Actual Wolf
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Actual Wolf

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Americana Country


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Actual Wolf performs live for The Local Show"

It's been quite the ride since Eric Pollard released his debut, self-titled album under the name Actual Wolf last fall. He performed tracks off the roots-rock record at The Current's 9th Birthday Party with an impressive backing band of local artists including brothers Jake (guitar) and Jeremy (drums) Hanson, Erik Koskinen — to whom the record's "vibe" is attributed — and Low's Steve Garrington.

Listen to the full in-studio to hear Eric and company chat with host David Campbell about the unfortunate studio fires that happened during the mixing of the record, what holding fort and recording new material in Justin Vernon's April Base studio has been like, and the influence Eric Clapton had on the unreleased track "Thinking of You."

Songs Performed
"Hydrant Eyes" off Actual Wolf
"Victims and Things" off Actual Wolf
"Thinking of You" (unreleased) - David Campbell, The Current

"Actual Wolf's Eric Pollard captures his creative spark"

Eric Pollard is a glass-half-full kind of guy. When he claims that almost going to prison was actually "an entirely positive experience for me," you're inclined to believe him.

The 33-year-old Grand Rapids native admits his outlook wasn't always so sunny, though. He was creatively and personally adrift before getting busted by the Lake Superior Drug and Gang Task Force in 2011 for selling pot. It took a penniless post-bust move back to his childhood bedroom and facing down five felony counts to get him to clean up his act and start writing music as Actual Wolf.

"The arrest really ripped the rug out from under me," admits Pollard, who already played drums for Retribution Gospel Choir and Mark Kozelek but had never seriously pursued his own songwriting. "I didn't have a drug or alcohol problem — I was awesome at both drinking and smoking weed. But I'm a much nicer and more productive person being clean and sober. I can't say enough good things about law enforcement intervening in my life when they did."

After pleading guilty to lesser charges that kept him out of prison, he's written over 70 songs. With his band he's recorded two EPs and his self-titled full-length debut, out this week. Actual Wolf finds Pollard and his talented band — guitarist Jake Hanson, drummer Jeremy Hanson, and bassist Steve Garrington — echoing a range of rock influences, from Neil Young to Elton John, and beyond. You can hear the chugging classic-rock sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival on "Victims & Things" and Roy Orbison's dapper countrified balladry via "Do You Still Want Me To?"

"Somewhere along the way music got a little too inward and heady," he claims. "There's a reason you can go into a random bar in Wisconsin and the cover band knows some Neil Young tunes. That's because those songs are selfless and timeless. That's what I'm aiming for in my songwriting." According to Pollard, this approach is based on a new commitment to acting the opposite of his old walled-off and selfish ways.

After his probation and travel restrictions lifted, he moved to Nashville this past September. The relocation was a bid to better forge music-industry ties, and plans to tour Europe in 2014 are already in the works.

When reached by telephone in early October, Pollard had just touched down in Minnesota en route to record the sophomore Actual Wolf album at Justin Vernon's April Base studios in Eau Claire. A hyperactive Twitter user adept at playing the role of both Twin Cities scene champion and sly self-promoter, Pollard has an ultimate workaholic plan for Actual Wolf that is simple: go big or go home.

"2014 has to be the Year of the Wolf because that's the only thing I'll accept," he says with a playful self-awareness in his voice. "I'm not around to settle for anything but success.... A big part of that is getting out there into the world and pitching myself. I don't do dubstep and I can't rap, so I don't have a lot of other options. Unless all the teenagers in America start smoking pot and listening to Neil Young records again, touring is the only way I'm going to crack the code." - Rob van Alstyne, City Pages

"Actual Wolf brings full band to the stage for vinyl release"

Grand Rapids native Actual Wolf has been omnipresent in the Twin Cities these past few months, playing a well-received month-long residency at Amsterdam Bar & Hall last month amid a smattering of other area dates. On Friday night, at one of his biggest Twin Cities shows to date, Actual Wolf’s summer of hustle paid off as Icehouse filled with fans to celebrate the release of his full-band EP, Lightning and the Wolf, on vinyl.

Actual Wolf first caught my eye when I saw songwriter Eric Pollard, who has until now made a career playing drums with bands like Retribution Gospel Choir, play a solo set up in Duluth during the Homegrown festival. His voice is steady, deep, and pure, like Mason Jennings without the swoopy flourishes, or perhaps — as a friend suggested Friday night — a young Willie Nelson or Neil Diamond. His songwriting is solid, too, so much so that The Current has kept his solo song “Minneapolis” and all its lyrical twists and turns in rotation for the later half of the summer.

But seeing Pollard perform with a full band is a whole other story. For starters, he’s assembled a skilled set of musicians to perform alongside him in Actual Wolf: his Retribution Gospel Choir and Low bandmate Steve Garrington plays bass, while brothers Jeremy and Jake Hanson (who also play together Solid Gold and apart in many other groups) play drums and guitar. The backing band helps Pollard to flesh out his songs and create a more dynamic live show, with Jake Hanson’s high-range, ethereal backing vocals contributing a layer that’s downright chilling.

Opening the night was Ben Lubeck of Farewell Milwaukee, who had the additional challenge of holding the audience’s attention by playing a solo acoustic set. I was drawn into Lubeck’s songs despite the chatty room, and it served as a good reminder that I need to revisit Farewell Milwaukee’s live show sometime soon; they’re opening for Pert Near Sandstone in the Mainroom on November 9.

Friday night’s show was also the Twin Cities’ introduction to Duluth label Chaperone Records, who were on site selling copies of the Actual Wolf EP and talking up future releases they’ll be issuing from Lion or Gazelle and Southwire. Visit Chaperone Records’ website for more on the new label, as well as info about their Actual Wolf release. - Andrea Swensson, The Current

"Local notes: Frankie Lee and Actual Wolf are ready to roam"

They each garnered a local buzz over the past year or two by singing songs about people and places and personal freedoms. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that twangy songwriters Frankie Lee and Eric “Actual Wolf” Pollard are both about to shove off from Minnesota to push their careers forward.

“It’s always nice to go somewhere fresh to write and spark ideas,” said Lee, who is heading to his old stamping grounds in Austin, Texas, and then Los Angeles for at least the first chunk of winter, or maybe longer. That his return plans are open-ended speaks volumes.

Pollard, meanwhile, has already cut away from Minnesota for Nashville, and he’s calling his move a permanent one. He’s back in town to perform with Lee at the Turf Club on Saturday, and to help promote this week's release of the “Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 5” (Actual Wolf cut the lead-off track, "Your Mother Should Know").

“I’ll always be a hockey-playing Minnesotan from the Iron Range,” said Pollard, a Grand Rapids native, “but I needed to get out and go all in on this music biz thing.”

It’s just a coincidence — but then again, not really — that both of these rootsy tunesmiths are leaving town after Saturday’s show, which is serving as a dual release party. Pollard’s full-length, self-titled debut as Actual Wolf arrived in October via Chaperone Records. Lee is issuing a split 7-inch with his Los Angeles cohort Tara Fox, plus he’s still touting his warmly received EP from over the summer, “Middle West.”

Full of stellar country guitar-picking and heartland-rooted twang-rock anthems reminiscent of the early Jayhawks, Lee’s five-song debut was truly a long time coming. His pseudonym comes from his father, local punk-rock pioneer Frankie Paradise (né Paul Peterson) of the Explodo Boys, who died in a motorcycle accident when Lee was 12. Now 31, he was brought up around other musicians, including his uncle John Vincent, from the original G.B. Leighton band, and Curtiss A, both of whom he calls father figures.

Lee started playing in cover bands while attending Stillwater High School. (“We played all the three-chord stuff: Petty, Chuck Berry, Nirvana,” he said.) After a stab at college, he cut out for Nashville. Then Memphis. Then Austin, where he spent seven years soaking up the scene “where people actually go out to dance to live music.” Then Los Angeles, where he mingled with the rootsy folk-rock crowd that would produce Dawes and Father John Misty.

“I was listening to all these records, figuring out what the people were playing,” Lee said. “Why not actually go to the places where these people are playing and learn that way?”

After gigging as Tim O’Reagan’s sideman for a spell, Lee moved back to Minnesota in 2010 and fell in with Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers and their regular Wednesday-night gigs. It was part-time Disbelievers drummer J.T. Bates who finally pushed Lee into recording “Middle West.”

“I wrote a lot of the songs driving back and forth on I-35 from Austin,” Lee recalled — a drab, flat drive where you need to find something to fill the time. Considering all the driving he’ll do in the coming months and his plans to make a full-length album early next year, “I’m thinking this is a good way to get ready for the record. I’ll see what I can find and bring it back into the studio.”

Pollard’s move was less about inspiration and more about “putting pressure on myself. I work well that way.”

That was certainly true of his two previous Actual Wolf EPs, which he wrote while facing charges and a possible prison sentence for selling marijuana. After a plea deal to stay out of jail, he put together an MVP band with brothers Jacob and Jeremy Hanson and bassist Steve Garrington of Retri­bution Gospel Choir and Low (Pollard is also RGC’s drummer and sometimes Low’s keyboardist).

The new album shows their influence, from the atmospheric country-rock ballad “Do You Still Want Me” to the fully amped Neil Young-style rocker “Hydrant Eyes.” Said Pollard, “They played a really big role, not just in helping me work out the song arrangements and playing them live, but also just in reminding me I needed to step up my game.”

For now, Pollard will continue gigging with his band in Minnesota while focusing on solo work as a songwriter in Nashville. He hopes to fall in with the song publishing world that’s still centered along the city’s Music Row, and ultimately have other artists record his tunes. The idea of hearing, say, Miranda Lambert cut an Eric Pollard track really isn’t so far-fetched.

“Anything that will help me afford to make my own records is fine by me,” Pollard said.

No doubt, Nashville has heard that statement before. - Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune


Itasca (2015)
Actual Wolf (2013)
USA EP (2012)
Lightning and the Wolf EP (2012)



There are outlaws, and there are outlaws. With two EPs, an album and second album on the way, Actual Wolf is claiming top dog on the local Americana scene. Darling of 89.3 The Current in Minneapolis, this outlaw's sincerity and heart-warming personality isn't the only thing that's turning fans into part of the 'Wolf-pack.'

Sweet and honest lyrics on popping Americana riffs, Actual Wolf's music is meant for your road trip on the scenic highways between Nashville and Northern Minnesota. He's a member of the Americana Music Association and played the Folk Alliance Showcase in 2013. 

Actual Wolf's new album, Itasca, produced by Alan Sparhawk and mixed by Erik Koskinen, is due out in January 2015. 

Minneapolis City Pages

Band Members