Remi Wolf reflects on the “run-and-gun” creative process behind her debut album Juno, visual storytelling and blowing up during the pandemic.
American singer/songwriter Remi Wolf released her colourful debut album Juno on October 15, and there’s not a single dull moment on it. Letting her voice do the talking, she took the pandemic as an opportunity to hone in on her songwriting and well, it paid off.
In lieu of the release, Happy spoke to Remi about the significance behind her track Liquor Store, the spontaneous creative process that fuelled her album, and how inhibitions have no place in her work. Juno is a colourful whirlwind of refreshing vocals, harmonies and raw instrumentals – a must to anyone seeking a good ol’ fashioned mood boost.
HAPPY: How are you Remi?
REMI WOLF: I’m good how are you?
HAPPY: I’m great! I just wanted to say congratulations on your upcoming debut album Juno!
REMI WOLF: Thank you so much!
HAPPY: That’s coming out tomorrow, your time? It’s October 15 I’ve been told.
REMI WOLF: I think it’s tomorrow for you and then tomorrow and a half for me. It’s tomorrow at 9pm, so in about 24 hours.
HAPPY: Oh how exciting!
REMI WOLF: Yeah, thank you.
HAPPY: And you named it, the album, after your dog Juno that you adopted during the lockdown. That’s really sweet!
REMI WOLF: Oh yeah thanks. Yeah I did, I adopted him at the beginning of March, which was pretty much the first week of the pandemic and then I raised him throughout the entire pandemic and he was there for the entire album process so I thought it would be pretty fitting to just name it after him. I liked the name too, ’cause I obviously named him myself.
HAPPY: What breed is he?
REMI WOLF: He’s a French bulldog.
HAPPY: Oh my god I love French bulldogs.
REMI WOLF: Yeah, he’s very cute, he looks like a little cow. Very, very nice.
HAPPY: Oh, how lovely! Would you ever consider having his bark feature on a future song?
REMI WOLF: Oh yeah he’s in there! He’s absolutely in there.
REMI WOLF: I feel like you won’t be able to hear him really but if you solo some of the vocal tracks you can hear him very loudly snoring. Because he’s a really loud snorer, the Frenchies have their noses very smooshed. Actually in my song Liz you can audibly hear his bark. It’s right before I start singing and it goes “Uh da, uh, dur roof!”
HAPPY: Oh my god.
REMI WOLF: So if you listen closely there you can hear him. But he’s all over the album, you just can’t really hear it.
HAPPY: That’s alright, I mean there’s always future opportunities to make him more of a louder collaborator, but I’ll have to properly listen to the intro and wait for his little bark to come in ’cause I didn’t pick up on it. I’m bummed about that!
REMI WOLF: Yeah no that’s ok! Just listen closely next time, you’ll be able to hear the “ruff”.
HAPPY: Ah, a manly bark.
REMI WOLF: Yeah.
HAPPY: So you’ve released seven of tracks on Juno and video clips as well, which I thought were really fun and I loved the ‘90s aesthetic as well. Can you tell me a bit about why you chose to have that visual approach for the songs?
REMI WOLF: Yeah, I mean I don’t think we were trying to recreate anything too dead-on. I think the ‘90s aspect of it is we ended up running everything through VHS television – like we actually printed all of our footage onto a VHS tape and ran it through a TV and then filmed that and brought that back out into the computer which I think gave it a really cool effect.
In terms of the styling and the process of making the videos, it was a very run-and-gun process, except for Liquor Store and the Gorilla video which we kind of expanded out a little bit more and we were able to build all these cool and crazy sets. For all the other videos it was me and my creative director, Haley Appell, with a GoPro and self-styling everything. And we were just on a green screen and running around Los Angeles doing whatever we wanted.
So it was a really cool and fun process and that’s the way I like to work for the most part anyway – kind of unplanned and you make a day of it. But it’s been really cool to find a flow. I feel like my creative partnership with her has been very… like our minds have melded together. We think as one brain at this point, which has been very cool because there are not a lot of people in life that you really creatively drive with, and I really drive with her.
HAPPY: I loved the Anthony Kiedis video clip as well with you just going nuts. I love that you just didn’t give a shit, it was so cool and it just matched the song!
REMI WOLF: Yeah that was an insane vibe. We just went out on Hollywood Boulevard and I just had to walk down the street like so crazy. There were babies in strollers everywhere it was a very crazy, crazy thing but it was really fun. I think also, those videos are so performance-centric, like the videos are just me kind of performing to the camera and that was the only real outlet I had for that in the pandemic.
Now I’m kind of performing more and I just went on tour and got back from tour so finally I got to do that again. But I wasn’t able to perform for like two years, so it was a really nice way to let out that energy and give each song its own personality. I feel like every song that’s come out so far has its own personality because of the video, like visual personality. I think it’s cool that we were able to make a video for every single song, so far.
HAPPY: Yeah, I think that’s sick. Not a lot of artists do that on their albums, they just have a select few songs that they like to run with and make videos for. But I really liked that you did that with all the songs that you’ve released so far, I think it adds another element of storytelling to the whole album.
REMI WOLF: Thank you. Yeah, I mean I understand why people don’t do it. It’s way too much work but you know, sometimes you’ve got to commit to something, we committed.
HAPPY: I’m glad you did!
REMI WOLF: Thank you.
HAPPY: And how was your tour?
REMI WOLF: It was great! It was so fun, it feels so good to be back on the road and actually get to meet all these people who’ve been listening to my music because pretty much my career has taken off over the past two years, in full lockdown. So I haven’t gotten to meet anyone in person. They’re all so excited and such nice, genuine people who are really there for the music and want to have a good time and kind of want to party.
HAPPY: Oh yeah.
REMI WOLF: One thing I’ve noticed about the audience is there’s not a lot of people with their phones up. Which I think is a great sign because people are actually in the moment and having fun – which I love. So, it’s been really cool, super fun to watch and be a part of.
HAPPY: I think that the pandemic’s really made people miss the little things in life, like being present. It’s such a special thing to actually experience – live music and being around a crowd of other people and just soaking that all up. That’s nice to hear actually.
REMI WOLF: Yeah, it’s super awesome!
HAPPY: Could you tell me a bit about the process of making this debut album and how you found the sound for it?
REMI WOLF: I think that the sound was an extension and exploration of all the music that I’d been making previously. But I think what makes it different and what quickly advanced the sound was the isolation of the pandemic, because I was really able to just me in the studio and buckle down with my collaborator Jared Solomon.
I was really able to focus on my songwriting in a way where I literally had no distraction around me. And I wasn’t able to really work with that many other people so it was kind of just my writing, so I was able to hone in on that voice. We didn’t have access to any other studios, so we were limited to the sounds within Jared’s studio, so we kind of just built our own little world and that translated to the music.
There’s a lot of production elements that I brought in from my earlier stuff, like I obviously love vocal harmonies and there are so many harmonies all over the place. I feel like the backbone of my music is drums, guitar, 808s, and bass, and that has obviously continued through, but there’s a bit more of an aggressive sound on this album than there has been on my past music.
I feel like my past music was a little bit more relaxed and this album has a much more manic energy to it and I think that that’s directly related to the pandemic and how I was feeling while all this was happening. I think that kind of mania, brutal isolation, depression really made its way into the music in a cool way.
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HAPPY: It definitely feels like you’ve really put your heart out there. It just felt very clear and honest, and that was nice.
REMI WOLF: Thank you!
HAPPY: So the lyrics within Liquor Store made me think of the conflict in a relationship and the music video reflects this really nicely. So, was that another process where it was very experimental or was it pre-planned?
REMI WOLF: Yeah, I think both the music video and the song were very experimental. It was the first music video that I made for the album so we were really just trying to figure out what was going on and I think we did a really good job of setting the scene for the rest of it. In that video, we gave it a huge multimedia feel with all the clay and drawing animation which was really cool – we got to work with all these great artists on that.
I feel like that piece had a bit more of a narrative than some of the other videos do, and I think that was really cool for Liquor Store because I feel like it was one of my most emotionally out there songs on the record. So I wanted the video to balance… not balance that but…
HAPPY: Meet it halfway?
REMI WOLF: Yeah, exactly. So making that video was such a learning process. It was my first video I’d made since the EP before and most of those videos we had made on a computer where I didn’t even have to be in the video. So really it was my first video, video. It was cool, I learned a lot from that and I carried all that into all the other videos. I think there’s a good progression between all the videos.
HAPPY: Well thank you so much for your time Remi, it was really nice to speak to you!
REMI WOLF: Thank you! Very nice to speak to you as well. Thank you so much for doing this.
HAPPY: Oh, thanks for doing this as well! See you later.
REMI WOLF: Bye.
Juno is out now on all streaming services, listen below:
Interview by Alex Stefanovic