot of people heard from you guys was the cover of “Zombie.” I know you guys put your own twist on it, but are you kind of surprised about the success of that song?
Vext: When it all kind of happened, we were not really, it was just a processing time. I think there was a definitive grieving process over losing [Cranberries lead singer] Dolores [O’Riordan], and a sense of duty to go out and sell the song so that we could help take care of her kids. So it was very much like a sense of duty. There wasn't really time. I mean the song was the biggest rock song of, I think it was like quantifiably the biggest rock song of 11 years or something like that. We've got all these diamond platinum albums that we've been presented with and we're just like, okay. There were presentations, and all of a sudden people were making a big deal out of us and we were like, all right, cool.
There was definitely a fear, at one point where we were like, well what if this is like, this might just be it. We got this big hit, we're donating the money and maybe this'll be it. And then Hear Me Now went number one on Billboard. And then Remember When went number one on Billboard. So for a band that just came out with no previous history, and being a rock metal band to have three number ones on Billboard in the United States. It's insane.
TN: So when you have the success of that song, how do you guys approach the writing process for albums?
Vext: Yeah, I mean basically the first album was like, we made a record that our 16-year-old selves would be stoked on, and now we made a record that our 18-year-old selves would be stoked on. Every time, we keep maturing. As we become a band and we become more mature in our kind of interdependent relationships creatively, we know each other now. We already know, these guys will write stuff and they're like, oh Tommy's going to do this over it. Or like, so I'll like something, I'll be like, oh he's going to want to do this drum part on this guitar lead here. So it becomes easier now that we know each other's languages, you know?
TN: Yeah, absolutely. My last question for you is obviously, past this tour I know you guys will be headlining with Megadeath, you know that's a name I grew up with listening to. How excited are you for your next year to jump on with Megadeath?
Vext: Oh dude, it's going to be insane. It's going to be incredible. We're going to be, the tour sold out. The whole, it's a sold out arena tour. It's already sold out. And like half the show sold out the first week. We're going to play our set, and then we're going to watch Megadeath, and then we're going to watch Five Finger. You know, I feel like an Instagram model, like I'm living my best life. But I actually am, dude. It's a metalheads dream come true.
Tickets to Monday's show are available, starting at $25. Advanced tickets can be purchased here.