An interview with Mt Wolf

In less than two years Mt. Wolf have successfully created a sound so unique that even the band members themselves struggle to categorise or label its creation. Often described by critics as ‘dream/electronic/folk’, Mt. Wolf have tried to stay ahead of such generalizations and consider their music to be continually evolving. Whatever the genre, their music certainly reflects individual childhood experiences living by the British coast. Their productions are ever-changing, subtle tones and calming nuances swirl into crashing percussion and rousing vocals – similar emotions evoked by the sea and Kate Sproule (the band’s vocalist) points to her teenage years in Guernsey as paramount in nurturing her passion for music.

The band’s debut EP “Life Size Ghosts” (released in 2012) received great critical acclaim and won them legions of new fans. The title song seeps beauty … Sproule’s chilling vocals cradle the electronic instrumentation to create a wholly zen-like, fantastical sound which evokes a similar sensation that one might feel when drinking an ice cold Hendrix and tonic on a hot day. “Life Size Ghosts” also holds particular resonance with Kate, who describes the track as “one of the closest” to her. “Life Size Ghosts” examines the definition and significance of regret, questioning the possibility of living a regret-free life. The genius of this track rests in its ability to exert a dark philosophical meaning, whilst being simultaneously soothing and even freeing the listener from their own ghosts. In short, it is unashamedly compelling.

Currently working on new material, the band are looking to follow a similar trajectory to their existing music, but with some evolution involved. The gang have expressed their desire to move away from their bedroom sounds and experiment with something a little more captivating / slightly grander than previous compositions. Although Mt. Wolf don’t like to look that far ahead, we believe the future is looking bright for this bunch. It’s just quite hard to picture something even greater than what they have already achieved.

Mt. Wolf was formed only two years ago, that’s a pretty rapid rise to the spotlight – How would you describe your formative years?

Yeah interesting, I mean we’ve been writing together for maybe 6 – 9months before we sort of formed as this band. Sort of you know, just writing and not really thinking about putting it out there at all, so I guess for us and the writing process it has been a bit longer than the year and a half. But yeah it’s been good, its been a bit of a whirl wind, it’s been quite intense at moments, we’ve done a lot, basically up until now, a lot of its been you know off our own backs really, we haven’t had that like big team that you often get for bands that are breaking. So from that point of view it’s been quite nice we haven’t had any pressure we’ve sort of just done it all our own way and like with the live show which has probably gone/ has been taken the furthest out of everything- all of the things that we’ve done including our recordings, that was really nice because it’s sort of a labour of love for us and we’ve been able to just spend a lot of time putting the work into it without having to worry about any pressures from a label or anything. So yeah it’s been good, and we’re really excited about the next 6 months and getting the album underway hopefully.

So as a band do you share similar musical backgrounds? Has music always been a large part of all of your lives?

Yeah it has, I think our backgrounds are probably all quite different. My background was probably quite classical until Stevie from the band asked me if I wanted to do some backing vocals for him and Bassi when they were at production college. So yeah that’s my background. And Alex ummm was sort of drumming in like metal bands and like heavy rock bands so obviously we’ve had to tame him down a little bit, which has been fun. And umm Bassi and Stevie met at production college and were the first people to sort of hook up and start writing so maybe their backgrounds are sort of more similar but yeah both of them were in different bands at the time, and quite different sounding bands as well so yeah its weird I think we all do come from different corners of music but we’re all quite clear about the kind of thing we wanted to make when we started writing together so yeah that was helpful. We didn’t want any of Alex’s metal drumming.

Speaking of, your sort of ‘sound’ has been described by many critics as ‘electronic/folk’- would you agree with that description?

It’s been quite hard to tell because we’ve evolved quite a bit I think, and we’re still evolving. And our sounds (it sounds obvious) but it kind of comes from the way we were writing so… now we are experimenting a lot more with different ways of writing and even just different instruments, just to kick off riffs … whereas before it was largely done on acoustic guitar and electric guitar in a bedroom kind of thing. So I guess there are reflections of folk still in the instrumentation, but I think the overall sound whirl is pretty far away from that. But yeah, I think that by the time we’ve got the record out it will be seen as sort of ‘our sound’ rather than something, a label or anything. It sounds a bit ‘wanky’ but I think that’s really the direction that we’re going in. So yeah I guess with the folk side, we always want to make sure that there are songs, and songs with meaning, so I think that is where that side of it comes in. I don’t think you would listen to it now and think it was really influenced by any folk.

Is there any artists or era of music that have influenced the sound that you’ve created or is sort of your own thing?

I don’t know if there is really a time period or an artist in particular, I think we’re all inspired by different things and different people, and as a singer I always find it quite funny when people try and label you as a new singer or what the singer of another band sounds like or who they sound like from the past. I mean you sort of just kind of sing the way you sing, and I think that’s true of all of us, we just write until we like what we’ve written without really referring too much. I mean we all have massive love for the same sort of bands and people like Radiohead and Sigur Ros, and Bjork and musicians like that and we all think they are really amazing. But, it’s not like we sit and think, oh lets write a song like that. Umm but yeah, I guess obviously subconsciously you’re always going to be influenced by what’s around you. I’d say more those individual artists that we loved growing up rather than an era.


Is it true that you’ve all grown-up living by the sea?

Haha, kind of, it’s just sort of something that was patched together for the purpose of a press release. But I mean, yeah. At different times, I mean Alex the drummer is from Brighton; I spent some of my life living in Guernsey which is where Steve was brought up and where we met ummm and Bassi lived in Dorset- not far from the sea, so I think we have all spent some of our childhood if not all living in quite rural areas.

Would you say that’s inspired your music because, it’s a sort of relaxing calming sound that you have?

I think a lot of the imagery and stuff that I use, when I’m doing the lyrics or even writing the melodies, I do often pick that back setting and um where I lived in Guernsey is right on the coast and you could see the sea from my bedroom and I spent of lot of my anxy teenage years sat on cliff-top looking out to the horizon and stuff and yeah I guess, that period for me was a big one for me in terms of falling in love with music and I’d say probably the same for Stevie, living in Guernsey as well. So I think that, that aspect of our childhood has all you know left a mark on us as people and you can’t really detach that from yourselves as song writers ‘cause yeah I definitely have loads of images of the sea and the feelings that are evoked when you’re in that kind of setting and when we’re writing so yeah I think it probably does but again it’s not really a conscious thing.

So, ‘Life Size Ghosts’ … is that drawn from any personal experiences of regret or is that just something that you came up with?

Yeah that song is probably one of the closest to me in terms of it’s meaning. I think it sort of came at a time when I was thinking about I don’t know, a long history of regret. And it’s not necessarily about one incident, but more about a patchwork of everything I was thinking about that you know I had a desire to have done differently and I was sort of projecting that. And a lot of the verses in that song are sort of like rules for myself, things that I think I should do, and then the chorus – coming back to the regret and asking if you can ever, ever sort of be perfect and live a life without it. The verses are quite … it’s almost like I’m telling myself off. But yeah it’s sort of a patchwork of different experiences really. Um from like relationships to friendships that have gone wrong and families and yeah, there’s a lot in there.

So, when you’re writing songs do you do the music first and then the lyrics? Or does it vary between songs? Is there a set way that you go about writing?

It does, it does vary, I think, I feel like, when I first started writing anyway, ‘cause I hadn’t really written a song before Mt. Wolf and I was very new to it and I think before that having been brought up in quite an intensive classical background I’ve always been drawn to the music first. But now I’m trying to be really disciplined and not listen too much to the chords that we’re writing and the sounds that we’re making until I’ve got at least an idea of what the song’s going to be about. Because I’ve ended having massive breakdown’s about what a song is going to be about because I’ve written the melody to nothing, to gibberish, and I can’t go back to imprint a meaning onto it. So now I’m trying to be really strict and write some lyrics, or a line, or have an idea, of what I want the song to be about before I write melodies. I think it’s easier like that, it’s easier to write melodies, rhythm and stuff when you’ve already got a line that you like, or words you know. So yeah for me it probably feels more natural to do the music first, but I think it’s easier and more interesting if you do the lyrics first so I’ve been trying to do that recently with some degree of success.


Do you feel like you have more affinity with a song if you do the lyrics first … because it has more meaning if you’re thinking about what you’re writing before you do the melody?

It’s weird isn’t it … I don’t know, I think I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to lyrics. So once I’ve got lyrics that I really like and I’ve got the structure that I really like then it all sort of floods in. What I like to do when we’re writing is if Stevie or Bassi put in a bit of um, bit of atmosphere in the track as I’m writing it so that there’s a bit of something to latch onto, that can be quite inspiring rather than just writing, like it’s not like I just sit with Stevie on the guitar and we just write it, it takes quite a few days of perfection and thought before I’m happy. But no, once a track is done, I get very attached to the lyrics. And it’s weird because you sort of know when a song is done lyrically and then it can never be touched again … a that’s it sort of thing.

What should we expect for the future of Mt. Wolf – is there a distinct moment when you’d all say ‘this is where we want to be and hat’s it’ or are you just taking it as it comes, or do you not try to think too far ahead with it all?

Yeah we’re not trying to look too far ahead really. I think for all of us ideally we’d love to have a record out next year, um that’s definitely like a goal that we’re working towards and we feel it’s like a natural thing because we’re really getting there with the new material … It’s sounding great and it sounds like an evolution from what we’ve done so that’s a good sign. But yeah, even though I guess we’ve only been on the scene for a short amount of time, we feel like are taking things slowly because we’ve done a lot of it on our own. So yeah we feel lucky that we’ve been able to do that and right now we’re just in and out of the studio working on new stuff and working on new sound whirls and new arrangements and thing and it’s all really exciting, we’re all really excited but yeah I think, I think we’ll probably have something out by the end of this year and hopefully the record will be out some point next year.

Do you think you’ll follow the same direction you’ve been going or will things be a bit different?

Um I think, it’ll follow a similar thing, we kind of want it to work on the recordings and play around with them and make them sort of grippier and more interesting but the sound whirls and everything are really similar, I’m sort of working on different ways of using my voice and stuff which is really cool. And as we can use this amazing studio at the moment, obviously the equipment is amazing so we can get way more out of it than we could sort of previously. I mean all of the other EP’s are pretty much bedroom EP’s, bedroom studio EP’s so there is only so much you can do in that environment. So I think it will be the same sort of thing but we’re sort of hoping it will be quite sweeping, the next release and the record too will be quite grand in scale and um maybe a little bit grander than what’s been before. The background music thing that has run through the last two EP’s we’re going to get shot of that. Yeah we’re playing around and I think it will still recognisably be us and we never want that to change. I think it will just be bigger and better really. We’re doing a tour in the autumn and we’ve got a show up in Leeds which we’ve never done before in November and the dates are online.

Thanks to Kate, Bassi, Stevie & Alex … you can find out more about Mt. Wolf on their website or you can listen to more material on their soundcloud.