From a KISS-themed sweet-sixteen party to a video of her parents wedding, Arrow De Wilde talks Ed Nash through the songs that matter to her.
The pivotal songs in Arrow De Wilde’s life take in a range of settings, but each are underpinned by a desire for discovery.
Whether that’s listening to music driving around her hometown of Los Angeles, a soundtrack to a first kiss or a first shot at singing in front of her peers at school, each song here tells a brilliant story.
Whilst her first onstage appearance - a take on ‘A Teenager in Love’, accompanied by a flu-ridden classmate on ukulele - ended inauspiciously, there was an inevitability De Wilde would find her natural calling in music. Her parents are after all both renowned artists in their own fields; Autumn De Wilde is a revered photographer and Aaron Sperske an incredible drummer, who's played with the likes of Beachwood Sparks and Father John Misty.
Growing up in world surrounded by musicians and artists, and undeterred by her debut live performance at school, De Wilde formed Starcrawler with Henri Cash, Tim Franco and Austin Smith and the four-piece quickly built a reputation as a ferocious live band.
When we speak De Wilde is in L.A., seemingly a world away from the rain and snow drenched London where I call her from. But no, it’s not always sunny in L.A, it turns out its cold and rainy in Hollywood too. As we talk about how she got into music I mention that for me it was hearing The Smiths, but in contrast De Wilde explains that growing up L.A. she was drawn to punk, rather than what she politely descibes as sad boy music, "but hard rock had the same effect on me." The first albums she bought were by The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, which fused volume with melody to express their worldview. Neither band make the cut here but both provided a path for the artist De Wilde would become.
“They were melodic, but it was still rock and it wasn’t hard to get into them if you’re already into guitars. When I first heard Never Mind The Bollocks I was like “What is this?”
“My Dad introduced me to this song. When I was little he mainly played me The Beatles, The Monkees, The Byrds and that kind of stuff, but I didn’t get into hard rock until I was 11 or 12. It was pretty much the same idea as you getting into The Smiths, I never got into that kind of sad-boy music, but hard rock had the same effect on me. Whatever type of music it is, everyone has their own thing.
“It’s hard to pick one song from Blizzard of Ozz, I first heard it when I was 13 and the whole album was such an influence for me. I love how every song works together but I remember ‘Suicide Solution’ coming on and the hairs on my neck stood up. It was one of those moments where I was “Woah, this is a great song…” and l liked how controversial it was and the fuss it caused.
“The song right before it is called ‘Dee’ and it’s a little interlude on the whole album, this weird little classical bit that’s a minute long. The first time I heard Blizzard of Ozz I listened to the album in order and there’s no pause after ‘Dee’, it goes straight into ‘Suicide Solution’ and it’s the coolest thing. That transition makes it so much more effective, because ‘Suicide Solution’ comes in super loud after the really nice classical bit. It’s so cool.”
“The Lemonheads album It’s a Shame About Ray was definitely a part of my childhood on my Mum’s side. I don’t think she took photos of Evan Dando but it’s from the scene my parents were part of in the ‘90s. I love his song-writing so much and it’s another one where I love the whole album, but with ‘My Drug Buddy’ there’s just something about it. It’s not a typical song and it’s kind of weird.
“There’s something different about ‘My Drug Buddy’. I can really feel the realness of it with the lyrics and it feels so real to me. I didn’t really get the lyrics until I was a little bit older, I was about 10 years old when I first heard it, maybe it was a little earlier, and at that age I liked songs for how they sounded.
“I think the first song I heard from the album was ‘Confetti’ and my Mum loved that song the most and she would always play it in the car. I grew up with a lot of that type of music and it makes me think of driving in the car with her.”
“My sweet-sixteen was KISS-themed. A sweet-sixteen is a really cheesy thing and I don’t know anyone else who had one, but I liked cheesy shit and doing stereotypical stuff that my friends thought was lame. It was at a venue in Hollywood that I don’t think is there anymore, in an alleyway by a burger joint, it was an illegal, all-ages venue. I called it a sweet-sixteen, but it was like a party - one or two people came with KISS make up on but most people just wore crazy outfits.
“My Dad was in a covers band at the time that was made up of indie musicians. They played ‘70s rock covers at a club in Hollywood for fun and extra dough and they played at my sweet-sixteen. They put on the make-up and played KISS songs, they were so good and they were really tight.
“I became obsessed with KISS when I was 15 and ’Black Diamond' is probably my all-time favourite KISS song. It’s so crazy and so heavy and I feel like it doesn’t get enough attention. ‘Strange Ways’ is another weird and heavy one and it’s a tough tie between those two. ‘Strange Ways’ is a bit lo-fi sounding, which is cool, but I listen to ‘Black Diamond’ more and I think there’s more depth to it.
“I like the weird acoustic bit at the beginning and then it goes into the line ‘Out on the street for a living’ and it gets all crazy. The ending is this crazy drone that gets slower and slower and slower until you feel like your brain is melting.”
“This song has several different memories for me. Firstly, it’s another childhood one and Big Star were a band that my parents always played, my Mum especially. It’s also the song my boyfriend and I had our first kiss to, so it’s really special to me. It’s a lovely song to have a first kiss to and it was lucky, it was on a playlist so it could have been some cheesy song on my shuffle like ‘Steal My Sunshine’ or something!
‘The Ballad of El Goodo’ is one of those bittersweet songs that makes me happy, but I still want to cry when I hear it, you know what I mean? I love the harmonies on it and it’s such a sad song, but it’s so nice too.”
“‘Sweet Child O' Mine’ is a homage to my cousin, who is like a sister to me. I used to make her mix CDs all the time and I remember she borrowed my Appetite For Destruction CD. She loved it and I wasn't expecting that, because she wasn’t super into rock. ‘Sweet Child O' Mine’ is one of our songs and we both agree it’s one of the best songs ever written. Even from just a technical standpoint it would be ‘Wow’ but it’s crazy, it could be a pop song, but it’s a rock song.
“Guns N' Roses were one of those bands where it was unavoidable. I was 11 or 12 when I got Appetite For Destruction It reminds me of driving around Hollywood, listening to the radio with my cousin and my Uncle driving us down Sunset Boulevard. It reminds me of Los Angeles and I listen to it when I’m homesick on tour.
“You know what it is? In other cities, like New York and London, it’s crazy if you drive there, nobody drives unless they’re crazy - you take the train or a cab - but in L.A. you have to drive and if you have to drive you have to listen to music in the car. I’ve noticed that everyone I know in L.A. always sings along to songs in the car and people who aren’t from L.A. don’t, it’s weird.
"I think that if you've grown up in L.A. then a lot of songs make you think of the city, because you’re constantly listening to the radio and driving through the city. ‘Sweet Child O' Mine’ is still always being played on the radio and I still play ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine twice a day."
“This song is really special to me and I wanted to put one of my Dad’s bands in here. ‘By Your Side’ is a Sade cover and it’s so good. I love Chris’s voice on it and I love the way they did it. They didn’t mean for the song to be as big as it got - I think it was a funny idea for them to do it - but it actually ended up working really well.
“The music video for ‘By Your Side’ is my parents wedding and it’s special, because it reminds me of a certain time. I don’t remember when I first heard it, I was really little and I don’t have a ton of childhood memories of my parents being together. It was very hard for me when they split up because I was so young - I was three or four - but this song has always been special to me and I like watching the video every now and then.”
“This is the first song I ever performed on a stage, it was at a 7th Grade talent show, so I was 12. It was just me and my friend and she had a ukulele. She got the flu, so she missed school that day and just came to the performance. It was my first ever time singing in my life and I don’t know why we wanted to do it, but I remember I was so scared.
“When it was our turn we were walking up the steps to the stage and I grabbed her hand and said “Promise me that we’ll never do this ever again.” I never thought I would be onstage again after that, it was so terrible.
“We picked ‘A Teenager in Love’ because it was the easiest song for my friend to play. It only has three chords or something, so she said, ‘How about this song?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I like that song’, but it was a really tough song to sing. I still don’t know why I did it, I always wanted to be able to sing and perform and I guess I just forced myself. We didn’t get teased about it - at least not to our faces - but it was really bad, even we knew it at the time, we were ‘Yeah, whatever…’
“I didn’t perform on a stage again until High School and once I started to get more into punk and rock I really wanted to start a band. Just for fun at first but once I did I realised I actually wanted to do it. I’d already been taking drum lessons, because at first I wanted to be a drummer but then I was ‘No, I want more attention than this…’ I took voice lessons and then I realised it’s pretty easy to sing rock music. So it just worked itself out.”
“I’ve chosen an Ozzy song and I figured I needed a Sabbath song too, because they were equally influential for me. It’s tough to pick a favourite, but it would have to be ‘Supernaut’ or ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. With Sabbath it’s crazy, they’re like Led Zeppelin, where every member was amazing at their instrument whereas with Ozzy solo it was all about Ozzy and Randy Rhoads, but then Randy Rhoads died, so it was all about Ozzy.
“My Dad showed me their album Vol. 4 when I was 14 and I was super into it. With Black Sabbath it’s kind of unusual because I got into Ozzy’s solo stuff first and then I realised he was in a band called Black Sabbath, so I listened to all of the albums with him on it. It’s difficult to choose a favourite album of theirs too because they’re all so good, but Vol. 4 was definitely one of the most influential records for me when I started making music.
“I have a funny memory of ‘Supernaut’. Across from my Grandma’s house there was this cul-de-sac and it sloped a little bit. Me and two of my cousins used to take this big speaker out onto the street. We had a longboard, one of those long skateboards, and we’d race down the slope on our stomachs. To start it off my oldest cousin would play ‘Supernaut’ and once it started we’d go racing off on skateboards on our stomachs and it was so much fun.
“When we were doing that it was always Sabbath because it just sounded right, it just made sense. My cousin loved that song the most, so she’d always say “Play ‘Supernaut’!” and that became the song we’d play.”
“I know people will be angry with me for this one because Ted Nugent sucks and he’s a huge Republican now, but you can’t deny the guy’s got some great tunes. I had to put one in for the band too. I want to lie and say it’s because we all want to listen to it in the van, but I’m always the one who says “Put on ‘Stranglehold!’”
“I got into this song when I was 16, which was when I got into cock rock and heavy rock. It was around the time I had the KISS sweet-sixteen party and I got into Ted Nugent and Van Halen. Before that I was into punk bands like Black Flag and L.A. old-school hardcore, but I got sort of sick of that and I got into the opposite of what punk was, which was cock rock like KISS. Well, it was the opposite of punk in L.A., I don’t know many hardcore punks who are into that stuff because it’s all long songs and guitar solos. It’s cheesy stuff, but I’ve always loved hair metal like Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard and Cinderella. People hate that shit, but it’s great.
“This song is definitely a band jam and after we’ve had a good show we put this on. It’s one of those songs that when you put it on it feels and sounds so good. It’s such a good head-banger and it makes me happy. It makes me think of my friends too, it’s another driving in the car song.”