Since the breakup (and subsequent reunion of) Hot Water Music, Chris Wollard has kept a steady release schedule between The Draft, Ship Thieves and solo material. Oour own Michael Dauphin caught up with Wollard to discuss his various projects.
How has the response for the new album been so far?
Wellâ¦ Pretty damn good. I donât know what I was expecting? I didnât really know I was recording a record when I was recording a lot of it. I never really thought about what people would think about. I was just glad to have it done. Yeah, the response has been totally awesome and really supportive.
Who are The Ship Thieves?
Well, Iâm playing guitar and singing obviously. Addison is playing guitars and singing. Ben Lovett is playing the keys and a little bit of everything else. Heâs a talented dude. He kind of plays whatever he comes up with. George (HWM) is playing drums. Adam Darby has been playing bass. Heâs just a cool-as-shit dude that works for No Idea and plays bass in a band here in Gainesville. I donât think Iâve ever been in a five-piece before?
When did the initial idea to hunker down with producer Ben Lovett (Heavens, The Signal, The Last Goodbye) come to life?
I probably didnât really think about that until he moved back from California. He was living in L.A. for a few years and we would get together and jamâthat was just kinda what we did. I figured thatâs the way it would stay until he told me he was moving back to the East Coast. And the very first thing I thought was, "Well, shit man. You gotta meet Addison." I was doing the same thing with Addison here in town and I really thought they would get along well writing together. The more we jammed together, the more we wanted to. Then Tony wanted us to play that Fest show. Once we had done a show I thought, "I guess we can play live." I didnât think there would be a band like there is now. Right now we have a full band and itâs pretty kick ass. It really just happened organically and everythingâs fallen into place. Itâs all fun and no pressure.
The album has a very eclectic mix of genres, yet the result is a pretty cohesive album. Was it a challenge roping them all in and making all the songs fit?
Yeah, it was kind of a challenge shaping into an album, for sure. Thereâs ten songs on the record but there were plenty more songs that I was working with. I kind of just boiled it down to those ten that worked well together. Itâs not like the other songs were that different. Itâs just that lyrically I wanted it to make sense. It was kind of tough though. I went back and forth a lot with a couple of the songs. Iâm really happy with it. Itâs pretty spread out there but it really could have been more.
Were there any different influences (musically, personally, chemically) that had an impact on this album that as opposed any of your previous work?
Absolutely. All of this has been so fucking different than anything else I have done. The whole record was made not knowing if there was going to be a band and not really knowing what the hell was going to happen with it. Most of the time when youâre doing a record, the band is formed from the beginning and you play a bunch of shows before you get into the studio. It was totally weird. Many of these songs, I was just kind of writing just for myself. I wasnâtâ sure if I was really going to be able to play them for anyone. A lot of it started as me teaching myself how to play different styles and just learning. It was a really wild way to make a record and at the end of the day, itâs just super rewarding. Thereâs no box. Youâre not fenced-in in any way. Itâs just a total blast.
With the work youâve been putting into The Draft, Hot Water Music, and now your solo work, is it difficult to find time to write? How do you delineate between the projects?
[long pause] I donât know? One thing I kinda figured out a while ago is that I do better work when Iâm constantly working. I have to constantly write. I write a lot of songs and quite often I know that a song just isnât going to work. Itâs good to do though because it keeps me in the practice of writing. You get out of habit of writing when youâre out gigging for a while. Itâs always good to just get back in the habit of itâespecially lyrically. [long pause]
Itâs so hard to talk about some of this stuff. You know, when I was younger and just figuring out how to do this stuff… youâre like, "Ok, this is my song about politics. This is my song about religion. This is my song about my parents." You know what I mean? I realized a long time ago that it was bothering me that some of these songs had such an agenda. You know, "I gotta fit in this little line. This is my one chance!" I finally realized that I felt better about writing when I wasnât putting an agenda to it. Iâm just going to keep writing about my life and little pieces about politics and whatnot will find their way in. I just want to write about my life and let it be more of an open book. You have to let yourself run wild a little bit. If I donât get every lyric I want in a song then Iâll get it in the next one. I plan on doing this for a while so it will work out.
Writing with The Draft, I donât know that I specifically wrote a whole lot of stuff just for The Draft. I knew I had to write stuff and I knew what we wanted to do but really it wasnât much different. We just test stuff out and keep what worked. There are a few Draft songs that I thought for sure would never work with The Draft. I thought they would end up solo songs but the guys liked it and it worked. Generally, I just try to keep writing as much as possible and throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
I read that you have plans to release a split with Ninja Gun. Howâd that come about?
Yeah, itâs gonna be out on Chunksaah. There wasnât much forethought. Ninja Gun came out and played some shows with Hot Water. Coody comes down to Gainesville to hang out all the time. We were just sitting in the backstage area before a show and Kateâshe tour manages Hot Water and runs Chunksaah. We said, "Kate, wanna put out a split with me and Ninja Gun and she said yeah."
When youâre not touring, what does the typical day-in-the-the life of Chris Wollard entail? Basically, what keeps you busy when you are back home in Florida?
Right now Iâm ass-deep in writing the next record. Wednesdays is Ship Thieves practice night. Itâs usually the highlight of my week. Monday night, me Chad and Addison get together and work on guitarsâbasically acoustic stuff. Thursday is usually bowling night for Addison, our girlfriends and me. Sunday is softballâusually itâs just co-ed pick up games. I go out of town on weekends a lot to hang out with my son; he lives a couple hours south of me.
You coined some co-writing credits on Bad Religionâs The Empire Strikes First. Explain how that came about and what was it like working with them?
Well, thatâs a two-parter. It was a really awesome experience. Those dudes are really fucking good dudes. When we were working on it, it was me, Brett [Gurewitz] and Brooks [Wackerman]. And the three of us worked on a couple songs. We did three songs and they used two of them. Hot Water tried to use one of them and it didnât really work. Itâs just kind of floating out there.
How did it come about? I donât really have any idea. When we signed to Epitaph, Brett was always super proactive. He flew around and met us on tour and as soon as he heard what we were working on he came out and met us and just started bro-ing down. Heâs just been so supportive with everything weâve done. We got to be really tightâjust a really good friend. Same goes most of the Bad Religion guys. [Brian] Baker was a huge help too. He helped us write most of that first Draft album. Heâs an amazing guy. Jay [Bentley], Brooksâthe 4 of those dudes have just been awesome.
I donât really know how it came about because I was stupefied. Brett and I were talking and HWM had just finished a record for Epitaph. I said something to the effect of "I canât wait to work on the next record together." And he said, "Well, what do you mean? We havenât worked together yet." And I was like, "What do you mean?" And he suggested that we get together and jam. I was like, "are you fucking serious? Thatâs the best fucking idea Iâve ever heard." I was trying not to show my excitement.
A few months went by and he asked me to come out there and jam with him and Brooks at his house. Thatâs what we did. I went out there and stayed with him. Weâd get up the morning, eat breakfast, Brooks would come over and weâd write music all day. All 3 of us were presenting ideasâfrom vocals to drums. Brett wrote all of the lyrics and I was really happy about that. I was scared to death to try to come up with words for them. Theyâre both way smarter than me. It was such a great experience; I was lucky. I didnât really want to tell anybody until it happened. I didnât want to jinx it. It was really cool to get to know those guys and theyâve been a great resource. Theyâre always more than willing to give advice.
Would you say your current project has more staying power than previous projects? Do you plan on moving ahead full throttle with the Ship Thieves?
Yeah, man. Weâre working on it. Itâll probably be a couple months before weâre actually ready; hopefully, by the beginning of the summer. You never really know whatâs going to pop up. Weâre talking to a different people and thereâs just so much happening. The bandâs coming together and weâre about ready to play most of this album live. And at the same time, weâre about halfway into a new record. Thereâs just a lot going on. Weâre talking to friends in Europe, Australia and Brazil. Who knows what weâre actually going to have time for and what we can afford. It gets expensive to do some of this shit.