Though the music scene has been an abundance of bands that using the prefix of ‘Wolf’ in its names over the past few years, there is a new band that takes on the name of our favorite furry predators. The British-based band Wolf People are doing the hunting rather than being the hunted. With a new album, Steeple, coming out on October 12 on Jagjaguwar, the band blends together the sound of ‘60s rock and folk along with some groovy melodies. Recently, Bestnewbands.com caught up with the band to discuss their musical backgrounds, what they think of being the first British band signed to their new label and why they decided to record Steeple in a 17th century Welsh Mansion.
When did you start playing music? Were you forced or did you see music as an outlet to express your emotions?
Jack Sharp (vocals/guitar): I never got lessons or got forced by my parents, so I suppose it was always a distraction from the things I didn’t want to do. And it still is. I started playing the guitar at 13, and was in bands with Tom when we were teenagers. I stopped for years when I was 20, making hip-hop and attempting to DJ, I was pretty lousy at both. I started playing properly again about five years ago.
Joe Hollick (guitar): I’ve played guitar since I was 4, I don’t know anything different, and been in bands since I was 16 and this is my ultimate band fantasy.
Dan Davies (bass): I did get kind of ‘sent’ to piano lessons. I couldn’t sight read very well and had to learn everything by ear, then someone was kind enough to lend me a bass. It was definitely a bit about outlet and expression I suppose, before that it was all comic books and building radio controlled cars and a bit too introverted; playing in bands you could join in with the older kids who knew about guitars and cool music.
When did you decide to make music a career? Has playing in bands always been a part of your life? Was there a particular concert or a ‘holy shit’ moment that made you realized this was what you were meant to do?
Sharp: Music isn’t a career for any of us and I don’t think it will be. Even if we were able to make a living I doubt we’d consider it a profession. That sucks the fun out of it.
We’ve always done music but not really with any ambition to become famous or change our lives at all, we just like writing and playing. Having a band and some records out helps to validate the time you spend on it.
You guys are the first British band to sign to Jagjaguwar, what does that lofty accomplishment mean to you guys? What makes the label a good fit for what you guys are trying to accomplish?
Sharp: I think we were after a label that wouldn’t interfere, but could offer us the right support as and when we needed it. We really landed on our feet with Jagjaguwar, and I think if Steeple is any good, it has a lot to do with the freedom and encouragement that they’ve offered us.
Their roster is amazing. They have a lot of respect for their artists, something which seems sorely lacking elsewhere in the industry.
One of the most interesting things I found about the album was that it was recorded in a 17th century Welsh mansion. Whose idea was that and how was the songwriting process influenced by the surroundings?
Sharp: I should point out that the mansion itself got pulled down in the 80’s after having had no roof for 30 years I think! We recorded in a converted barn studio and stayed in the old servant’s houses and the mansion kitchen. We were phoning round holiday cottages asking if it would be possible to rehearse in them for a week. I phoned one place and the guy said he’d prefer it if we rehearsed in the studio. I didn’t even know they had one! We loved it so much we decided to record there a few months later.
I’m not sure how much the environment affected the music, but we were very isolated, so it was much easier to get into a group mind set. It was just a bunch of lads mucking about in the country really; we’re lucky we recorded anything!
Two of my favorite tracks are “Silbury Sands” and “Painted Cross.” Though very different, they each have a signature touch that makes it a Wolf People song. What would you describe as being one of the signature elements in your songwriting?
Sharp: Thanks. I’m not sure there’s anything we consciously do to make it a Wolf People song. Lyrically, most of the songs are just folksongs in a sense, about a story that is familiar to us, or something that happened locally. They are rarely personal, even when they are in first person, though they are heartfelt I hope. I think the only thing we consciously try to do is maintain a sense of identity. Not pretending.
Though your music is largely blues-rock based, it incorporates elements of folk, jazz, kraut, and country and it works really well. Are you able to balance this eclectic mix of sound and make it your own?
Sharp: We don’t know any other way to play. It’s never ever been forced at all. It’s just a slow process of absorbing lots of music and it getting gradually mixed in to your playing style without really being aware of it. We’ve never discussed a riff and gone “make it more Kraut or more blues”. Just comes out like that.
How did you come up with the name of the band? With so many ‘Wolf’ prefix band names out there, are you guys fearful that your band name may get some listeners confused?
Sharp: I made some demos in 2005 and when someone suggested I put them on the Internet, I picked a name almost at random from a children’s book I had “Little Jacko and the Wolf People” (it was that or Painter Mouse!). It didn’t seem to matter, as there was no band or ambitions of any sort at that time.
Things unexpectedly grew from there and we got stuck with it. We’ve doggedly stood by the name since then out of some strange sense of loyalty. We have had several discussions about changing it but couldn’t come up with anything else, so our policy now is to completely ignore the situation forever and hope that it doesn’t put too many people off. It would be daft to write off a band for their name anyway, I like loads of bands with silly names.
Having accomplished so much with a new label in a short period of time and with a kickass album about to be released, the sky is the limit. Where do you see the band this time next year?
Sharp: We really want to record another LP as early as possible. We have just got use of a barn to rehearse in, so we’re hoping to start trying out recordings there soon. We’ll probably be ambling along happily at the same pace, making a bit more music and playing to a few more people.