"It's an intriguing phrase," says Wallflowers singer-guitarist Jakob Dylan, referring to the title of his band's upcoming fourth album, Red Letter Days, which drops September 24th via Interscope Records. "I think 'these days' are worth mentioning and they are memorable. Whether the connotations of these times are bad or good, they deserve to be acknowledged."
Even if these times mean coming to terms with making rock music in a sea of new-metal merchants. "It's a different time now, and we do what we do," Dylan acknowledges unapologetically. "I'm not about to change the tuning on my guitar or grow a certain style of facial hair or don a hockey jersey just to sell records. Still, anyone who says they don't care about how their album is doing is lying."
The Wallflowers' last album, 2000's Breach, didn't live up to commercial expectations. It took a year to earn a gold sales certification (500,000 copies shipped); the band's previous album, 1996's Bringing Down the Horse, went quadruple platinum (4 million). "I don't let it consume me," Dylan says of album sales. "As long as you're responsible to yourself and your fans to write and make the best record you can, that's what's really important."
Due to the departure of longtime guitarist Michael Ward last year, the Wallflowers are now a quartet: Dylan, keyboardist Rami Jaffee, bassist Greg Richling and drummer Mario Calire. "There was some tension in the group last year with Michael, who wasn't really on the same page with us musically anymore," Dylan says. "It was just a matter of time, and ultimately I think he's happier, and I know we're happier." New song titles like "Health and Happiness," "Here in Pleasantville" and "Feels Like Summer Again" seem to reflect that sentiment.
Red Letter Day was recorded at Jackson Browne's Los Angeles studio and features guest guitarists Val McCallum (Sheryl Crow) and Pearl Jam's Mike McCready. "[McCready] was somebody that I had gotten to know over the years and he's obviously an impressive player," Dylan says. "He just came on in and did his thing. I also play more guitar on this record than I ever have before, but, truthfully, I'm not much for lead guitar. There's very little room for it on our records. We're not really that kind of band."
Aside from this winter's work on Red Letter Days, Dylan found time to collaborate on a track for John Doe's forthcoming album, Dim Stars, Bright Sky, due in August. "It's a kick because I've always been a fan and now we're friends," Dylan says. "Sometimes it's weird going from doe-eyed kid to being a collaborator. Like with Springsteen, there was one time in Asbury Park when he came down to our show when we were on tour for Bringing Down the Horse and we asked him what song he wanted to join up on, and he said, 'Track Nine,' which was 'God Don't Make Lonely Girls.' That was an amazing and flattering moment for us because that's when we knew he was a fan -- he knew our record. He was more than just some guy who wanted to help sing 'One Headlight' on MTV."
Red Letter Days' first single -- which will be one of the two opening tracks, "When You're on Top" or "How Good It Can Get" -- will be released in August. The band is currently rehearsing for a full-scale fall tour.