In the video for the new Wolf Rd single, “As Good As It Gets,” lead singer Chris Hoffman and guest singer Sylvia Mendez ping-pong between happy and heart-wrenching moments as they speed toward their relationship’s final destination. It’s both touching and crushing as it holds a mirror up to mistakes many of us have made. But even more memorable is how the musicians take to the more acoustic side of the pop-punk spectrum with such success.
Impressive even from its first steps on the scene in late 2019, the Des Plaines-based foursome — brothers Chris and Nick Hoffmann, Geoffrey Duckmann and Lombard’s Devin Stone — had a mere few months playing around town before the pandemic drove a stake through their plans for 2020. But Wolf Rd’s pivot to releasing videos for the debut EP “Nowhere Around You” and eventually writing new music opened unique and exciting doors for a band just finding out exactly what it’s capable of.
Chris Hoffman took some time to answer a few questions about the new song, its special guest artist and what the band has been up to during the COVID-19 crisis.
Q: When you were writing “As Good As It Gets,” did you go into the process knowing you wanted to veer into different musical territory with the song, or did it head that way by the nature of its subject?
Chris: We actually wrote the music first. “As Good As It Gets” started as an off-shoot of ideas left over from a charity song we were working on. Eventually it got to the point where the whole band was really stoked on the song structure coming together, so we decided to just go for it and write a Wolf Rd acoustic track. I think this song is going to shock some of the people who have followed us since “Nowhere Around You” came out, but all of the guys have a wide range of music we’re into. We’re not afraid to try something new and show off a different side of Wolf Rd.
Q: What was going on in your head as it was coming together? Were there particular situations or interactions that drove its creation?
Chris: I went through a breakup right around the time I started working on lyrics with my brother Nick. We already had some ideas about where we wanted the song to go, but the fresh wounds I went through filled any remaining gaps. It was a situation where it seemed like things were going really well, and I felt like I was left in the dark when it fell apart. As a band we’ve talked about wanting to avoid the trap of writing songs that pin all the blame on somebody else, so our music always has some degree of self-reflection. That gave me the idea to bring in my friend Sylvia for a guest feature and write the second half of the song from what I imagine my ex’s perspective is – as a way to try and tell her side of the story.
Q: You and guest-singer Sylvia Mendez have a lovely vocal chemistry in “As Good As It Gets, especially around the 2:00 mark when your verbal volley slides into tight harmonies. (There might have been some chills when that happened.) Have you worked with Sylvia before musically?
Chris: This was actually my first time singing with Sylvia. We’ve been friends since high school and she’s been coming to my bands’ shows for years. Sylvia is really artistically gifted. She’s really good at slam poetry and a great dancer. She actually coaches the poms team at Maine West now and is starting an open poetry mic night at Lakeview Taproom. We’ve talked about singing before, so when Wolf Rd decided to have a guest feature on “As Good As It Gets” I knew Sylvia would crush it.
Q: Wolf Rd released a video early on in the 2020 quarantines. What has the band been working on since? What do we all have to look forward to?
Chris: Yea last year we released a couple music videos for songs off our first EP that came out at the end of 2019. Covid really threw us off at first because we had plans to tour and keep promoting “Nowhere Around You”. Instead, we only got to play a couple shows before the world shut down. But we tried to make the best of the situation and spent the whole year writing and recording new stuff. There will be a lot more Wolf Rd music coming this year. “As Good As It Gets” is just the start.
Q: Other than writing new music, what have you and the guys been doing to stay sane over the last year? Any big accomplishments? New hobbies? A new favorite binge?
Chris: I graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, so it’s been a really busy year for me. As far as coping mechanisms – I think we all watch way more TV than we did before Rona. While we were in the studio together we’d chill at the end of the day and watch WandaVision or Love, Death & Robots. I finally binged Game Of Thrones and did it in, like, less than a month because I was obsessed. Other than that Nick has gotten into selling stuff on eBay and Depop (nhoffmann506) and our bass player Devin just started a new podcast called Earth 894 that is about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our guitarist Geoff had some socially-distanced baseball practices and started playing pickleball.
Q: I know you are all itching to get back on a stage as soon as safely possible. What else are you most looking forward to as restrictions are easing up and we’re able to creep back out into the world?
Chris: I’m sure Devin can’t wait for movie theaters to get back in full swing – being our band’s film critic and friendly neighborhood podcast host. Personally I want to travel somewhere out of state really bad, I’m thinking California or Vegas will be at the top of my list. I just can’t wait until it’s safe to meet up with all my friends again and hang out with everybody in person. But most importantly I know we’re all super eager to get back onstage once it’s safe.