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An interview with Mt. Wolf

By Samuel Spencer

Genres are often tricky to identify with some new music – and this is certainly the case for London-based four-piece Mt. Wolf. Writers have tried to define them as many things, but none of them have truly fitted. “I think labelling our entire catalogue of music as a genre is quite a hard thing to do,” said singer Kate when asked how she would define her own sound, “I think we quite liked the whole idea behind ‘dream folk’, because it fused the really large-scale expansiveness of dream pop, fused with that more intricate folk side, and we quite like the ideas that that threw up.” Just don’t call them ‘folktronica’; “I can’t ever think of ‘folktronica’ as a genre,  I find it too boxy , and I don’t think you can really box our stuff in. If you just take a concept in its own right which is so vast thing as folk and just cut up the word electronic and stick them together, it doesn’t quite get to the heart of that middle ground that happens when you’re fusing music.”

And what a fusion it is. Sample the more ethereal branches of folk music à la Bat For Lashes or Sigur Rós, add a touch of electronica (SBTRKT) with the cinematic feel of a Vespertine-era Björk, yet the end result remains somehow completely different to all of those. In the most part, the idiosyncratic sound of Mt. Wolf is due to their wide range of influences. As Kate explains, “I think originally we were coming from lots of angles. We all have a common appreciation of each other’s angles, but it’s fair to say we all came from four completely different corners really. I think that’s probably why it took us quite a while to find our sound, rather than making songs where one sounds really folky and  something sounds really dubstep-influenced. We’re getting to that point where we’re really making music that hangs together, but yeah.. it’s taken a while!”

One thing that does unite them however, is being brought up by the sea, with Kate and guitarist Steve hailing from Guernsey, Sebastian from Dorset and drummer Alex (the most recent addition to the band) of Brighton. When asked whether the coastal life had  any impact on their music, Kate’s answer was fairly emphatic; “Definitely, in a big way. I don’t know whether it did consciously, but definitely. I don’t think any of us can really help it, it just sort of is there…I can’t really speak for the others, but I know I definitely have to have quite a strong image when I’m writing and time and time again the sea does crop up, and just the kind of isolation that you can get on the coast and that expansiveness that I think sometimes you don’t get in the city or it’s harder to get because you’re a bit more closed in mentally and physically. It’s nice to have that reference point. I was at home this weekend in Guernsey and just going for a walk by the sea, so many ideas come up out of it. It’s got its own music to it, the coast I think, but it’s nice to take that into the city. There is a lot that’s quite urban and city-based in our music, a lot of our influences are quite urban and I think fusing those two things produces something quite special sometimes.”

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It is this conflict between the sea and city, expanse and confinement, picturesque and urban, which makes their output so exciting. Take ‘Life Size Ghosts’ for example, perhaps the cooler sister of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird’, and a song that has become ‘a bit of a favourite’ for the band. From the opening, it expands into something ‘cinematic’ (a favourite term for the band), with its musical beauty hiding deceptively dark lyrics. “It’s about feeling quite hemmed in in the city, and feeling like you’ve got something huge to overcome in a city surrounded by huge buildings and hustle and bustle, and feeling quite anonymous. And that song, although the imagery is still quite expansive, with that natural element, it’s got an element of feeling quite lost and feeling quite small, with the life size. So the whole basis of the song is it’s a song about regret.”

In essence then, it’s a song that embodies expanse, which led me to wonder how difficult it’s been in a London scene full of small intimate clubs. “They can be difficult, but I think we’ve managed to transcend that. I don’t remember many gigs that were completely disastrous. One or two maybe, but I think when the four of us are on stage, because we do play so much live and I play violin, obviously, Steve is electric, and the acoustic and drums, you can kind of find that anchors you. That we are just four musicians playing together and whether the sound is great up front or on stage, we can still conceive, communicate; not just relying on a backing track or laptop and if it crashes we’re completely screwed. So I don’t think we’ve found it too difficult from that point of view – and I quite enjoy playing those smaller venues as well. It’s an interesting one; once you’ve found your sound, you find what you’re looking for out of the scene.”

This seems particularly pertinent for the band, who seem to have found exactly what they were looking for. They now look forward to upcoming gigs supporting the Hidden Orchestra and playing at the Symbiosis Gathering, a festival in the Nevada desert where, according to the band, “there’s this solar eclipse happening on the Sunday of the festival, so that whole (being outside in natural space) vibe will suit stuff really well and give that ‘cinematic’ edge.” This, it seems, is the perfect environment for the band – outside, their music could take on an almost shamanistic quality. So with the band ‘in talks for summer’ keep an eye on festival listings. This could be the year for the new genre of ‘dark-dream-electronic-cinematic-folk-pop.’

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Mt. Wolf have two London shows coming up:

5/5  Wolf Club – Queen of Hoxton
6/5  Soundcrash: Hidden Orchestra – XOYO

For more information, visit the band’s website here

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