Joyous Wolf, an O.C.-based rock band, signs a major-label record deal
Coming up with a band name isn’t always easy.
Members generally want something denoting the style of music they play, a word or phrase communicating to consumers what they are all about.
For Orange County-based rock band Joyous Wolf, deciding on a name was particularly difficult — so they didn’t.
Three years ago, as the bandmates were gathered together in a restaurant a day before their first gig, the urgency of their name deficit hit home. They turned to an online band name generator for help, which by some mysterious, random calculation churned out word combinations like “Global Death” and “Intense Resentment.”
“We were crying laughing,” Joyous Wolf guitarist Blake Allard said.
Yet, the unlikely algorithm that birthed those comical names cranked out “Joyous Wolves.”
“Nobody said ‘no’ to it,” Allard, 22, of Laguna Beach, said.
With that lowest of bars came the adoption of the name — with a slight adjustment — and a narrative that continues to fuel the group.
“It became a point of pride for the band,” said Daniel Golly, the band’s logistics man and Allard’s longtime friend. “It means that if they make it, then it wasn’t because of marketing, or some cool catchy name, it’s because their music is good.”
The moniker signals a band that’s uncompromising in the music it plays — a group that stays true to its marrow.
And that philosophy has guided the band to the upper echelons of musicdom, being recently signed to the Roadrunner Records label of Atlantic Records.
“We all grew up fantasizing about the mythical bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin,” Allard said. “We never really thought an inkling of that success would happen to us.”
Dave Rath, senior vice president of A&R at Roadrunner Records, said over the phone he knew the band had what it takes to be successful when he saw them perform live in October at the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento.
“These guys can play,” Rath said. “They have total command of their instruments. They have fire in their fingers.”
The seeds of the band were planted about three and a half years ago when Allard met singer Nick Reese at a Guitar Center.
The two jammed a bit and Allard inquired about any guitarist vacancies in Reese’s band, but there was none at the time. They exchanged information and went on their ways.
Eventually, Reese’s band broke up and he phoned Allard to start the group that would come to be Joyous Wolf.
Allard, Reese, drummer Robert Sodaro and bassist Greg Braccio are heavily influenced by blues along with hard rock bands like Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains.
The music sounds like a union of the genres — or as Allard calls it, “angry blues.”
The band’s single, “Mountain Man,” is the only song it has officially released, along with a few music videos on YouTube.
Reese’s howling vocals, summoned from his deepest interior, are a mix of rugged grunge and blues. Allard ferries in the latter parts of the song with a blistering, feral solo.
Allard said the band is working on an LP.
While the band is feeling the relief of first successes, its road was paved with obstacles typical of the music scene.
Like many bands, Joyous Wolf its played shows in small rooms to only a handful of people. Golly, 24, of Silverado remembers seeing them perform in empty venues.
Yet, Allard said the band plays the same at each show, defaulting to the energy that has come to define their live performances.
“It doesn’t affect me as much as I thought it would,” Allard said. “I thought that having no one in the crowd would be a huge bummer but we still do our thing regardless. We are a high-energy band.”
The group did manage to bypass the pay-to-play scheme by swearing it off early on in the venture. Pay-to-play is when venues require musicians to either pay to play or sell a certain amount of tickets for their show with the knowledge that any shortfall in sales will be settled from the band’s pocketbook.
“We all went through that horrible nightmare in high school, so we made a vow when we got in this band that we wanted it to be serious,” Allard said. “At the bare minimum, we would do a free gig.”
Last year, the band went on a mini tour, landing a few festivals.
Allard said members worried whether spending every minute with one another would break down band allegiances.
“But, we started exploring new places we had never been and we all came closer together,” Allard said.
The initial stage in the band’s big break was its performance at the Aftershock Festival. Playing amid the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Nine Inch Nails, Eagles of Death Metal and other famed rock bands, the group got its first taste of a legitimate festival crowd.
Allard said the performance was surreal.
Also in the crowd was Rath, who marveled at the musicality of each member and at Reese’s stage presence.
The band inked its deal March 5.
“I had to sit down when they got signed,” Golly said. “This is validation of all their efforts — not that they’ve needed anyone’s validation. But, for anybody, it’s what keeps them ticking in some sense, sharing that art with others. I don’t think they would ever stop playing just because nobody was listening.”
Allard was also recently endorsed by D’Angelico Guitars.
The band will be departing for some tour dates later this month and into next month and will embark on a full tour around the festival circuit from mid-April through July.
While the group is stepping into new terrain, members said they will hold true to their identity.
“One of my favorite parts about watching their journey is they haven’t been asking what they need to play that people want to listen to,” Golly said. “It’s been, ‘What is it we want to play that is an extension of who we are.’
“When you are actually expressing yourself in that capacity, that’s what’s going to resonate with people.”
11 a.m. March 23: Joyous Wolf is working on an LP. This article originally stated that they would release an album, “Enigma,” in the coming months. That is no longer the case.
11 a.m. March 23: This article was updated with comments from Dave Rath, senior vice president of A&R for Roadrunner Records.
This article was originally published March 22.
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