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A Short Conversation with The Wolfhounds

23 July 2020

The Wolfhounds have gone against the F. Scott Fitzgerald adage of there being no second act. What is different about being a band and making music in 21st century to your 80’s experience of the same?
The Wolfhounds: We’re ‘Band Interrupted’, really – we never ran out of ideas first time around, just time and money. There are many ways in which making music is much easier in the 21st century. Decent guitars are cheaper (though vintage ones are outrageously expensive, of course), there is an unlimited range of weird instruments available on eBay, you can do all your preliminary recording and arranging on your laptop and overdub online. We still use an expensive studio to mix, but even that isn’t entirely necessary. Tours can also be organised simply by messaging and venues often have their own backline and, as we often enjoy playing somewhat ad hoc, this means we’ve become a lean and mean, compact outfit able to perform almost anywhere. On the downside, we can’t lounge around on the dole dreaming of strategies. The internet has increased accessibility tenfold, though.

The band seems to have come back more fired up than ever. Does this say more about you as people or more about the world in which you now find yourselves?
The Wolfhounds: We’re always the sum total of what the world is throwing at us and, being powerless little people, can only defend ourselves with our melodic and noisy opinions. I’d love to write anthems that sent people to the barricades but, at best, we’re likely to allow people to let off steam and carry on. However, the best thing people across the world can do is relate to each other and there’s few better ways to get that across than the heightened emotions of music.

Music has always fired my synapses with ideas, usually creating ‘what if?’ scenarios in my mind rather than direct influences and so it would be impossible to continue any creative endeavour without being ‘fired up’. But, yes – the world as it is certainly demands a fierce and active musical response. We’re so close to having the ability to solve many of the world’s problems and so far away as animals from actually doing it. 

You have never been shy of expressing your opinions. How hard is it to be a politically motivated band in a very entrenched and divided world. Does this add fuel to the fire or make you more cautious about your approach?
The Wolfhounds: Well, that doesn’t mean I stand by all of my previous opinions – I’ve made youthful bloopers as much as anyone else. You feel how you feel on the day. I wouldn’t actually say that we’re politically motivated but, today, the sheer cynical and venal stupidity and spite of many people with influence and platforms is enervating and worrying in equal measures. I believe in free speech wholeheartedly but I’m aware of how cynical and partisan the majority of people who call themselves ‘libertarians’ are. So, I use what I hope is ‘intelligent caution’. There’s some boundary testing tucked away in some of the songs (e.g. “The Comedians” and “Across The River Of Death” on the last LP) but I’m hoping that our audience is clever enough to see what we’re getting at. I don’t believe in the ‘objectivity of art’ which seems, to me, a lazy and cowardly way of not having a moral standpoint and avoiding compassion – like the awkward, inappropriate uncle who makes offensive comments and then says “just joking”. However, some of the interest comes from being able to speak with other people’s voices whose opinions you may not agree with and not your own, which is fun. Problem is, people always think you’re expressing your own viewpoints – in reality, singing and writing are acting rather than un-nuanced self-expression.

You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep and the fact that Stewart Lee wrote your sleeve notes and asked you to play when he curated All Tomorrow’s Parties speaks volumes. What does it mean to have someone like him in your corner?
The Wolfhounds: Stewart’s been listening (and being turned away from our gigs for being too young) to us almost since we started. It would be a shame if he weren’t much good but some of the shows I’ve seen him perform in recent years have been some of the most original and best comedy shows I’ve ever seen (and I saw Bill Hicks on his first UK visit). So, our music is for everyone, even if they don’t get it, but it’s always great when someone whose work you enjoy, also likes yours. Stew’s a bit like me in a way, as he’s a cultural word-spreader, too – I’m always recommending new music (and books) around online to others, and I’m sure a lot of them don’t necessarily like what we do, but I love getting the news of good stuff out, whatever. Particularly nowadays where you’re swamped with new music and information and I figure if someone likes what we do, there’s a chance they’ll probably like what I’m listening to. 

ATP was great – we got to play with Roky Erikson ferrchrissakes! – but we still haven’t been paid (though that’s not Stew’s fault).

And sonically speaking there is a tougher sound at the heart of your music these days, is that just natural evolution or more of a conscious decision?
The Wolfhounds: We’ve always been fans of the rawer and harsher end of music as well as a good tune, and we try to blend the two – it even works occasionally! But part of the advantage of being forever underground means that we can experiment more than if we were, say, some American Apparel-approved major indie-pop band. If we want a bassoon on a song or to forge an imaginary Central Asian/English musical hybrid, then we’ll do it. It helps being able to record well a lot more quickly and cheaply – this means we have the option of having a song recorded on an iPhone next to one with a big digital production – or both in the same song. We’re confident enough in our own abilities to know that it will always sound like us. As far as influences go – we’re a bit like a river: factories and farms come and go on the bank, adding all sorts of pollution, but we keep on flowing whatever happens. 
And where next for The Wolfhounds?
The Wolfhounds: Well, covid has put paid to our plans for a proper British tour in October, though we’re trying to reschedule for spring next year. However, lockdown has meant that there’s been a little less pressure to earn a living for a while and I’ve been preparing lots of demos and other recordings – some for Wolfhounds, some for my solo LP (I’m just booking the string quartet in a studio at last, having planned it for years) and even some Moonshake-style electronics which should surface at some point. I’m sure Andy, (Golding) our guitarist, will also bring some good stuff to the table. It’ll be good to get the masks off and rehearse at some point!

Thank you for taking the time to talk and best of luck with everything