Boston psychotronic quartet Salem Wolves is no stranger to rage and hostility – led by songwriter Gray Bouchard, the band has for years turned fury and anxiety into taut, blistering anthems.
With the 2022 release of singles “Hostile Music” and “Breaking Grounds,” the Wolves charted a dark path, attempting to navigate feelings of estrangement and distrust with neighbors, the music industry, and society as a whole.
Along the way, they celebrated the local people and institutions that sought to create inclusive and safe spaces; spaces like ONCE Somerville, a beloved Boston Metro venue headed up by local legend JJ Gonson and home to hundreds of independently promoted shows. Even after the physical venue ONCE occupied in Somerville became a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of ONCE lived on as a “virtual venue” before transitioning to a promotional entity, hosting shows at nearby venues like Boynton Yards, the Armory, the Rockwell and Crystal Ballroom.
“Our relationship with ONCE goes way, way back,” says Bouchard. “We played some of our earliest and best shows at the Ballroom. JJ [Gonson] always treated us well and even when we knew we could barely get 10 people out to a show, the chance to play ONCE made you feel like you still mattered.”
This deep connection to ONCE made it a clear choice for the unveiling of the latest and greatest lineup of Salem Wolves in July of 2021. Having spent the pandemic reformulating, the new and improved Salem Wolves – featuring Don Schweihofer on drums, Justin Tisdale on bass, and Sam Valliewre on lead guitar – made a blistering live debut at ONCE x Boynton Yards. While it was the first time the quartet had played together in front of a live audience, the sound they made was special: feral, propulsive, tuneful – hell, even joyful.
The resulting live record from the show, Live at ONCE, is now available digitally July 27 on MegaHex records and shows the Wolves in full force. Mixed and mastered by Jocko at More Sound Studios, the record contains no overdubs or sweeteners – just 100% pure, high-octane psychotronic rock and roll, played live and loud.
“When we first heard the raw recordings from the ONCE show, we were blown away,” Bouchard says. “Salem Wolves in the studio and Salem Wolves live have always been two different animals. The live energy is like a firehose, we’re white-knuckling through a set. That’s what makes it exciting and you can really hear our excitement on the live record.”
In addition to the record, the band and ONCE have collaborated on a live video for “Titanium.” The record contains live renditions of recent singles like “Hostile Music,” “Never Die!!” and “Turn to Gold”, Wolves classics like “Shameless” and “More Weight!”, and even deep cuts like the moody “Reckless and Ready,” Live at ONCE represents the past, present and future of the band – a future that seems increasingly in jeopardy for us all due to the plotting of unhinged political machinations.
With the release of Live at ONCE, the Wolves have pledged 100% of the proceeds from the album’s sale to go to the National Network of Abortion Funds, an organization devoted to advocating for safe and unrestricted access to reproductive care and abortion services.
“It’s a pretty hostile time by any metric you can think of,” says Bouchard. “Everyone in the band stands strongly against the ugly political maneuverings of the GOP, the conservative members of the Supreme Court, and the march to roll back of basic human rights for women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized groups. Money talks loudest, so we’re fighting back the only way we know how by making sure everything we make on this record goes to NNAB.”
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