Frontman Wolf Bradley of pop-rock duo The Habits joins us at one of their old stomping grounds, Portfolio Coffeehouse in Long Beach, CA, to discuss their debut self-titled EP, transitioning from a trio to a duo, and the importance of being genuine in all facets of your art.
The Habits is comprised of:
Wolf Bradley – lead vocals and guitar
You guys just recently released your debut self-titled EP. Congratulations!
Wolf Bradley: Thank you!
For those who have yet to add any of the songs to their summer playlist, what type of lyrical themes and instrumental elements should we be expecting?
Wolf: It’s a very ‘summer’- like collection of songs, and what we really wanted to do was put something out that was fun because we ourselves wanted to have fun. I mean, most of our songs already have that ‘fun’ element, but we tend to do more sad lyrics with upbeat melodies. With this one, we felt good about the music and we were in a good place as a band. Every song has as ‘sweet’ sentiment to it with shiny sounding synths and guitars but also with heavy drums.
And what a perfect time to release it!
Wolf: Yeah! It’s like a pool party EP. *both laugh*
How was the songwriting and recording process for the EP similar or different than any of the past work you’ve done?
Wolf: Well with this band, we’ve never gone into the studio for more than a day of two because we usually just recorded singles. This time around, we had three of the songs already chosen prior to going into the studio. We literally spent from noon to 1AM for eight days, and it was so different for us because we only had a certain amount of time to work on these songs. We did four songs in eight days so we gave ourselves more time than we actually needed. *laughs* Our last song on there “Love You,” we didn’t even know we were going to record it. We were going through demos trying to figure out a fourth song to include, and we had a few options, but the chorus of that one was just a hidden gem. I wrote it, like, three years ago I think, but then I re-wrote all the verses to it and it was just amazing how it turned out.
Which leads into my next question! Which song was you favorite to write and to record?
Wolf: “Love You” was definitely my favorite to record simply because it’s the most ambitious song that we’ve done. It’s got live horns in it, and overall it was a really interesting song for us to do. I never thought that we would do a song that was a mix between Earth, Wind & Fire and 80s Peter Gabriel, like, this weird kind of thing with a super pop-y melody. *laughs* The lyrics walk the lines between Weezer-like humor but also very sweet at the same time, so I liked that one a lot. But my favorite song on the EP itself is “Casual,” because it’s a song that when I was a kid I had envisioned myself playing live. It’s very hook-y, and I don’t want to say punk-y because it’s not, but it’s the most punk-y song that we have and it’s very fun to play live. But it’s honestly hard to choose between them because there’s only four of them and I love them all equally. *laughs*
You’re just like, ‘These are my children. How can I choose only one?’ *laughs*
Wolf: Exactly! *laughs*
And kind of going into how the music industry is now with preference for singles and EP releases, why do you think that’s become the way that it is with music listening?
Wolf: I think with the internet and the steady availability of music, people just naturally have shorter attention spans. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the evolution of consumerism. My thing is there’s no reason to fight against it. People still put out albums, and people still love albums and are willing to put in the time and effort to digest. I mean, The Jonas Brothers just put out a new album, a very long album for this day-in-age, and people are absolutely loving it! It’s so great! Post Malone’s last album I think was, like, eighteen songs. If you are at the level to be able to do that, you can and should be able to take advantage of that. But for the rest of us, putting out singles is a little more beneficial in order to get to that level. People want music fast, and it’s hard to keep people’s attention because there’s just so much music. It’s great but also a nightmare at the same time. *laughs* I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing because it means that people are creating. But Singles and EPs have always been around and they’re a great launching point for people to take advantage of it rather than fighting against it.
Yeah. And when you really think about it, sometimes certain topics or ideas really only last like three or four songs or maybe even one song.
Wolf: Right, exactly. And I feel like you can put out more music by putting out less.
Less is more!
Wolf: Sometimes it’s not even that. We put out this EP of four songs in the first six months of this year, and we plan to put out more by the end of this year. You keep people more engaged that way rather than putting out an album of eleven to thirteen songs and then not releasing new music for like three years. So if you put out smaller bursts of energy rather than ‘here’s everything I have,’ it’ll help keep everyone’s interest longer.
Yeah! So with being in L.A. means that there’s lots of people making music, do you feel like there is some sort of unpublicized competition between the artists in the L.A. music scene?
Wolf: Yes, but in my experience the bands that don’t play into that are the bands that end up making it. It’s not really about being competitive, because I mean, we’re not really competing against each other like, ‘Oh, that person got signed so that means I’m not going to’ kind of thing. The people that play into that don’t really get anywhere because nobody wants to work with them. In the end, it’s all about being nice and genuine. You want to work with people who are nice and have good songs rather than jerks.
Don’t be a jerk!
Wolf: Don’t be a jerk! There’s literally no reason to be! *both laugh* Being in a band and trying to quote unquote ‘make it’ is such a long and hard journey, so you have to try and take solace in the small victories. And be supportive of everyone! It shouldn’t be a competition, it should be a support system.
Yeah! And as a band who’s gotten the chance to play around many parts of L.A., what would you say are some similarities or differences with playing in the different pockets of Southern California?
Wolf: L.A. is so small and so big at the same time, and there’s different parts of L.A. that certain music is cooler than others. With our band, we know what we are, we are a pop-rock band and there is no denying that, but that doesn’t necessarily go over well in, say, Silverlake or places like that that are more interested in eclectic music and musical oddities. It’s actually great to see that different parts of L.A. are homes to different music scenes, and if we don’t fit in there we would definitely fit in in Hollywood or somewhere else. Every time we play, we always have a good time, and even if the crowd doesn’t want to like us, they do by the end of the show. A: we’re not jerks *both laugh* and B: we’re having such a good time that it’s infectious. We just got to play Chain Reaction in Anaheim, and that’s a venue that I’ve always wanted to play because so many of my favorite bands have played there. It’s a legendary place, and it was just so crazy that we got the chance to headline it! Actually, it was really our first headlining show, and even though all the other bands were very different from us, it worked out really well. The bands loved us and their fans loved us so it really was a great time! It doesn’t matter where you’re playing, as long as you’re having a good time, odds are everyone else will be too.
Yeah! And if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Wolf: Oh gosh! Well, I’m going through a big [The] 1975 phase right now, but they’re also a band that just fits with us. It’s funny, I’ve always been into them and would deny just how into them I really was. *laughs* But now after the last album they did I finally gave in and am like, ‘Yeah! I love them so much!’ so they would be very interesting to have. I feel like there’s not a lot of bands that are doing extremely well right now, I mean, there are definitely a few that are doing well on the global level and they’re one of the few interesting bands that’s doing really well. So The 1975 would be one. I’m really digging the Lil Nas X EP Old Town Road. It’s so good! He’s just having a good time and seizing his moment making the kind of music that he wants to make. They may not be super intellectual songs, but I am totally all for it! It’s summer and you’re trying to have fun and they’re just very catchy songs. I love catchy songs! So those two would be a really interesting lineup. *both laugh* And who would be the last one would be…hmmm…what am I listening to now?
Obviously The Jonas Brothers! *laughs*
Wolf: Actually yeah! Let’s do it! The Jonas Brothers would be my last pick. I mean, It’s hard to be as good as The Jonas Brothers are and have so many people fall in love with you like that *Heather laughs*, but they have great songs and they’re amazing songwriters.
That’s why they’re on that show Songland.
Wolf: Oh totally! But man, what would I call it? It would be The Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, The 1975, and The Habits, let’s call it the ‘Brotherly Love Tour.’ *laughs*
I’d go see that tour!
So The Habits originally started off as a three-piece. How has going from a trio to a duo changed you as musicians?
Wolf: It’s was an interesting transition because 1. It wasn’t as hard of a transition as people might have thought, and 2. Andrew and I started this band when we were kids, and even though we’ve had a few different band members come and go, it’s always been the two of us. There’s no hard feelings between any of our band members, but it’s really hard to navigate people until you start working with them. It’s pretty much a marriage but with more than one person.
So a Mormon marriage then. *laughs*
Wolf: *laughs* You know, it really is but with different benefits. Dealing with different egos or personalities or even different creativity preferences is hard to constantly deal with. Andrew and I realized that it’s always been the two of us since the very beginning, no matter what, so we were just like, ‘Why don’t we try this out as a two-piece?’ Honestly, it’s worked out better than it ever has before. Not anything against anyone else who has been in our band, but we just figured it out with the two of us, and it took us a long time to figure out. It just clicked.
And lineup changes happy all the time regardless of how big you are as a band.
Wolf: Exactly! We were a little nervous about performing live and not being as entertaining with just the two of us, but it ended up being even more entertaining because Andrew and I can set up closer to each other. He’s crazy to watch on the drums! But yeah, it’s just so fun and it’s been working out really well for us.
It was a sign from the universe!
Wolf: Yes! It was like it was supposed to be like this! I think we kind of had a feeling back when we first started out, but we were like, ‘No, we should really try to do this as more that just the two of us.’ But now, people are just so much more accepting of two-piece bands, like Twenty One Pilots. I mean, I just saw Post Malone and it was just him on stage and it was still really entertaining. If you’re putting on a good show, it doesn’t matter how many people are on stage with you. You don’t need eight people on stage to put on a good show.
Very true. Back to the less is more thing. *laughs*
Wolf: Yes! *laughs*
So going into social media, do you think that it has made it easier or harder for independent artists to make a name for themselves?
Wolf: Both, and I say that because it’s so much easier to make a connection with people, but everybody’s realized that, so everyone is trying to make a connection with those same people. I think it still helps, especially if you’re good at it, it could be absolutely amazing. I like social media a lot, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m great at it or anything. *laughs*
You need a special skill set to really be great at it I feel like. *laughs*
Wolf: Right!?! *laughs* People are able to be social media marketers now, and it’s so awesome because it’s a whole new market of jobs that are available. I think overall it’s helped because people care more, but I do think that it’s gotten rid of the mystique that artists can have, which is interesting to see. I don’t want to say ‘if you brand yourself correctly,’ but if you really figure out who you want to be as an artist, then you can really make yourself known. Some people are still mysterious in ways, but then you have other people who come across as the people that you want to hang out with.
And do you feel that social media puts a pressure on artists to portray themselves in certain ways or to constantly have something to share with their audience?
Wolf: Yeah, there’s that, but there’s still a way to do it where you remain genuine. I think social media has made everyone much more aware of people’s bullshit.
Amen to that!
Wolf: Yeah! *laughs* People can be so good at hiding stuff, but those people that are putting on a front don’t last very long. The people that stay around forever are the ones who are much more genuine with their fans.
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Wolf: *sigh* I don’t balance it at all. My personal life is my professional life, but you have to do what you have to do to make everything work. I love music so much that if I had nothing else I would be fine. Everything I do in my personal life is to fuel my professional life so they’re just one in the same.
And if you could give to your younger self some advice in regards to what you’ve experienced with music or with life, because, you know, life has its lesson too, *Wolf laughs* what advice would you give him?
Wolf: This goes back to what I was saying earlier about having to enjoy the small victories and not get caught up in the timing of things. Of course, you have to do everything you can to make things happen, but they’re going to happen when they’re supposed to happen. Just enjoy the journey because it makes the bigger victories worth it, and also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes because everyone makes them. Don’t beat yourself up too badly. *laughs* As long as you learn from them, that’s all you can ask for.
Absolutely! And what do you hope that your audience away from your music?
Wolf: With the new EP in particular, I want people to have fun. There’s definitely some emotion in the songs, but it’s primarily a collection of songs that should make you want to sing along and feel all of the sentimental things that we’re singing about.
And to end us off, apart from riding the highs of your debut EP, what big plans should we be looking forward to from you guys in the near future?
Wolf: We’ve started to play bigger shows now so that’s definitely an exciting thing for us. We’ve been making a lot of content, we actually have another video coming out soon, and we’re definitely going to have more new music out soon. We’re hoping we’ll be able to get it out by the end of the summer, but maybe by fall.
The year is definitely going by fast. We’re going to blink and then we’ll have new music by you guys!
Wolf: I know right!?! We can’t help but not write songs so we definitely want to get this music out there sooner rather than later.
About Portfolio Coffeehouse:
Portfolio Coffeehouse has a wonderful history of being one of The Habits’ go-to places to perform when they were starting out, and it’s clear there is very much a strong sense of community that brings the shop to life. From warm neutral color palette to a bulletin board showcasing events and local services to the inclusion of Pride décor, it’s no wonder the shop has been voted the best coffeeshop in Long Beach. Their welcoming atmosphere combined with its huge space allows for many a sized group to stop in for some studying, game time, and socializing with an array of benches, cushy chairs, barstools, and classic wooden table sets. Apart from the other great things that Portfolio Coffeehouse has to offer, their pastry and caffeine menu is probably what entices visitors to become regulars of the shop. I must say, I was delightfully pleased with my scrumptiously fluffy Guava Danish and an iced white chocolate mocha that was the perfect balance of sweet and caffeinated.