HAPPY LA ESCALERA 2017 YA NERDS! To kick off one of our fave weekends of the year - I'm sharing my interview with Dylan Wolters of Ugly Wars today. We sat down and enjoyed some happy hour drinks while I picked his ugly brain! I would say JK but are brains pretty? I don't know - it was supposed to be a pun that I hope you pity smirked at. I hope to see you at La Escalera Fest this weekend! Learn all about Dylan and his project Ugly Wars before you get the weekend started.
I grew up moving around a bunch as a kid. My dad was a pastor so we would get bounced around from Church to Church. On average it was probably every year-ish until I was about fifteen. I was never stuck in one place for too long.
Did you like that kind of lifestyle of moving that often? I lived in the same place for eighteen years before peacing out!
No, not at all. I've never been a huge fan of it. It was tough growing up because I was really shy as a kid so I never really made a lot of friends. Coming into California's weird because there are so many people that have these old, deep rooted friendships that they've had forever and my oldest friend I've only known since maybe middle school. I don't have any friends that go way, way back.
So, I moved around a bunch. I was in a musical family. My mom sings, my grandfather plays guitar, my brother plays guitar. We've been in bands before. That's kinda how I got started - playing in a band with my uncle - who plays drums - and my brother. I played bass. Then I eventually picked up drums and I played those for a long time before I ever even picked up a guitar. Eventually, out of necessity, because of the small town I lived in - nobody wanted to play guitar for the style of music that I wanted to play....
What style is that?
It was kinda like metal-core. I grew up listening to heavier music.
That's so strange because my past couple of interviews that's everyone's answer! And then they branch out to other styles.
I was definitely narrow minded back then and have blossomed my taste to lots of different genres now.
Yeah! So out of necessity I learned how to play guitar and then eventually I started playing and singing on my own here and there. I couldn't find anyone to play in a band so I did it on my own. I've been doing variations of that ever since I was sixteen.
How did you get to California then?
California -- me and my wife -- we had a friend who lived out here and she knew that we were looking into moving soon. We were living back in New York. I was in a really rough place being there mentally. It was not good for me. I was super abusing alcohol and getting blackout drunk all the time to deal with issues. We knew we needed to move but didn't know where. Our friend wanted to get an apartment but needed a friend to do so -- so our friend out in California invited us. Anna (Dylan's wife) flew out to California, got a job and then a month later I drove all our stuff out there in a truck with my dad. We just plopped down and that's it.
And just like that you knew for sure this is where you wanna be?
Yeah. Pretty quickly I started meeting everyone. I met Ricky (Western Settings) first through Craigslist. He was thinking of starting another band.
What?! That's so scary to me. I don't think I'd meet someone from Craigslist!
Yeah it was nerve racking, haha. I didn't know what to do, though. I didn't know how to get involved in the music scene here in California - I've been on the East Coast my entire life. I know people over there but I came over here and met him. Ricky was looking for someone to play music -- he listed a bunch of interested artists like The Menzingers and Rival so I was like, "Woah! I like all of those bands!". We started texting and then met at an acoustic show. That first night was a Dude's Night / Western Settings show. I met Devito, Matt -- the whole crowd. From there I just started hanging out with everyone in the La Escalera family. That was a big thing for me that I found a friends group that I really liked and that was a big reason I knew I'd love living here. My wife and I were even saying just today how we don't see ourselves moving anytime in the near future. Everything from the music scene, jobs, etc is going so well. Of course we have ups and downs but we definitely like San Diego.
What is Anna doing as far as work? You said she came out here and found a job pretty quickly. That seems so lucky / hard / anxiety provoking!
She came out here and applied to a few jobs. She works at The San Diego Rescue Mission. She's a Case Manager for the men's alcohol and drug use rehab center. She's at the same place from when we moved here but she started out as a Residential Worker on the floor.
That's fate! It all fell together so perfectly.
Yeah! That's her passion. She had previously worked at a youth home for troubled kids in South Dakota - when we lived there. It worked out so great she got the job she did. She's super cool in that aspect too - I could NEVER do her job. She's so caring and attentive and can be with those people / dealing with their problems.
It's so hard. I used to want to do that because I survived all that shit I did growing up so I thought I'd want to help others but thinking about doing it full time, everyday? I realized I just couldn't do it. It takes such a strong person to do so without losing their mind!
It's definitely tough. The little bit I know about what she does there is mind blowing.
Was Western Settings your first band that you were in out here in CA?
Yes it was. Originally me and Ricky met up and were working on a couple of songs which actually turned into the first Ugly Wars EP that I put out back in 2014. We kinda worked on those a little bit and shortly after they approached me about being in Western Settings. I was super stoked! I really liked their music and saw them a couple of times and like them in general. So, of course I joined!
Damn. You're making me believe in fate!
I think you're a really talented song writer. I've only heard your newer Ugly Wars stuff - not the EP (yet). I've just had them on loop! Do you write more literally from experiences you've had or from an abstract perspective?
Well first - thanks!
What if I came here and got to this question and was like, "Yeah, I FUCKING HATE your songs."
Hahaha. "Just before the interview I wanted to tell you that you suck."
Songwriting has always been kinda weird for me. I've never been good at being super honest in songs. Some people can put that out there and do it really good. I've always been a bit standoffish. These new songs have been some of the most personal songs I've written.
As a listener, I definitely feel that in a way.
I try to go from real life experiences too. It works out well and bad sometimes. I'm not a kid anymore so it's different than when you're younger. When you're younger it's songs about girls and stuff and now it's songs about alocholism and friends not being friends anymore -- the bummer stuff.
It does suck reliving it as you're writing sometimes but you actually end up helping others when they're listening to it. SO IN A WAY you're kinda like Anna - you're helping people! Give yourself some credit.
That's a cool way to look at it, I've never even thought of that.
If you have one, what is your favorite song you've released recently?
Probably my favorite so far is Lazy Days. That one came together - that was the first song out of all three that I've had the longest. I originally wrote it back when I was in Western Settings. I knew it was something I wanted to use but only had music with no words. I only had half the song up until the day I recorded it recently. I wrote the whole song! It poured out really quick. It made the song complete.
You do all the recording at your house?
Yep! I'm doing it all right now by myself mainly because of money but also because I like it.
I'm not a music expert but I would never know that! I was gonna ask you what record label you're on with how professional and clean it sounds.
Yeah, haha. I'm lightyears away from where I used to be. Recording myself in the past sounds so gnarly. I'm glad now that people are listening to the new music and it's passable. I've always been recording stuff on my own and it's gradually progressing. Even when I've been in a band - I always am releasing stuff on my own. I can't tell you where most of it went. Some is on Myspace - some on scattered CDs that friends have. But yeah, I recorded it on my own half because of necessity and half because I love it.
What made you want to bring back Ugly Wars?
Leaving Western Settings, I took a big step back from playing music. Music was super all encompassing for so long that I had to reevaluate how healthy it was as a part of my life. Cause ya know - something like that can sometimes become almost like a bad habit - it affects friendships and relationships in really weird ways. I wasn't even sure necessarily if I wanted to get back into playing music or anything like that so eventually I rendered up a couple ideas that I had and started working on them as far as songs go. It felt right so I started just getting ready to record them and one day decided to just do it so I recorded one song in one day. I threw it up online - it was kinda an impulse decision but then I realized I am starting it again.
So it felt good then?
Yep - definitely! I decided to go as full force as I can with this acoustic project now - with starting to record songs, book shows and see if it blossoms into something. If it does - that'd be cool. I'd be really happy to have the opportunity to just play a couple of shows again with my friends.
It sounds a ton less pressure-y for sure! It's just at your own pace.
Yes - and I love that.
Where did the name come from?
It's actually from an episode of House of Cards, I believe. I can't remember what they're talking about but the context was they were discussing politicians and how they operate -- and how all of these rich men have their ugly wars. Immediately I was just like, "Wow - that's useable!" so I cherry picked it. There's not any really super significant meaning behind it --
Wow - well this interview is OVER then!
I only ask because usually I can't remember shit but I heard that name once and have never forgotten it! It's definitely a pretty remarkable choice - especially with how random it came to be.
Initially, before I moved out here, I was doing solo stuff -- I liked it but it never stuck with me. But then I heard that on House of Cards and it just caught my attention. It was stuck in my mind for a little bit so I decided to roll with it.
I was way too deep with it trying to pick it apart - like someone is fighting with themselves and their confidence; maybe they are standing in front of their mirror each morning battling depression or something. I don't know but....I was way off!
There's definitely a deeper meaning to it - I should really go find the real quote from the show or rewatch the episode.
You should make a CD where all the tracks are names from House of Cards episodes -- but you better give me credit, though!
Is this your first time performing by yourself / in general since Western Settings? Is that nerve racking?
I am absolutely nervous! I'm terrified. After playing a few more shows, though - I will knock off the dust I'm sure.
It must be so different then playing with Western Settings. You had three other guys on stage with you.
Yeeeeeah. I moved around a lot in Western Settings too! I didn't have to be tethered to a mic or anything. I'm good at hiding behind a lot of music and noise. Acoustic is way more vulnerable - you can't really hide behind anything.
I wanted to talk to you about your other passion in life - cooking! It's so amazing that you're equally as talented in two different fields. Most people can only handle one passion! I find it interesting you rock it in both those industries.
Totally! Cooking is cool like that. I've only told people that cooking is what I see myself doing forever as far as an adult job. Working in kitchens always seemed to be good to me. I got out to California and started working a Ritual.
Wow so you also have had the same job your whole time in California? Fuck - you and Anna are loyal MF's. I have not had the same job for more then two years, haha.
Yep! I got in there. I was under a really good chef at the start and he taught me a lot. He got me super inspired to putting more effort and passion into cooking. They were accommodating, too, with giving me time off for tour. I was loyal to them for that reason too. I slowly went up the ladder at Ritual - I'm the longest standing employee at the restaurant. They noticed that and now I'm where I am at. It's been fun and it's been a big part of being happy out here. Not just music and not just the friends i have but finding a job I love so much too. I've worked other jobs where you wake up and you hate going to work. It's nice to want to go into work. It helps charge everything else I'm doing. If it's bad at work for me - it'll bleed into all other areas of my life.
It's definitely a domino effect. What began you're passion for cooking?
My mom never cooked when we were younger. She made a couple things but our dad cooked mainly for our family.
Wow - also a master of trades being a pastor and cook!
Yeah! So he would cook and I'd help him out. I'm the kinda person too that when I'd have friends over, I'd cook for them. Or if i wanted a snack - instead of a PB&J - I'd whip myself up something in the kitchen. It all started there. Then I eventually got a job at a little cafe. Jobs like that where I'd work my way up.
And now you're a head chef! How old are you? Damn.
27! I can't believe it.
And do you have any "formal" training or experience? IE school or whatever.
Nope! Just been working my way up and soaking in all the knowledge that's been passed to me from great chefs.
This is such a perfect example of how degrees don't mean as much as people pressure to you believe - within reason. I love it!
Yeah - my parents were great. They told me for forever to not worry about getting a degree if I wasn't sure what I wanted to do - it would be a waste.
That's so awesome. Your parents sound so rad!
Haha, yeah! So I didn't go to college. I found what I like and put in the time / effort of what I wanted to do. I learned what I needed in the same way you would by going to classes - although it was probably better getting real experience.
Do you have a recent favorite dish you like?
I did a tequila pesto marinated chicken pasta dish a while ago. I probably named it something much more eloquent then that but it was so good and colorful and bright. I'm really into pickling stuff. At Ritual we do everything from scratch so I get to make pickles and all that there.
I'm vegetarian / turning vegan and the photos you post of anything make my mouth water so much! The only thing I had from Ritual was a veggie burger so far and I wanted to eat three more immediately. I can't wait to have more of your menu!
When you're running out of inspiration for a new recipe or song... a lot of artists, including myself, get writer's block...do you have any advice how to conquer that?
Yes. Cooking and music I kind of do the same way in the aspect that when I can't think of new dishes or I can't think how to finish off a song -- normally I quite literally force myself to do it. Even if it's a non-start mess up. 99% of that time the product gets set to the side but it always gets me working.
It triggers or inspires something else. That's a great attitude. So basically just god discipline or routine?
Pretty much. If you don't wanna do it - JUST DO IT. I can spend so much time in my own head where all I do is sit around and beat myself up. I can do that all day and have done that for years at a time. The only way that I get through that is literally just doing something.
That's good advice that just needs to be drilled in your head and practiced.
What is your parrot head / tiki life about?
I'm super into boutique lifestyle / parrot head lifestyle. Parrot head meaning liking Jimmy Buffet's music. I love his music - it's carefree stuff that goes along with tiki life - it's finding your own bit of vacation or a place to relax wherever you are. I love tiki restaurants that are super fantasy where there is ship wreck decor and such. I enjoy going there and have a nice drink, sitting with friends and finding a mini vacation where ever I am at and forgetting all my problems. I always look for the tiki bars and collect the glasses and such. I try to carry that mindset with me into the real world too.
That's almost a replica description of why I love Disneyland! Escaping reality, trying to bring it back to my life, collecting stuff, etc. I totally relate.
I love Disney too! For all those same reasons. It's fun. There's so much negativity and bullshit in everyone's life ESPECIALLY recently with the current state of everything in America and the economy. All of us are treading water in debt and jobs and wondering what we are gonna do in the future but we need a reminder not to take that stuff too seriously.
Ugh yes yes yes!
I always wrap up my interviews by asking how you #staynerdy that isn't obvious to people that know you? SPILL!
How I stay nerdy -- it varies year to year. My personality is pretty addictive and obsessive.
Okay so in 2017 - how have you #stayednerdy?
2017, I have been staying nerdy getting into bikes more. Learning how to work on my bicycle and riding it. It's been cool and it's been a great way to channel my energy into something different then cooking or music. It's pretty nerdy and it's really fun! That's my current. low key nerdy-ness.
Can we talk about and address how I need to learn the best angles to take photos at so I don't look so DISGUSTING and not CUTE? Anyway - It was so fun chilling with Dylan and listening to his pretty awesome journey through life so far at only 27 years old! He definitely inspired me and gave me hope that if you work hard and sport the talent - anything can happen. We hear it all the time and pin it under the "cheesy/cliche" category - but you need to be reminded that determination does WORK. I will see ya'll nerdy nerds next week - so until then - you know what to do! #STAYNERDY (always)
EVENT OF THE WEEK
How could you not think this would be in my "of the week" section?! If you're in San Diego - spend a small amount of money to see a shiz ton of rad bands! Party with some new people and make super rad memories. You won't regret it! If I see any of you posting how you're bored and have nothing to do - YOU'LL BE HEARING FROM ME!
PERFECT HUMANS SALE OF THE WEEK
Happy Easter, or whatever. It's honestly just an excuse for me to give you a splendid discount on our shop! 40% off your entire order all weekend! No code needed. Enjoy :) Our new pin will be out sometime next month!
INTERVIEW ON DECK
You are not mistaken - YES - I am interviewing someone at Her Interactive this week! If you're unfamiliar (ew, if you aren't) - Her Interactive is the spectacular company that produces Nancy Drew games. If you know 1% about me, you know that Nancy drew is a ginormous part of my life! I've played the games since I was six, read all the books and just aspire to be a modern Nancy each day. I can't wait to share this one with you sleuthy nerds!