The members of Sacramento's Urban Wolves survive and thrive amid nature, touring and sexism
Lys Mayo and Jordan Wolfe already shared a deep love for each other—and music—when they found themselves tested on a brutal hiking trail during a 2011 backpacking trip in Canada. They emerged from the grueling expedition with bruises and cuts but also with a new purpose.
Mayo and Wolfe, accompanied by their dogs, lasted only three days on the trail before turning back, but the wounds suffered while hiking ultimately inspired them to start thinking about how, once they were back in civilization, they’d start a new band. Out there on the trail, they brainstormed names and mused on what it would sound like and dreamed of its boundless potential.
That potential is now a reality.
Urban Wolves, which formed in February, is for all intents and purposes a post-punk quartet with definitive roots in rock ’n’ roll. It’s also heavily influenced, however, by its members’ varied musical backgrounds, with sounds that pay homage to Joe Strummer’s ska-punk and Black Flag’s aggressive attitude, as well as nods to the female-fronted punk band the Distillers and even a bit of classic soul.
“It’s definitely aggressive music. It’s got a lot of passion and emotion behind it, [and] maybe not necessarily all [of it] is positive,” said Wolfe, who sings lead vocals and plays bass. “The nice flip to that … [is that] our songs dabble in serious subject matter, but when you watch us onstage, we’re just having fun.”
The band’s lyrical content encompasses political perspectives and personal everyday struggles. Wolfe, who spent the last 10 years in the local punk band Final Summation, is an accomplished songwriter, but he said he’s never written as much material for previous bands as he has for Urban Wolves.
Mayo, who plays guitar and sings, also boasts a thick musical résumé. She toured with Kepi the Band, switching between guitar and drums during a European tour, as well as a trek along the East Coast—all while still in high school. The band is rounded out by Ramon Puente, also on guitar; and Adam Jennings on drums.
Jennings’ role in the band is crucial to creating its unpredictable sound, Mayo said.
“It’s very rare that he sticks to a strict four-four punk beat. Sometimes he comes out of nowhere with some weird, syncopated [beat],” Mayo said. “He does different time signatures, plays crazy fills and takes drum influences from every genre but punk.”
In July, the band released the Tour EP, five songs recorded and produced by Bastards of Young’s Patrick Hills, who owns Earth Tone studios in Rocklin. Following the studio time, Urban Wolves set out on a monthlong tour that hit up Chicago and the Midwest.
On the road, Mayo said she found herself growing increasingly frustrated by the sexism she encountered.
Of course, she added, she’d heard it in Sacramento, too: “You’re a pretty good guitar player—for a girl.”
“Either tell me I’m a good musician or don’t say anything,” Mayo said. “I don’t like being treated differently from the guys. It’s hard to avoid that stereotype. I feel like what I do is sometimes devalued by the fact that I’m a girl.”
Despite the occasional gendercentric “compliment,” the members of Urban Wolves insist Sacramento is the best home possible.
“From touring for 10 years, I’ve truly learned there’s no other city like [Sacramento], and we have by far one of the most resilient music scenes. That’s something we should all take fucking pride in,” Wolfe said. “It’s something I’ll never take for granted.”