Anyone trying to carve out a path in the arts can expect to hit a few bumps along the way, but for Whistler alt-rockers Introduce Wolves, the road to their latest EP was lined with so many challenges that it felt at times like some sort of cruel cosmic joke they were never let in on.
“[We] have been playing music together for three or four years now and it felt like setback after setback after setback,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Rory Malkin. “Just the amount of rejection we faced [was difficult]. We were trying to play shows and get more shows in Whistler and it was just a constant battle. It was like, ‘Oh god, is it even worth it?’ We were spending a lot of time practising and weren’t getting a lot back for our efforts.”
That may have something to do with the band’s uncompromising ethos. The foursome that is today made up of Malkin, guitarist Phil Cartwright, bassist Liam McCook and drummer Kevin Condie is big on the kind of loud, fuzz-heavy riffs and punk-tinged vocals that wouldn’t be out of place in an East Van bar. But in the tourist-friendly venues of the Sea to Sky, their unapologetic approach didn’t always go over well—like the time they were politely asked to leave by the manager of a Squamish venue a mere 30 seconds after starting to play.
But instead of watering down their sound, they doubled down, embracing what makes them distinct in a music scene that has always favoured happy-go-lucky covers over bold, original material. Last January, they began recording their latest record, The Inverted World EP, and in the middle of that, found out they had been accepted as one of five local acts for Arts Whistler’s inaugural Band Boot Camp, a multi-week program that mentored artists on various aspects of the music industry, from songwriting to marketing and everything in between.
“We’ve gone from being the underdogs of the Whistler music scene to all of a sudden Arts Whistler being like, ‘We believe in you,’” Malkin says. “All of a sudden we had the confidence to really pursue this and do the best job we can at getting it out there. Just the confidence in the music and in ourselves as a band, and that we’re doing something unique.”
As a bass player, McCook relished the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of songwriting from Danielle McTaggart of award-winning Vancouver electro-rock band Dear Rouge.
“I personally don’t write lyrics. I’m not a singer, obviously, so I have never really looked into that emotional side of things, but I’ve tried writing bass lines and guitar parts before and never really had a process,” he says. “So to get access to someone who is such an established songwriter and hear her process and what worked for her, it was amazing.”
The title of their four-track EP comes from Christopher Priest’s 1974 sic-fi novel of the same name, and although Malkin began penning the “melancholic, angsty” songs before COVID-19 hit, it turns out the pandemic touched on many of the record’s themes of frustration and isolation.
“It’s kind of funny, because we live in this amazing place and we have great lives here, but we all deal with that in Whistler. I think a lot of people are quite isolated here,” Malkin says. “Hopefully people will relate to that. It’s not a party album like a lot of other musicians in Whistler might create.”
The recording of the album was no easy feat either, with the band travelling down to a Vancouver studio for several marathon sessions—all while holding down full-time jobs and struggling to find spaces to practise in.
“To me, that was the biggest piece of adversity. I’d feel like we go down for a day a month on average when we were actually recording the parts, and spend eight to 10 hours just doing drums or doing bass or doing guitar and then singing,” McCook says. “You’re trying to put out the best performance you can because you want it to be a good representation of the songs, and you have to do that eight times for each verse and chorus. It’s pretty gnarly.”
It’s clear all the work has paid off for Introduce Wolves, who are now spreading their wings into the Vancouver scene, with a show planned for Feb. 18 at The Railway Stage to coincide with the release date of their new EP, and ambitions to grace the Rickshaw stage in the spring. The guys are also hoping to host a release party in Whistler shortly after the EP comes out that they envision featuring a who’s who of local music acts.
“We want to get some other artists involved as well and make it not just an event about us but something we think the community will enjoy,” Malkin says. “A lot of people are wanting live music right now and are not getting enough of it in Whistler. This is one of our ways to make that happen.”
“Railways,” the first single from the EP, is out Dec. 27, followed by the second single, “Under the Stairs,” on Jan. 21. Check the band out on Spotify or Bandcamp (introducewolves.bandcamp.com), and stay up to speed on their latest gigs and releases on Instagram @introducewolves.